Rethinking religious values: Catholic schools and discriminating against LGBT+

Some Roman Catholic schools in the Indianapolis area have let go of staff members for being LGBT+. This is intolerable to those being discriminated against and to progressive members of the public. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis needs to reevaluate tradition and values to better fit today’s culture. Discrimination should not occur in schools because of beliefs framed in the past. This is the present, and we need to deal with these issues as they are and address them.

I have nothing against any of these schools. While I have no religious affiliation, I have attended both Catholic and other Christian services. I know religious values are important to these schools. 

But I do have a serious issue with the discrimination being practiced in my state by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. While its decision to require Indiana Roman Catholic schools to let go LGBT+ individuals for those schools to remain affiliated may appear justified, the reality is that, behind the religious curtain, this is not humane. Human beings are themselves before they are their sexuality or their religion, and those factors have nothing to do with the quality of their job performance. Although tradition may not agree with the LGBT+ community, new ideas are needed for the Roman Catholic schools to fit today’s culture better. 

Two Roncalli High School employees lost their jobs for being married to a person of the same sex, according to the Indianapolis Star article, “Gay Roncalli guidance counselor files lawsuit against Indianapolis Archdiocese, school.” The archdiocese threatened Cathedral High School with losing its Catholic ties if it did not fire its LGBT+ employee, so the school fired the staff member, according to the CNN article, “An Indianapolis Catholic school has fired a teacher in a same-sex marriage after a Jesuit school in the city did not.” 

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School refused to fire its employee in a same-sex marriage and was subsequently not recognized as Catholic by the archdiocese, according to the same CNN article, which was published on June 25.  However, the Vatican stepped in and suspended the status change, according to the CNN article published on Sept. 24, “The Vatican for now won’t penalize a Jesuit school for refusing to fire a married gay teacher.” There is a trend here, and what ties these cases together is the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ pursuit of the issue, according to the same Indy Star article. 

I have never seen this degree of prejudice against the LGBT+ community by private schools in Indiana.When a school that is not even an hour’s drive away from me fires someone, who has shown years of dedication to the institution, for being married to a partner of the same sex, that shakes me. 

The archdiocese has said it has a right to determine appropriate conduct for employees, according to the Indy Star article “Cathedral fired a gay teacher, Brebeuf protected one. They are married to each other, lawyer says.” In that article, the writer quotes a statement from the archdiocese:

“Religious liberty, which is a hallmark of the U.S. Constitution and has been tested in the U.S. Supreme Court, acknowledges that religious organizations may define what conduct is not acceptable and contrary to the teachings of its religion, for its school leaders, guidance counselors, teachers and other ministers of the faith.”

Graphic by Madison Gomez

Cathedral was transparent on its website, gocathedral.org about firing its teacher in a same-sex marriage. Cathedral listed what led to its decision to let the teacher go, such as the possible loss of its Catholic school status being taken away and “ability to celebrate the Sacraments as we have in the past 100 years with our students and community.” 

Brebeuf also made a statement on its website, brebeuf.org, declaring its response to the archdiocese: “Brebeuf Jesuit has respectfully declined the Archdiocese’s insistence and directive that we dismiss a highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage,” wrote Brebeuf’s President the Rev. William Verbryke, Board of Trustees Chair W. Patrick Bruen and Board of Trustees Chair-Elect Daniel M. Lechleiter.

It was interesting to see how Cathedral and Roncalli complied with the archdiocese. These schools and the archdiocese put their religious views and rules above consideration of what losing employment might do to the individuals’ entire lives.

Roncalli and Cathedral could have protected their staff members. So while I am blaming the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, these high schools also are at fault. Letting someone go because of the way her or she was born is discrimination, and this should not occur anywhere.

Members of the LGBT+ community work in every other occupation- they are family doctors, dentists, college professors, police officers and more. These are people we trust, look up to and depend on for care in our lives. This should not be happening now. These schools need to push back and set an example for their students. Schools are supposed to be a productive place of learning and progress.

I am only a college student, but I can imagine what it would feel like to be discriminated against. Hard to fathom, truly. 

According to Rawls’ veil of ignorance, “we should imagine we sit behind a veil of ignorance that keeps us from knowing who we are and identifying with our personal circumstances. By being ignorant of our circumstances, we can more objectively consider how societies should operate,” says the website of Ethics Unwrapped, a program from the Center for Leadership in Ethics at the University of Texas. 

Take the advice of the philosopher. Discrimination is simply wrong.