A 27-year-old math teacher just got fired for supposedly being an atheist.
(You can bet my eyes widened when I read about that…)
But apparently, it’s all ok… because she worked at a Catholic school and they are allowed to do such things.
Before you dismiss this story because St. Edmond Catholic School in Iowa is a private, religious school and they have every right to fire non-Catholic teachers, read on. This is really a disturbing story and the headlines don’t do it justice.
Abby Nurre, 27, was hired last summer as an eighth-grade math teacher at St. Edmond Catholic School. In August, she responded to a Facebook members’ poll in which she was asked whether she believed in God, miracles or heaven.
In response, Nurre answered, “No.” Her answers then became part of her Facebook autobiography page, which was accessible only to her designated “friends.”
Somehow, though, the information ended up in the hands of the school officials.
Her Facebook page was accessible to designated friends and she had not authorized any students to access the page or the survey within, she testified.
On cross-examination, Paul Jahnke of the Iowa Catholic Conference pressed Nurre on her religious beliefs.
“Do you deny that you are an atheist?” he asked.
Nurre testified, “I am not an atheist.”
Jahnke asked Nurre why she responded to the Facebook survey by saying she didn’t believe in God.
Nurre replied, “I feel that opinions on such things constantly change.”
So she’s not an atheist… and she actually thinks about religious issues enough to doubt what she hears. The school wants none of this: asking questions is antithetical to what they teach.
But that’s not all. She also had the audacity to make a posting on Atheist Nexus:
In November, Nurre posted a comment to an online discussion forum, Atheist Nexus. In her post, she provided a link to a New York Times article that, as she described it, indicated the government had spent $2.3 million on prayer research in the past 10 years.
Five weeks later, she was called to the office of Monsignor Kevin McCoy and handed a letter informing her that she was suspended for making “atheist statements in a public forum.”
McCoy barred Nurre from school grounds. A few days later, without discussing the matter with Nurre, the school’s board of directors fired her for violating a policy that prohibits employees from advocating “principles contrary to the dogmatic and moral teaching of the church.”
Dogmatic is right. Moral? Hardly.
Notice she didn’t say that the article was right or wrong, good or bad.
She just posted it.
But she had to register for the site in order to do that and that was enough for the school officials to terminate her.
“It never occurred to me that teachers were limited in their professional and personal education to only church-approved sources of information,” she told the board.
“It’s unfortunate that the school fires teachers for getting information from nonchurch sources, then showing that information on another Web site without comment or opinion. … Teachers are taxpaying citizens and are entitled to think, be informed and take action.”
The board voted a second time to fire her. The school and Iowa Catholic Conference then challenged Nurre’s request for unemployment benefits.
Sorry, this is the Catholic Church — no thinking allowed.
This is absurd. Note how the entire article never once mentions her ability to teach math. We’re not talking about school officials who take education seriously. We’re talking about people who are more worried about how Nurre’s alleged atheism might appear to parents than the quality of education she delivers to the students. Maybe that’s what they think they have to do as a business, but if I were a parent, I’d never want my child going to a “school” like that.
There are so many reasons not to send your children to a Catholic school: The teachers are not always certified in their subject area, the tuition simply isn’t worth it, the kids waste class time going through Catholic rituals like confession…
The only way I can justify sending your children to a Catholic school is if the public schools nearby are even worse. But, in my experience, if you can afford to send your kids to a Catholic school, you’re probably living near some pretty damn good public schools.
St. Edmond Catholic School is a joke. They are sending a message to kids to not question what the Church says — Just smile and nod and never doubt the Church leaders.
Intelligent children know better than that.
Incidentally, another interesting part of this story is that the school knew she wasn’t a Catholic when they hired her:
Nurre said when she was hired at St. Edmonds, she was asked if she was a Catholic. She said she wasn’t. At school, she attended Mass and participated in prayer.
“I was fine with that. I’ve always done that,” she said. “I’m not an atheist. I’m not a Catholic. I’m not a Christian. I’m somewhere in between.”
She said she still wants to be a teacher but that she no longer wants to work in a Catholic school.
I know it’s easy for me to say this when I have a job, but she’s better off not working there.
Abby: I hope you get a job at a real school — One where they allow freedom of thought and where they let your private life remain private.
I wonder: would school officials have fired her so easily if she had instead said Jainism made some sense? Or that Protestant church services were more exciting than Catholic ones?
Brother Richard, who runs Atheist Nexus, adds on to those comments and explains what Atheist Nexus is really all about:
Would the school have fired Nurre if she was a member of a Protestant site, or one geared toward Buddhism? Would the board fire an employee for posting on a private website their use of birth control? Or does the school’s bigotry extend only to those free of supernaturalism?
It is for reasons such as this that Atheist Nexus exists. To give support and encouragement to nontheists and those questioning religious dogma. Only when nonbelievers, like the homosexual community before us, “come out” and demand respect and equality will this change.
Abby’s looking for a new teaching job and I hope she finds one.
One commenter on the Des Moines Register site shared my frustration with this whole story:
Who hasn’t questioned the church or God in their life? I hate the hypocrocy of the church. Question them and [you're] fired. Molest children and get transferred. Question the church and get denied benefits. Fondle little boys and go meet the Pope!
What percentage of the congregation takes birth control? Has had an abortion? Does not confess? Only shows up on holidays? Fire all of them! Oh, but who is going to put money in the basket? Who is going to donate for the new pulpit? Who is going to support the business model? This is why churches should pay taxes. They are just a business…
… This teacher may someday be the best in her field and you lost out.