Michelle McCusker, a 26-year-old preschool teacher from Long Island, recently found herself in an uncomfortable, if not exactly unprecedented, position. She was pregnant and single, with a shotgun wedding not in the cards. While McCusker may not have found her situation intolerable, her employer, St. Rose of Lima Catholic School, disagreed and promptly dismissed her on the grounds that “a teacher cannot violate the tenets of Catholic morality.”
Years ago, the expectant mother would have peacefully accepted her walking papers in a duly chastened manner. But since this is 2005, she instead held a press conference (wearing a demure white dress like one you’d see at a First Communion or wedding) and sued the school and the Diocese of Brooklyn for wrongful termination. With everyone’s favorite band of avowedly secular litigators — the New York branch of the American Civil Liberties Union — in her camp, she’ll probably win. Legal precedent is against the church. There have been a number of virtually identical cases in the United States where the courts have decided in favor of former employees of Catholic institutions impregnated out of wedlock.
The rather ingenious legal rationale concocted by left-wing lawyers to arrive at this state of affairs maintains that firing an unmarried teacher for becoming pregnant amounts to sexual discrimination. Single male teachers cannot be terminated for getting pregnant, so policies like the one adopted by parochial schools ipso facto unfairly discriminate against women. As NYCLU attorney Cassandra Stubbs put it: “How do they determine if male employees engage in premarital sex?” Some might argue that this shows a startling lack of imagination on Counselor Stubbs’s part, but we’ll leave that alone.
What nobody at the NYCLU wants to consider are the rights of the school or the church to run a privately funded operation based on moral principles. For that matter, what about the rights of the parents who fork over thousands of dollars a year to ensure the values inculcated in their kids at school align with the ones taught at home and in church? If they had wanted to give the NYCLU crowd a role in shaping their children’s education, they could have sent them to public school.
Liberals talk endlessly about a wall of separation between church and state when someone dares erect a manger scene in a city park, but that talk ceases when the state can be used to harm the church. In these cases antidiscrimination law becomes a battering ram, breaching the wall and ensuring that no bastion of heterodox morality remains untouched by secular liberals’ more enlightened beliefs.
Of course, the “wall” rhetoric itself is fundamentally dishonest. It implies that the church stays out of the state’s affairs and vice versa. But as the unwed pregnant teacher lawsuits demonstrate, the state intervenes in church matters on a fairly regular basis. Even Michelle McCusker can recognize this. If a genuine wall between church and state existed, she would not have run crying to the NYCLU to file suit in the state’s courts; she would have sought redress through diocesan channels. If a genuine wall existed, the church could safely tell the NYCLU to buzz off in as Christian a way as possible.
It is clear from the principal’s letter posted on the NYCLU website that the decision to dismiss Ms. McCusker was made only after considerable reflection and without any trace of malice. The pregnant woman was not fired because of her race, sex, handicap or anything else beyond her control. Her dismissal came about because of her own actions, which violated the rules set out by her employer. And if a private organization cannot make special rules for its members that are at variance with those of the state, what’s the point of private, non-state organizations? Or is that the point after all?
Peter J. Lynch writes from Arlington, Virginia.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire