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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  • Anonymous

    Kudos to the Catholic high schools.

    It’s easy to stand up for First Amendment rights of people with whom we agree.  The true test is whether we will stand up for the rights of those with whom we disagree — especially those whose views we find offensive.

  • nirrti

    Wow..what the heck is up with Texas, lately? Is it perpetually 1955 there or something?

  • I got my high school diploma from Beren Academy. No joke.

  • Anonymous

    “Wow..what the heck is up with Texas, lately? Is it perpetually 1955 there or something?”

    No, just perpetually stupid.

  • Pharoute

    “These words apply to the Yangs and the Kohms, or they’re meaningless”

    James T. Kirk

  • Matri

    *blinks in disbelief* Whut?

    Are the flying pigs here already? Did global warming freeze Hell over? I was honestly expecting the opposite reaction, based on everything that’s happened in the past 8 years.

  • Good to know that some element of the US Catholic Church seems to have some institutional memory of being a ‘minority’ in both the mathmatic and sociological sense, especially after the recent teeming up with Evangelical hegemonists against their common enemy of human freedom.   I wonder if this has something to do with how strongly the Protes/Catholic divide overlaps with the White/Brown divide in Texas. 

    If you object to government bodies opening sessions with a prayer, (as well you should.) there are still certain town or even state halls where a Latin ‘Hail Mary’ would be a highly effective form of troll protest.*


  • Evan

     I’m guessing the TAPPS really thinks the Muslim schools are terrorist recruiting camps or something?  But even so, I still have no idea why they think keeping them out of intermural athletics would help anything…

  • Lujack

    This is based wholly on anecdotal evidence, and we all know how reliable that is, but it has been my experience that Catholic schools people tend to be more liberal than Catholic activists at large, especially the old-timers.  A lot of this has to do, I think, with the fact that Catholic schools pay significantly less than public schools and so many of their teachers are making a conscious sacrifice in order to be there.  Since they have to deal with kids, and all the accompanying messiness of kids and their problems, they don’t have the luxury of being hard-heartedly doctrinaire, and many of them are really, really into the whole social justice thing (my own religion teachers at Catholic school were typically the most liberal at the school).  On the other hand, the people who ran, say, the Altar Rosary Society or any of the other sitting around and talking organizations could be pretty nasty sometimes.

    Although I’ve been around a lot of Catholic schools, that’s entirely anecdotal and someone could have a totally contradictory experience (and please don’t anyone from the Altar Rosary Society get mad at me!)

  • Dan Audy

    I’d say the Catholic school that I attended was split fairly evenly between liberal Catholic thinkers who were focused on the betterment of the youth they taught and doctrinarian Catholics who were focused on taking advantage of the access teaching gave them to create fear of hell and obediance to the hierarchy.  The doctrinarians were themselves split between universally loathed nuns who primarily ‘motivated’ by punishment (including corporal) and sought to extinguish any joy of learning; and highly respected and paid men who ran the adminstration trying at all turns to undercut and fire the liberal faculty.  Ultimately, it was how the doctrinarians capricious and spiteful punishments* were reflected in the God they taught us would banish us to eternal torment for the smallest infraction that drove me from christianity and the love, faith, and joy in God’s creation of the liberals that almost convinced me that Catholicism was THE path to truth.  However, this took place in Canadian Catholic schools which are a parallel school system to the Public School System so they aren’t underfunded like American religious schools but are also held accountable to a higher standard which was what the administration spent most of their time trying to circumvent.

    *I was given a month of detention for failing to return to the school following the lunch bell ringing.  The reason: I was rescuing a seven year old who had been buried under about four feet of snow following the collapse of a snow tunnel and would likely have suffered permanent brain damage or died in the time taken to go about the kilometer back to the school to get an adult and then return and locate where she was buried.  Having resucitated her (horray for my swimming lessons teaching CPR) there was no ‘proof’ that what we claimed had happened and myself, the girl, and the other student who had helped rescue her were all punished for violating the ‘school structure’ and ‘making up lies’.

  • This heartwarming, life-affirming story about people respecting the rights of others is too much.  Stop it, Fred Clark!  People like me need to stay nestled undisturbed in our cynicism.  What you’re doing here upsets me.  I just… I just don’t know how to process this.  Please, no more.  If you find a picture of the pope cuddling a labrador retriever or something, just keep it to yourself.

  • MaryKaye

    In Washington State a Pagan group had photos of their ritual stone circle used as backdrop for a TV story about Satanism.  They protested that this was libelous, to no avail.  They then contacted the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington (state), which sent a *strongly* worded letter to the TV station in question, and got immediate results.

    I know a similar story about Florida Pagans and Baptists.  Just about every religious group has good, sensible people in it somewhere.

    This does nothing to excuse the other ones, but it deserves celebration in itself.

  • Kevin Alexander

    I credit my Catholic school with freeing me from religion. If Catholicism were some benign variation of the christian idea then OK. Instead it seems that centuries ago the entire organization was hijacked by a gang of sexually obsessed sadomasochists. 

    And god didn’t lift a finger to stop them. To my mind, no god would do that. Ergo, no god.

  • Evan

     There is, of course, the Reformation…

  • Kevin Alexander

    That’s a very good point and I did look into that at the time. The Reformation was a huge improvement over what the Church was doing but then degenerated into something equally absurd. It always seems to end up not as obedience to God but to obedience to some men who claim to speak for God.

  • Tricksterson

    I like to say that twelve years of Catholic schooling made me what I am today, a Discordian but I also have to acknowledge that there were a few nice and cool teachers, including three nuns, Srs Joann (who I learned eventually left the church because she found it incompatible with her sexual preferences) Catherine and Paula.