Protesters Support Gay Student Harassed by Catholic Teacher

Two dozen protesters rallied outside a Catholic school board office in Ontario, Canada this week to support a high school student who says she was bullied by a teacher for being gay.

Brooke Mulligan (center) says a Catholic school teacher bullied her because she is gay.

Eighteen-year-old Brooke Mulligan says a religion teacher at St. Thomas of Villanova bullied her in class because of her sexual orientation. She says the taunting started only after she came out of the closet and included grading her differently from her peers, giving her “disgusted looks,” and making negative comments about LGBT people in class.

Even after she filed a formal complaint, the school board denied the allegations and even threatened to take legal action against Brooke, according to her mother, Tina Dagenais:

“I think there’s a teacher that has strong beliefs in what she’s teaching, and I think she’s crossed the line,” said Dagenais. “I think that instead of having support at the school, it went the opposite direction. It’s already hard enough being a teenager. And not having the support, especially at school, that’s rough.”

Fortunately, Brooke’s community has pulled out all the stops to stand up for her. On Friday, protesters outside the school board offices held up signs reading messages such as “Gay Rights Are Human Rights” and “No To Bullying.” Brooke, her mother, and her sister Ashley Mulligan were also in attendance, visibly moved by the support:

 “I’m extremely angry with how a teacher can treat a student,” said Ashley, Brooke’s older sister. “I am extremely protective over both my little sisters, and it sucks that I can’t do anything. This is the best that I can do, is stand up for her, and be here and protest.”

We clearly have a long way to go before religious-minded teachers get off their high horses and treat all students equally; until then, the solidarity this community has shown is truly inspiring.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • Pattrsn

    Ah Catholicism, can the bar be set any lower.

    • Claude

      Where’s the “love the sinner, hate the sin” Religion Teacher as a Catholic is supposed to practice?

      • Pattrsn

        I remember a thread not too long ago on Bad Catholic where they kept insisting that because the Catholic Church didn’t use the word hate, it meant that they couldn’t be accused of hating gays. They would claim her behaviour to be an act of love, an attempt to lead the young woman away from sin. Grotesque motherfucking assholes that they are.

        • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

          Hey, check out PublicCatholic the last couple of days, where blaming atheists for genocide has been the trend (followed by whining about how atheists have the nerve to show up and argue).

          • Claude

            Let me guess: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot!

            • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

              And Hitler! Even though he outlawed atheist clubs in 1933 and Himmler wouldn’t allow atheists into the SS! He couldn’t have been Catholic, so atheist is the only other possibility.

              • Claude

                You may have seen this, but just in case:

                http://youtu.be/su1dWy2_zQQ

                • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

                  And she doubles down again on her whining Christians-as-victims:

                  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/03/militant-secularism-atheism-and-rising-legal-discrimination-against-christians/

                  Summarizing her dishonest “examples”:

                  1) The mt. Soledad cross, which was illegally erected on public land and only made into a veteran’s memorial after it was challenged and later sold (and still subject to litigation). Even though the cross is still there while the case is being litigated, Hamilton’s dishonest summary makes it sound like it has already been removed, and makes no mention of initial illegal placement or the ex-post-facto designation as a war memorial.

                  2) She cites cases where the e.g. the 10 commandments have been removed from public property. I guess she thinks the government is officially Christian.

                  3) She cites censorship of students’ graduation speeches; this isn’t limited to Christians, and when public schools require that student’s speeches be approved, these speeches become part of the official ceremony and must meet the same first amendment requirements, such as not promoting (or denigrating) religion. This is a requirement imposed on everyone, not just Christians. Schools can also NOT pre-approve student speeches and allow speakers to say pretty much anything.

                  4) She brings up cases where universities have required that official university clubs (which often includes some funding, rooms, promotion, etc as benefits) be open to all students, including officers of the club, and some religious clubs losing their official designation because they want to exclude students whose religious views are unacceptable. They can, of course, forgo the perks of being official and be unofficial. And again, this applies to ALL groups, including atheist clubs, so it’s not an instance of Christians being treated differently.

                  5) She whines about e.g. Catholic charities pulling out of state adoption contracts for refusing to follow the requirements of that contract. Boo-fucking-hoo.

                  And that’s her list. All of this is outweighed by genuine discrimination, such as the Puerto Rican police officer’s recent case.

                • Claude

                  Thank you for taking the time to address all this so well. I read that post; yet again, it’s through the looking glass. We live in the same country, but we don’t live in the same country.

          • Pattrsn

            I tried a couple of posts there but they seem to be stuck in moderation limbo. So I’ll stick them here:Don’t forget the three million Bengalis murdered by that atheist dictator Winston Churchill.Earthly utopia, political ideologies, exactly. Weinberg is wrong in
            saying that it takes religion to make good people do evil things, they
            can also do evil for the sake of political ideology. The way to fight
            evil then is to study what are the commonalities between religious and
            political ideology. The worship of power? The subjugation of the
            individual? Dogma? The scapegoating of the powerless such as Jews or
            gays?
            Hitler for example, in Mein Kampf, expressed great admiration
            for the way the Catholic Church had treated heretics and dissidents
            throughout the ages.
            Perhaps Public Catholic could do a post on the
            similarities between Catholic totalitarianism and Nazi totalitarianism,
            and not just of course antisemitism. It would be interesting to discuss
            whether Nazi or communist totalitarianism could have existed without the
            rich tradition of scapegoating and suppression of dissent by the
            Catholic Church.

            • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

              “stuck in moderation limbo”

              She’s not interested in discussion, debate, or even facts, which explains the stickiness.

            • Claude

              I’m also stuck in moderation limbo. We’ll see.

          • Claude

            That post is unbelievable! The matter of which ideologues slaughtered the most people isn’t really even the main issue. It’s Rep. Rebecca Hamilton’s ham-fisted implication that “new atheists” tactics align with those of genocidal maniacs of the 20th century!

            Wow, Congresswoman Hamilton. You are an irresponsible demagogue. Shame on you!

            • Claude

              Correction: Rebecca Hamilton is not a Congresswoman; she is a state rep from Oklahoma.

        • Helanna

          Well that’s handy. “You can’t accuse me of stealing! I never use the word ‘steal’. I’m simply liberating these items!”

        • Ibis3

          This is the counterpart to claims of civility just because no bad words or direct verbal insults toward specific people are being used. A person can be the worst kind of uncivil whilst using the most polite language.

        • Stev84

          All the Catholic blogs in Patheos are nothing but a joke. If they didn’t say that they are Catholic, you’d assume there are fundamentalist Protestants. There is really no difference.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

            Thank goodness they are a tiny minority of American Catholics. If only we could convince the sane ones to leave the church.

          • Emmet

            Except for, you know, all the talk about Eucharist, and the papacy, and the saints, and the Church. Hate the Church, by all means – but be sure to understand what you’re hating or you come across as ignorant.
            If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from a year or two of reading atheist blogs, it’s that many atheists too often worship their intellect instead of actually using it.

        • Emmet

          Crap. No-one’s going to claim bullying is an act of love. It’s obvious the teacher was out of line. If the comments in the post above are correct she seems like a nasty piece of work who doesn’t like anyone much.

          • Pattrsn

            Not too familiar with the Catholic Church’s response to homosexuality are you.

      • AxeGrrl

        ‘God’ having a “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude makes about as much sense as Geppetto saying “I love Pinocchio, but I hate that he’s made out of wood“.

        Lame.

        • Claude

          “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a paraphrase of a line by St. Augustine, not “God.”

          The fundamental immorality of the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality was driven home to me quite viscerally when I read some comments by a Catholic gay man who considered himself “disordered” and his sexuality a cross to bear; he aspired to a chaste life of self-denial that would enable him to win eternity in Heaven. It was wrenching.

          Yet the religion teacher in the story is above is in violation of church teaching, according to Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger’s astonishing Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:

          It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

          The rest of the letter is largely devoted as to why homosexuality is intolerable to the Church.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

            The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

            Ugh, how can they be so two-faced? I just don’t get it. The former Pope used his Christmas message last year to claim that children of same-sex parents are an example of the disappearance of human dignity! How is it respecting someone’s dignity to say that their very existence erases it and trashes the human experience?

            • Claude

              What can one say? I might as well get “The Vatican is a disgrace!” tattooed on my forehead.

  • SeekerLancer

    Props to this community for standing up for what’s right instead of ignoring the problem. I wish it always ended like this.

  • Peggy

    It’s very encouraging to see this younger generation of Catholic high school students who are supportive of LGBTQ people. This church is sure to “lose” them if it can’t change with the times and share the much more enlightened attitudes of these students.

    • Robster

      Hey Peggy, it can’t come soon enough. Seems, in some backroom at Vatican plc there’s men in white robes sorting out how to disengage young people from their church corporation. Us non believers are happy to help but they really don’t need it. Child rape, hateful bigoted dogma, stone age morality etc will see the RCC shedding potential victims and those considering signing up. ‘Spose they’ll save money on wine and crackers.

  • Veronica Abbass

    If you live in Ontario, please sign the petition ” Dear Premier: Stop public funding of
    Catholic schools & STOP THE DISCRIMINATION” at tinyurl.com/b8gtvx8

  • allein

    I’m curious what “legal action” they were threatening her with. The linked article doesn’t specify.

    • CoboWowbo

      They threatened to sue Brooke for defamation. This was after a family friend contacted the media about the stuff going on.

      • Mario Strada

        Defamation? That’s rich.

  • ORAXX

    As usual, the people are way out ahead of the church.

  • Ibis3

    I’m gobsmacked. I’m reading the original article in Xtra which gives details of the teacher’s actions:

    1. Outed Brooke’s girlfriend, another student at the school, to the girl’s parents.

    2. While Brooke was out of school for a week for bereavement (her father died), docked her marks because she wasn’t there to do the assignment. When Brooke complained, she was able to do the assignment but was docked 50% of her grade because it was late.

    3. She told her class that “homosexuals cannot have a real family” and at another time that “homosexuals can’t have a real marriage”.

    4. She put a question asking students what makes a “real marriage” on a mid-term exam.

    When Brooke, at her breaking point, responded “F*CK [sic] ALL YOU CATHOLICS. I’M GAY AND GOD LOVES ME TOO,” the administration then tried to expel her though ended up suspending her for 10 days.

    When questioned by Xtra, the teacher replied first with the refrain of bullies everywhere: “If she feels uncomfortable, that’s her choice,” followed by the standby answer of every bigot: “I have no problem with gay students because I have lots of gay friends myself.” Srsly. Meanwhile, the school threatened to sue for defamation to try to intimidate Brooke and her mother from going public with the story.

    http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Bullied_Catholic_student_speaks_out-13217.aspx

    • Stev84

      Also a lot of people in the comments who also have experience with that teacher and say that she is mean to everyone except a few of her favorites. And that she pushes her personal opinions on them without allowing any dissent or original thought.

      Just ignore all the idiots who blame the victim and think “there are two sides to this story”. Coste had the opportunity to explain herself. Instead she doubled down on her ignorance.

    • Claude

      That was excellent reportage by Andrea Houston!

      At least Brooke’s mom has been exemplary.

  • kaydenpat

    Catholic schools are funded by the government in Canada. Not sure why because it leads to situations like this where it appears that the government is supporting homophobia.

    • AxeGrrl

      Well, if the most recent decision(s) on Gay Straight Alliances in Catholic schools is any indication, the teacher isn’t going to come out the winner here.

      Dalton McGuinty (former premier of Ontario) left office amidst controversy and criticism, but he got this issue right on :)

      “The Ontario government refused to back down Tuesday in a fight with Catholic educators over the use of the term gay-straight alliance, but rejected suggestions its aim was to end the separate school system.

      “I think it’s a couple of fundamental values that transcend any one faith … respect and fairness,” Premier Dalton McGuinty told reporters.

      “We do everything we can in the confines of our homes to love and respect and accept our children. We just want to make sure the same kind of atmosphere prevails in publicly funded school systems.”

      Premier defends ‘gay-straight alliance’ in Catholic schools

    • Ibis3

      Any government wanting to change the situation* has to touch the third rail of Canadian politics–they would have to amend the Constitution. That would be difficult to do unless there were a grassroots movement to push the government to do it. In today’s economic climate & minority parliament, I don’t see that happening any time soon…unless someone could convince voters that secularizing the school system would mean a windfall for the education sector.

      *The Ontario Conservatives floated the idea of going the other direction to get rid of the discrimination: i.e. funding other religious schools rather than just the Catholic ones, but there was a backlash at that idea that probably cost them the election in 2007. So the answer is status quo or get rid of public funding to all religious schools.

      • AxeGrrl

        Yeah, Hudak and co. lost hugely when he made that suggestion of funding all faith-based schools :)

        And I completely agree with you re: needing a ‘grassroots movement’ in order to get the ball rolling on changing the constitution to get rid of funding for Catholic schools…….but if the board chooses to fight things like Gay/Straight alliances in the future, I can see that grassroots movement start to seed ~ Canadians (in general) are very tolerant and accommodating of ‘religious freedoms’, until/unless the religious try to force their values on everyone else.

  • ruth

    I can’t stand webpages that start a video immediately when you open them. I just woke up a sleeping person by opening the link in the blog post.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Apologies. Didn’t know it was doing that. Will try to fix it when I get home.

    • midnight rambler

      Funny, I can’t get the video to play at all. Clicking on it just makes the caption disappear.

      • Ibis3

        I had to turn off tracker blocking for the vid to play.


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