A court in Massachusetts ruled that a Catholic school is guilty of discrimination against an employee who was let go because he is gay. The religious exemption doesn’t apply, said the judge, because the school admits non-Catholic students.
According to one observer, “This court decision makes it impossible for faith-based institutions to survive.”
A Massachusetts court ruling against a Catholic school may have set a dangerous precedent that interferes with religious schools’ ability to hire staff consistent with their mission, critics said.
“This court decision makes it impossible for faith-based institutions to survive,” Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told CNA.
Beckwith was responding to a court ruling that Fontbonne Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in Milton, Mass., violated state anti-discrimination laws. The ruling suggested that religious freedom exemptions do not apply to the school because it accepts non-Catholic students.
“If this decision stands, it will either force faith-based schools to close their doors to anyone who is not of the same religion or they will have to give up their beliefs and hire without any regard to faith which will ultimately cease to make them faith-based institutions,” Beckwith said.
In June 2013, Matthew Barrett was hired as a food services director at Fontbonne Academy. But the school rescinded the job offer a few days later after discovering that Barrett was in a civil same-sex marriage.
Fontbonne Academy’s CEO, Mary Ellen Barnes, told Barrett that he could not be hired because his lifestyle is inconsistent with the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage. She explained that every employee is expected to be a minister of the school’s Catholic mission.The school is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. The college preparatory high school says it offers students of all faith an “education that opens them to the Catholic heritage of the search for God and the expression of faith through concern for the dear neighbor.”
I suppose, if this reading of the law stands, that religious schools could continue as long as they admit only members of the religion.
But we see here the commonly held view among secularists that religion is only a matter of identity. Indeed, many religions ARE largely matters of cultural identity. Christianity, though, is a matter of faith; that is, belief.
Christianity, whatever its ethnic manifestations, is for people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9). And a major teaching of the Christian religion is that we are to evangelize and serve those who are not members of our religion.
Thus, religious freedom for Christians cannot just be the state’s permission to worship together or to associate with each other or even to hold private thoughts inside one’s head. There is an outward thrust to the Christian message that has to be protected.