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Sticking up for other people’s rights

Sticking up for other people’s rights March 28, 2012

Charles Kuffner points us to this encouraging story from Texas — “Catholic group urges TAPPS review.”

TAPPS is the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which made national news earlier this year for waiting to get sued before agreeing to reschedule a state basketballl playoff game. TAPPS had scheduled a Jewish school to play on the Sabbath and, initially, told the team to play or to forfeit.

Kuffner links to another story about the association’s nasty treatment of an Islamic academy that sought to join. TAPPS rejected Iman Academy after requiring the school’s officials to respond to a questionnaire asking if they, as Muslims, believe “the Bible is corrupt,” and about the “spread of Islam in America.”

Which brings us to the response from Texas’ Catholic high schools:

The organization that represents Texas’ Catholic high schools on Thursday called for a comprehensive review of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, calling TAPPS’ treatment of Jewish and Muslim schools unacceptable.

“Failure to sufficiently improve the structure and management of TAPPS will require a re-examination of our 43 Catholic schools’ continued affiliation with TAPPS,” wrote Margaret McGettrick, education director of the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department.

Those schools represent 20 percent of TAPPS’ membership.

She urged that a review committee represent the association’s “denominational, institutional and geographic diversity, to ensure that the issues and concerns of all members are accounted for and addressed.”

This is what “defending religious liberty” looks like for those who take such liberty seriously and aren’t just spouting a political slogan they don’t understand. It means making sure that religious minority groups enjoy the same rights and protections as everyone else.

As Kuffner says:

I’ve had a lot of disagreements with the Catholic Church on policy matters lately, but this is something I applaud.

McGettrick and the Texas Catholic schools seem to understand that rights are meaningless unless they apply to everyone. “Rights for me, but not for thee” doesn’t really mean I have rights either — just tenuous, fragile privileges I can enjoy and defend until such time as thee and me switch places.

That sort of privilege seems to be what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has in mind when it sermonizes about “religious liberty.” The bishops seem to think of religious freedom as a zero-sum struggle for hegemony — that their freedom is only meaningful if it comes at someone else’s expense.

Good on the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department for choosing a better path and setting a better example.

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