Because I'm such a dork, I keep a pocket copy of the Constitution on my coffee table. I used to know the First Amendment by heart, but I've gotten rusty, so I had to crack my pocket Constitution. Here's what it says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.Emphasis on the bolded part.
Here's what the bolded part of the First Amendment does not say:
The people shall make no criticism challenging the discrimination of religious institutions, and activists shall not pressure Churches to change their outdated views; and concerned citizens shall not use their free speech to confront religiously-based discrimination...The First Amendment is pretty clear. Congress shall make no law restricting freedom of religion or of speech.
You know this already, you say. Why am I talking about it in a diary? Follow me below the fold.
A disturbing diary was posted last night by ekyprogressive. The diary talks about Lexington Catholic High School in Lexington, Kentucky, barring a lesbian couple from going to the school's prom. It's a very sad--and equally infuriating--story that, I would think, would evoke at least a little outrage from a progressive community.
And there was some outrage, don't get me wrong. And it was recced by a number of people. But mostly, the diary saw comments such as this:
No, I'm not surprised, mostly because this may well be a private, parochial Roman Catholic high school. They get to make their own rules, whether we like it or not. If what I'm reading is correct, this is something of a non-issue; we are talking about freedom "of" as well as "from" religion here...And this:
...apologies if I'm misreading the nature of the school...
Sometimes people at this site forget that the First Amendment also guarantees "freedom of" religion, in addition to "freedom from" religion.And this:
Going to a religious high school is a choice. It seems to me that it's really not valid to choose to go to a Catholic high school and then complain that they enforce Catholic beliefs. You sign on to those beliefs when you choose that school.
The fundamental basis of the First Amendment is that a religious community has a right to their own religious beliefs within the confines of their religion. The First Amendment was passed precisely so that a majority would not de-legitimize religious beliefs with which they disagreed.And this:
Should the majority feel free to de-legitimize tenets of the Jewish religion with which it disagrees?
To me, criticizing a religion for enforcing their religious beliefs within the confines of their own religion and among people who voluntarily are part of that religion is -- and I don't often use this word -- "unAmerican," in the sense that it is contrary to the basic notion of religious freedom upon which this nation was founded.
The First Amendment means (1) the majority has no right to de-legitimize religious views with which it disagrees; and (2) one group's religious views are not to be imposed on others in the secular context. I think it's hypocritical to support part 2 without supporting part 1. Our country was founded on both principles. If you try to enforce part (2) without assuring religious people of their right to part (1), you will be adding to a backlash by religious people.
How should "we" be fighting it? by insisting that a religion change its religious beliefs? By insisting that a religion not exercise its religious beliefs?And this:
Should "we" be insisting that all religions change beliefs "we" don't agree with?
The way people should be fighting religious beliefs with which they disagree is by not becoming a part of, or financially supporting, that religion. Or by not letting the religious beliefs become part of the civil law.
Honestly, it is hypocritical for you to say, "you don't have any right to tell me that I should live according to YOUR religious beliefs, but I think it's my place to for me to tell you that you should adhere to MY religious (or non-religious) beliefs."And this:
The whole point of the First Amendment is two-fold: (1) the majority does not get to tell a religion that its religious views are illegitimate; and (2) in return, nobody can impose their religious views -- "legitimate" or not -- on anybody else.
I am not outraged because this is a private, Catholic high school. As I said above, people here forget that the First Amendment guarantees not only that others can't inflict their religious beliefs on you, but also that religious institutions get to be, well, religious institutions, enforcing their religion on those who choose to be a part of that religious institution. That's as much a part of the Constitution as any other right we have.And this:
No one is forced to go to a Catholic high school. Anyone who goes to a Catholic high school knows, going in, that they will enforce what the administration of that school believes are the teachings of that Church. That's what you sign up for when you choose to go there. Frankly, I am not outraged when someone chooses to go to a religious institution, chooses to give their money to that religious institution, chooses to become part of that religious institution, and then complains that the institution is enforcing that religion. It's like going to a Catholic school, and then complaining that they teach "pro-life" positions, or complaining that they teach that remarriage after divorce is wrong, or complaining that they don't serve meat on Fridays in Lent. That's what you sign up for when you choose to go there.
If you join a motorcycle gang, don't bitch about wearing their colors.And this:
people go to proms all the time without dates. Why couldn't the two young women go to the prom without a "date" or were they trying to have the school accept them as a couple?And this:
You aren't a victim when you volunteer.Need I go on?
So, based on these comments, these are the words of advice some Kossacks are sending to these two girls:
1. You shouldn't have gone to a Catholic high school.
2. Catholic high school...duh.
2. You shouldn't have gone to the prom.
3. You should have stayed in the closet about your relationship and gone to the prom as "single."
4. Catholic high school...duh.
5. Did we mention that you shouldn't have gone to a Catholic high school?
Let's talk about this. I myself went to a Diocesan university. I went of my own accord. The reasons were complicated, and many. Here are some of the reasons I went to a Catholic school:
- It was one of the better schools in my area, and I didn't want to travel far away from home.
- I was offered an incredible aid package.
- The location of the campus was ideal.
I also wasn't really thinking about the school's policies toward LGBT students. I was deeply in the closet, and I didn't see myself coming out in the near future--or possibly ever. When I finally did come out, in my sophomore year, I obviously didn't want to uproot myself, leave my friends, and start over at another college. That idea seemed absurd to me.
So to judge a lesbian girl for going to a Catholic high school--without any idea of what led her to that school--is beyond ridiculous. Maybe her parents made her go to the school. Maybe she wasn't out when she started going. Or--here's a thought--maybe she's just Catholic. Gay Catholics do exist. The Church hierarchy may not like it, but that doesn't mean they don't personally identify as Catholics. The bottom line is that we don't know. And even if we did, there is something a little bizarre about blaming a victim of discrimination instead of blaming the source of that discrimination.
Here is the question we should be asking: Why is the school discriminating?
Also, where in Catholic doctrine does it say gays and lesbians can't go to the prom? My Diocesan university was a conservative institution, but gay and lesbian couples went to homecoming dances. I witnessed it with my own eyes. We shouldn't act like the Church can't reconcile letting gays and lesbians exist with its position on marriage. Clearly, it can.
If you think it's futile to pressure religious institutions and that Diocesan schools will never change, please think again. When I arrived at my school, no gay-straight alliance existed. The administration wouldn't hear of it. We LGBT students fought for two years to establish a group. Finally, after many hearts and minds were changed in the administration--partly pushed by the rash of LGBT youth suicides that happened at the same time--a gay-straight alliance was established. Today, LGBT students have a safe place to meet. All because of a little (actually, a lot of) pressure. In addition, the school implemented a "safe" network consisting of faculty and staff allies trained in LGBT issues. Yes, this happened at a Diocesan university. Today, there are rainbow triangles on the doors of allied faculty and staff. Things change, even in a Catholic school. But it does not happen on its own.
Having been down this road myself, pardon me if I don't take kindly to the idea that we should be hands-off when it comes to religious bigotry. Churches are evolving institutions. Some evolve slower than others, but we've seen some strides in some denominations. Why? Not because people kept quiet and sat on their hands in the name of respecting "religious freedom." What really matters is when the faithful speak out from within their respective churches. But it also helps when there is outside pressure and a culture in which this kind of discrimination is not socially acceptable.
Most of us can agree on constitutional rights. But please don't tell me that speaking out against religiously-based discrimination is a violation of religious freedom. Freedom runs both ways. And as long as some conservative religious institutions keep their heads in the sand and continue to discriminate, it is our job to make it less and less socially (notice I didn't say constitutionally) acceptable for them to do so. If you don't see that as your place, fine. And I can understand if you don't think this is your particular battle to fight...it's not my intention to shame people into fighting the Church on this specific incident. But this is near and dear to some of us. We have as much right to fight back against this school's policy as the school has to implement the policy in the first place.