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Slope, slippery, 1 each, redux

In an earlier post, I questioned whether a large media corporation should be held to the same standard as a custom cake designer, or a wedding photographer, when issues of serving or not serving customers due to civil rights issues arise.  In my opinion, the answer is yes, but if you want to argue with me, go read carefully the other post before you do.

Today’s slippery slope questions whether a Catholic high school with a rigorous code of conduct that extends not only to its students but to its faculty, may terminate a faculty member who has violated the terms of her contract by entering into a homosexual marriage — something said contract prohibits.  I’ll just come out front and say that the school in question is Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, and you can read about this gigantic clusterfuck here.

Like the previous question, this does not admit to a simple solution.  The school, while privately owned and operated by an Archdiocese, does accept state funding in the form of vouchers (the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program), and some families may be able to take a state tax deduction for some private school tuition expenses for dependent children, as well.  However, that doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the situation:

The Catholic high school that suspended a counselor for her same-sex marriage is within its legal rights to do so, despite having received more than $6.5 million in public money over the last five years through Indiana’s school voucher program, according to an expert on LGBT legal issues.

Actually, it’s simply within its legal rights to do so, without qualification.  The “despite” bit is projection on the part of our local “journalists” and has absolutely zero to do with what the school may legally do in this situation.  Anyway, from the same article:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has long been clear that just because an organization, whether it’s a school or any other kind of private organization, gets a certain percentage of its budget from government sources doesn’t automatically mean that it then comes under the coverage of the Constitution,” said Steve Sanders, an associate professor of law at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. Sanders specializes in constitutional law and LGBT legal issues.

(…)

“The state could say that in order to get voucher money (schools) must agree to non-discrimination policies,” he said. “When the government hands out money, as it does in the form of vouchers, it can put strings on that money.

“It hasn’t done so in this case.”

So Roncalli is on much stronger legal ground than the folks we were discussing in the earlier post.  It’s unlikely to face trial in the court system, but that isn’t stopping people — including the center of attention herself — from trying the school in the court of public opinion.

However.

This woman has been a guidance counselor at Roncalli for 15 years.  She’s been with her partner for 22 years, but they did not marry until 2014 (for obvious reasons).  Which means that for 11 years prior to her marriage, she had to have been fully aware of the clause in her contract that forbade her from contracting a same-sex marriage.

She claims that her marriage was an “open secret” at the school and can’t imagine what has caused the ruckus now.

Moreover, legal experts are trying to claim that as she is a guidance counselor and not a teacher, she does not fall under the normal “ministerial exception in anti-discrimination laws”, which treats teachers in parochial schools as ministers whom the church may discipline on that basis.  The argument as to whether or not she falls under this exception seems specious to me; while it is certainly true that ministers are teachers, are not ministers also counselors?  And let’s not get into whether a high school guidance counselor is only there to tell you what classes you need to take, because guidance counselors also have a responsibility to watch out for the psychological health of the students they counsel — just like teachers do.  To claim that guidance counselors have only administrative duties in the school is ridiculous on its face.

And the four-year gap between her marriage and the current contretemps doesn’t seem all that odd to me.  I would imagine that if the marriage were really an open secret, she had probably been advised all along by administrators that she needed to reconsider her actions.  Plus, there’s an adopted child involved, and the administrators were probably loathe to disrupt the child’s family life routine, either by forcing the couple to divorce, or by terminating the counselor and forcing her to find another job.  But when she dithered, or flatly refused, to make a decision to either dissolve the marriage or leave Roncalli, administrators finally acted — probably based on a decision made at the archdiocese, not at the school proper.  The time involved could simply indicate that the school was performing due diligence rather than simply firing her outright at the time.  After all, I am told that the sinner can always repent; and I’m sure that’s partly why there may have been (and still is, since this is just a suspension, not a firing) hesitation on the part of the school.

But to take this out of the context of the current situation:  What’s wrong with firing someone who is in blatant violation of a contract she signed, knowing full well she was in violation of it at the time?  Who is actually injured here?  You could as easily ask, why is the accusation, “You lied to me!”, always pointed at the person who, well, lied?

The school is actually injured in this case because it could not point to its contracted faculty and staff as being 100% in line with Catholic doctrine.  That’s a problem for a school which prides itself in its Catholic roots.  What example is being set by continuing to allow a guidance counselor, who is a partner in a union that is prohibited by the Church, to remain in a position where she may influence Catholic youth?*

Do I really need to point out that the Church** has severe problems*** right now with pedophilia and child abuse?  And should I have to point out the horrific number of women in education who can’t keep their hands off their young charges?  Please read the following VERY CAREFULLY, because I’m not saying this particular woman has any prurient interest in the young boys and girls she counsels, but I can easily imagine Roncalli and the Archdiocese see this as an “appearance of impropriety” moment — and are fully aware that a simple matter of ignoring a term in a contract could blow up into something a lot bigger if accusations were suddenly made.  Not only that, if you don’t enforce the contract terms now, you’ll have a harder time doing so later.

Besides that, what the hell is wrong with people who don’t understand (or pretend not to understand) that when you sign a contract, you’re expected to live up to its terms?  I can assure you if I were to violate the terms of my at-will employment contract, my employer would tell me to shape up or ship out, and if I continued in violation, he would have every right to fire me, and it’s very unlikely I’d have any recourse if it could be shown I was in fact in violation.  Roncalli already has cause to fire this woman; it’s on paper and recorded in the public record as all marriage licenses are.  Yet they dither…and the only reason I can think of that they’re dithering is they really don’t want to fire her and want either to give her every opportunity to recognize the error of her ways (by their lights and by the letter of the contract she signed) or give her sufficient rope with which to hang herself before they terminate her.

People anymore seem to think that they can force change by acting out and forcing other people to respond in ways they find personally offensive.  Yet they don’t seem to understand how offensive they are being in the process.  It’s almost as if this counselor, who may or may not already have been in violation of her contract, decided to get married to see how far she could push the issue.  The answer seems to have been, “barring administrative delay and backing and filling, not very far.”

Going back to the cake baker — did the cake baker throw the gay couple out of his shop?  No.  He told them his personal religious views prevented him from creating a custom-designed art cake for their wedding, but also said that he would be happy to sell them any of the standard cake designs on offer.  At that point, the couple who were importuning him and wasting his time and were doing so on purpose could have said, “Gee whiz, we understand your feelings, and we’re sorry about that.  We’ll take our business elsewhere/We’ll buy one of the standard designs because you do great work.”  But because they were in his shop with an agenda, they left and sued him for discrimination.

Maybe that’s what the counselor at Roncalli had in mind…except according to the legal eagles, she doesn’t have a case.  Unless maybe she’s got a lawyer who’s willing to try to smash up the current wisdom and push things a little farther down the slippery slope.

As I said before:  This has to stop.

When I was a kid, I didn’t get all the toys I wanted, had to settle for a second-hand “real” bike, had to work for my aunt for a summer in exchange for my first car (which really should have been mine without that hot summer of yard work since it was actually my grandmother’s car, not my aunt’s, but then on the other hand, I probably appreciated it more as a result), and we didn’t take cool family vacations or anything like that.  Indeed, my folks strained to send me on a couple of high-adventure Scouting trips and ultimately to a National Jamboree.  When I grew up and understood why I didn’t get all the things other kids got, I didn’t have any complaint.  We were poor, and then we were poorer.  Wasn’t till later years that things got better for Mom and Dad, and frankly they were never fabulous — but they were able to keep the house and the cars and even do a little traveling.  Anyway.  Point is, being a dick about it wouldn’t have changed anything, so I never really did complain that much, and around the time I was 12 or so and was beginning to understand why we were poor, I entirely stopped being a whingney little child about it.

It sometimes seems like the vast majority of young adults — if they may be called adults — of the current generation always got everything they wanted handed to them on a silver platter.  At least that’s the way they often act, as if it is totally impossible that anyone could ever say “no” to them and mean it.  Tam was writing on FB the other day about an antifa handbill she saw posted in Broad Ripple, claiming the area was a “no-fascist zone”, and she pointed out that most of the Broad Ripple “radicals” are actually scions of good families with sufficient money to have provided them with a reasonable education and comfortable home life…so that they could protest inequities and political philosophies they personally have never encountered and likely never will, by stapling handbills on telephone poles in one of the yuppiest of yuppie areas in the entire Indianapolis metro area.

Meanwhile, two or three miles south and a few blocks east begins a part of town that is full of inequities, many of whom will be happy to stop you on the street and make you a little more equal to them if you have the bad luck to run into them on a dark night.  But this is an area that is largely invisible to such people, who would rather drink a beer, have a pizza, play some pool and rock out to some tunes, and protest Donald Trump and imaginary fascists by posting handbills than actually do something of substance to help the true victims of inequity who live down there at Thirty-what and What (or whatever it is that Tam says, I can never remember; I plead age and strong drink).

Point being, kids today — the only oppression they’ve ever known is being given a time-out, or maybe being sent to bed without dessert or being told they can’t watch their favorite TV show because they need to do their homework.  (Parents are such fascists.)  So naturally, when someone doesn’t want to do what they want them to do, they go ballistic instead of simply shrugging, saying, “Well, dude, your loss if you don’t want our money.” and moving on.  Or in the current case, they get all bent out of shape because a counselor they liked in high school is getting the boot because the counselor decided it wasn’t worth her job to abide by her contract.  Or that she thought the contract was just words on a piece of paper that she was free to ignore at her discretion.  Nobody ever actually enforces those things, do they?  (Yeah, sarcasm.)

So today comes the perhaps inevitable news that this chica is going to go on the Ellen DeGeneres show to talk about her situation.  One presumes that the outcome of that will be a foregone conclusion.  But the article also says:

Leaders told her she must support the teachings of the Catholic Church, both in and out of school.

Some students have openly petitioned for her return, and some are even asking for the school to change their policy.

Oh, children.  You have so much to learn!  The school can no more change that policy than you can change your gender (current soi-disant wisdom to the contrary).  The school is bound by the law of the Church, as its leaders have already told their wayward counselor, and the idea that the Church is going to change its law, while less laughable in these degenerate times than when your humble blogger was a snot-nosed Jewish kid growing up in a liberal Jewish denomination some forty-mumble years ago, is little more than wishful thinking.

But kids today think they can change anything.  They’re in for a crashing disappointment in the not too distant future.

Here again we find ourselves on a slippery slope.  The fact is that the leadership of the Church today may actually be reconsidering its stance.  The question is whether or not this is even politically possible when it’s clear the Church already has a problem with homosexuality in its ranks.  As I think I’ve pointed out already, I’m not a member of the Church, so it’s really none of my business; those who are members of the Church either have strong opinions one way or the other, or they don’t.  My sole point in writing this post is to point out that everywhere we look, there are people trying to bring down the pillars of our society, by pushing us faster and faster down that silly old slope.

And this is just another case where somebody needs to put on the brakes and say, “Thus far, and no farther.  Indeed, put that sucker in reverse and let’s back out.”

I’d be happy to hear from Catholics on either side of the argument.  Maybe they see this in a different light.

_______________

*For what it’s worth, yes, I’m completely ignoring the doctrinal issues regarding teachers who may be living with a partner out of wedlock but still teaching at Roncalli.  As apparently did Roncalli for 11 years until these two got married.  I’m also ignoring the possibility that married teachers at Roncalli may be having affairs with other teachers at Roncalli or with people outside of the school.  And that there may be divorced and/or remarried teachers at Roncalli.  Hell, there may even be non-Catholic teachers at Roncalli; I have absolutely no fucking idea and don’t care.  I haven’t read the contract involved so I have no idea what it permits or doesn’t, and there may be plenty that’s overlooked by omission depending on the precision of the contract language.  If you have, there’s a comment box down there that is actually working these days; feel free to use it.

** Actually, not the Church per se, but the administrators and ministers and leaders of the Church are the ones who are facing a shitstorm right now.  The everyday people of the Church are not the problem, and they’re just as angry about this as those of us who aren’t members of the Church.  The distinction, therefore, is extremely important.

*** And when I say “severe problems”, I mean, “the reactor is about to melt down and radioactive gas is leaking from every weld.” 

 

3 comments

  1. Joe

    It does not matter if the Church changes its stance going forward. She violated the terms of the contract today. She can be re-hired under a different contract, but she is fired for now.

    As I understand it, contract law is covered in the first year of law school because it is easy to understand. The document defines X and those are the terms. Both signed it voluntarily, both live by it.

    The school should go after her back pay since she signed the employment contract in bad faith.

  2. Fuzzy Curmudgeon

    I would say you’re correct, except that I think she’s simply suspended (or “placed on leave”) at this time, unless they’ve actually pulled the trigger and fired her in the last day or so. At any rate, I imagine the people who are petitioning to restore her wouldn’t be doing so if she had been terminated. If the climate changes, or the local archdiocese loses its cool and knuckles under, she could theoretically be restored from her suspension.

    I thought she had been fired, myself, when I started writing the post, and found out differently after it was materially complete. I went back and I thought I fixed all the places where I’d written “fired” or “terminated” and rewrote them to say “suspended”, but maybe I missed something; it’s a long post.

  3. Fuzzy Curmudgeon

    That being said, I don’t believe in a million years that she’ll suddenly have an epiphany, divorce her partner, abandon their adopted child, and declare fealty to the Church and beg for forgiveness. It doesn’t sound like that’s in her makeup.

    I would have simply fired her, myself, and then pointed to the contract she signed if lawyers got involved. And yeah, there will probably be a big hairy court case in which the judge will end up granting summary judgment to the defendants because, yeah, she signed a contract, and yeah, the Supreme Court has taken notice that Constitutional protections don’t necessarily apply to such things in the religious realm, and gee whiz, the State could have legislated in such and such a way to prevent this — but it didn’t. Sorry, ma’am, feel free to try again on appeal.

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