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Alan Davis, Moorhead, Published June 12 2012

Forced teacher resignation reveals depth of the bigotry

I was astonished to read in The Forum that a teacher, Trish Cameron, was asked to resign after 11 years from St. Joseph’s Church Catholic School in Moorhead “because she questioned the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage” in “her response to a question on a self-evaluation.” She says that she didn’t bring her beliefs into the classroom but to keep her job – a job that by all accounts she did well (11 years of good evaluations!) – St. Joseph’s required her to lie on the self-evaluation.

If this story is true, St. Joseph’s owes her, and all of us in Fargo-Moorhead, an apology. Are the officials there truly that frightened of critical thinking? Are they acting on orders from Rome, where ideologues have taken power? Anybody remember the Inquisition?

The story stings because I’m a pro-choice, pro-equality Catholic. My views are not unorthodox; many Catholic parishioners in Moorhead and Fargo support God’s equality, and have told me so, because they’re not bigots, though some are afraid to speak out. Now we know why. (There are plenty of priests and bishops in the church, by the way, who also agree with me, though speaking out when an authoritarian regime is in power can be problematic.)

A priest recently asked me why I thought so many young people no longer bother with services. “Why are they deserting the church?” he asked plaintively. “Sometimes, the pews are half-empty.” He bit his lip. “More than half-empty, truth to tell.”

“Father,” I said, “kids are hungry for connection with the invisible spiritual guests, but they hate hypocrisy. Why does the church discriminate against women? They have as much right to be priests or bishops as you do. They have as much right to medical care as the pope does. This kind of archaic sexism has no place in God’s world.” He smiled sadly and shrugged. Maybe he was afraid to speak his thoughts.

Given the way Cameron has been treated, I can understand why. Many Catholics in the United States rightfully oppose this kind of inquisitorial behavior. They’re also disgusted with the blatant propaganda against equality brought, on occasion, to Sunday Mass, which should be a sacred nonpolitical event where we come into the presence of things not seen.

Many Catholics are astonished that the church (and other Christian denominations as well) thinks it should be allowed to deny certain health care benefits to its female employees, and is willing to corrupt Sunday Mass by saying so. That’s sexism, pure and simple. It’s ideology masquerading as religion, and therefore it’s no religion at all. We should all be ashamed of this kind of partisan ideological behavior by any church, Christian or otherwise.

There’s actually an amendment on the November ballot in Minnesota that would approve of bigotry against same-sex couples.

Thank God there’s an iron-clad separation of church and state in our country, or it would probably be illegal for me to write this letter. When churches engage in partisan politics, many parishioners are intimidated. Others vote with their feet – see you later, alligator. Some, though, stay and fight God’s good fight against bigots. I salute them, each and every one.