Thursday, March 11, 2010

A tough week for lesbians in schools

Don't like the Catholic church? Then stop helping them.

There's a lot of talk right now about why it was wrong for the Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Boulder, Colorado to tell a lesbian couple that their 5-year-old girl daughter will have to find a new school next fall.

I've been surprised at how shocked and angry my friends and acquaintances have been that a Catholic private school would reject a student because of her parents' lifestyle. Yes, I don't think it's a nice thing to do. I wouldn't have made that same decision. But what I don't understand is why people are so bent out of shape and want to find a way to force the church to reverse it's decision.

Here's a news flash: It's the Catholic church, for crying out loud. We already knew they see homosexuality as a major sin. Why are people so shocked that they would have policies based on this view?

It's not often that I find myself defending the Catholic church. I have a different world view and I don't see gay people in the same dim light the Catholic church does. Despite those differences, I believe the Catholic church has a right to hold views I find primitive or unbecoming, as well as the right to reject pupils for any reason they see fit.

As Larry Iannaccone has written, we have a market for religion in America. People are free to attend whatever church they like - or none at all. As a result, different religions have to compete with one another to attract followers. Religions with unpopular views either change or see their congregation dissolve.

My own family has had an experience with this. My parents wanted to raise my brother and I as Catholics, but we were rejected because, as my dad puts it, they didn't pay to have a Catholic priest attend the wedding. The Catholic church considered their marriage unofficial, making me and my brother bastards in their eyes. The local Lutheran church, however, didn't care and welcomed us in. Besides the offering money each week, my dad sang in the choir and my mom eventually became church president.

But this issue is about a school, not a church, right?

Well no, it's about both. Religious schools are supposed to be allowed to teach their own doctrine. In effect, they are selling a product. Sometimes that will mean teaching something other people find repulsive. Such as unfairly rejecting a group of people based on irrelevant details.

It doesn't matter that the school is soft on other sinful parents - like adulterers and divorcees - because as a private school they should be able to reject anyone they want - even if it doesn't make sense.

So what do the protesters want? It's hard to say, some people want to school to change it's policies. Other people want the anti-discrimination laws to force the girl back into the school.

Neither of these feel right to me.

While I agree people should try to appeal directly to the school, it should be the other parents leading the charge. I think the protesters would make a lot more progress if they would appeal directly to the parents of other pupils and ask them to demand a policy change.

This also leads to an important question: Why would someone protest a school policy if they wouldn't send their children there in the first place?

If I had kids, I probably wouldn't send them to a Catholic school. I feel that crosses me out of the list of who should draft the policies of a Catholic school. I've noticed a lot of the people who are upset about this issue think even less of the Catholic church than I do. They would never send children to this school, no matter what the policies are.

As for using the legal system to intervene - is that really the best way to find a business that is going to take a lot of your money and teach moral lessons to your children? Why on earth would you want to do business with them?

As Milton Friedman said, allowing businesses to discriminate makes them pay for their own prejudice. When a school rejects a pupil, they miss out on the tuition dollars they would have made.

I hope these people that dislike the Catholic church realize that if this protest succeeds at overturning the ruling, it will keep the same church around longer. By discriminating, they are punishing themselves, and helping their own competitors. They also risk offending the community, like we can see here. Why bother to bring the clumsy hammer of government into it if the problem is going to solve itself?

Which leads to the other story this week - A public school in Jackson, Mississippi canceled the prom because two lesbian students wanted to go together.

In a typically cowardly fashion, the county school board releases a vague statement, saying the prom is canceled "due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events."

Oh please. If they cared about the "educational process" so much they wouldn't be on the school board for a public school in Mississippi. The school officials knew they couldn't possibly get away with banning the couple, so they decided to ruin it for everyone instead.

The difference between the issues is that this a public school, financed with tax dollars. They do not have willing customers - students are assigned to a school by geography.

In Maine the public schools teach acceptance for gays. It appears in Mississippi they are teaching the opposite. My stance has always been that school should keep out of social issues whenever possible. This would mean no "coming out week" posters, but no prom cancellations either.

I don't have enough faith in the government to always pick the right side of a social issue, so I think it's best if they just stay out. Let people live their lives how they want, free from government approval or disapproval

On the plus side, the ACLU has gotten involved in the Mississippi case. They've got something very important going for them.

They're right.

1 comment:

  1. While I don't agree with the Catholic Churches stance on a lot of issues (including their rejection of homosexuality), they are within their rights to accept any student on any grounds they deem necessary. They are a private institution and therefore they should be able to preach their own doctrine, as long as it does not break any written laws (which they are not). As you alluded to Michael, why not send the child to another private institution that would gladly accept them? It seems like commonsense to me and borderline idiotic that lesbian parents would try to enroll their child in a school that does not condone their lifestyle. Not only does it make it uncomfortable situation for all parties, but it quite possible could endanger the well-being of the child to have them in that environment.