A far too frequent failure

The other day I did a piece about a Catholic high school that wouldn’t let its softball team play for the state championship if it meant they’d have to play against a woman at second base.  I came down on them for the frequent crime of organized religion: sexism.

The post seemed inadequate to me.  Admittedly, I wrote it to vent before rushing off to do other stuff.  After giving it some thought, I realized why it felt so feeble: I let one guilty party almost completely off the hook.

I ragged a little on Mesa Prep’s headmaster who said of the Catholics…

“It takes tremendous moral courage to stand by what it is you believe, and they are doing what they think is right,” Mesa Prep Headmaster Robert Wagner told KTVK.

What a contemptible sentence.

What if the Catholics had refused to play the game because Mesa Prep’s second baseman was black?  What if Robert had said of their racism that it takes tremendous moral courage to stand by what they believe?  There would have been an immediate backlash against him, and rightfully so.

But the church’s long-standing sexism?  Meh, it’s their tradition, even though it’s no more moral than racism.

This obligatory respect for religious institutions, the need to remind them that they are respected even as they prop up the most odious moral ideas, is sickening.  Let your tremendous moral courage be put toward denouncing immorality.  To pay respect to the wicked out of social convention is moral cowardice, and it makes you an accomplice.

They insulted one of his students for her womanhood, insisting they were above her because of her gender, and Robert’s first reaction was to praise their moral courage?  If a sentence condemning their moral confusion doesn’t immediately follow, then Robert has failed his student, his school, and his species.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Bentley Owen

    That bothered me when I first read this story also. The relativism of that statement (“what they think is right”) represents a serious cop-out. Thanks for calling him out.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani Sharmin

    Thanks for writing, JT. Sometimes, I think people have taken the good idea of praising someone for bravely standing up for what’s right, even when others disagree, and turned it into praising people for standing up for their beliefs, full stop, regardless of whether those beliefs are right or wrong.

  • http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

    Thank you. I’ve been saying this since it happened. In fact, I’m working on a blog post about this phenomenon right now, which I hope is significantly different from this one. It bugs me to no end that people can hide behind their beliefs and opinions even when they’re terrible and wrong.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

    Yeah, that sentence jumped out at me the first time. If what you believe is harmful, then I will not praise you for standing up for your beliefs. Hitler stood up for what he believed, but I’ll be damned if anybody is touting his “tremendous moral courage”.

  • christophburschka

    What the fuck.

    “Moral courage”? He actually said that?

    Mohammed Atta and Anders Breivik were willing to kill and die for what they believed. Do we praise them for this? Evil and stupidity do not become less evil or less stupid by increased fervor.

  • anteprepro

    It takes moral courage to be a bigoted asshole in the name of God. It’s true because so many people seem to believe it. How else could you possibly determine truth, right?

  • ottod

    JT:

    “This obligatory respect for religious institutions, the need to remind them that they are respected even as they prop up the most odious moral ideas, is sickening. Let your tremendous moral courage be put toward denouncing immorality. To pay respect to the wicked out of social convention is moral cowardice, and it makes you an accomplice.”

    If you ever have doubts about what you do or about your writing skill, think about this paragraph, and especially the last sentence. This may be the best think you’ve ever written; it’s certainly the best thing I’ve read in months or maybe even years.

  • JG

    @christophburschka:

    Mohammed Atta and Anders Breivik were willing to kill and die for what they believed. Do we praise them for this?

    No, we ridiculously refuse to call them “courageous”. Remember why Bill Maher lost his first show?

  • Zengaze

    Nicely put JT

  • penn

    I think Mesa also deserves some criticism for the fact that she sat out the first two times they played. Why is the other team’s bigotry affecting your line-up? If they want to forfeit, that’s their right, but it’s ridiculous to bench a starter to accommodate their bigotry.

    Our Lady of Sorrows Academy apparently has a very good baseball team. If I were an opposing coach, I’d be scouting the girls so I could guarantee a win or two over one of the best teams in the state.

  • Cynthia

    Thanks for noticing the hypocrisy of that statement. As a female, I was totally offended that anyone would be able to say they wouldn’t play if there was a girl on the other team. What is this, 3rd grade?

    And for any adult to support that position was…well, livid is a small word for my reaction.

    Appreciate you taking them to task for this part of the whole debacle.

  • CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    Article: Maddow via Fark:

    Mississippi legislator gleefully describes returning to the age of coat hanger abortions as a “moral value”. FARK: When asked to clarify his statement, he blames the blacks

    At least he’s standng up for what he believes in…
     
    * Bonus: Alcorn County GOP took down Maddow’s youtube video of him with a copyright complaint.
    (Her post includes a working link to a copy on the GOP’s channel)

  • http://www.thebeachfamily.org spudbeach

    JT, I agree with you with all my heart. But let’s take the chance to see the good part here: Someone with the courage to live by their bigotry is easy to see and easy to fight against.


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