Catholic School Parents Fight Lesbian Teacher's Firing. Here's Why That's Good.
School choice and cultural pressure are better than government mandates.
A Catholic school in Miami fired a first-grade teacher after she married her girlfriend in the Florida Keys, and now parents are furious with the school.
First of all, good for the parents. While the Catholic Church may still formally oppose legal recognition of gay couples, the attitudes of practicing Catholics in America have changed significantly over the past 20 years. According to a Pew poll from last summer, two out of three American Catholics now support same-sex marriage.
A couple of parents expressed their unhappiness with Jocelyn Morffi's firing to the Miami Herald:
"We were completely outraged, all of the parents," said Samantha Mills, whose child was in Morffi's class last year. "This teacher in particular has made such a contribution to the school. She never imposes her personal beliefs on others. She just does everything in love. She has a way of teaching that is so amazing."
One parent, Valentina Simon, said she considered withdrawing her child from the school when she heard that Morffi had been fired based on her sexual orientation. "This is really bad," said Simon. "It can't be that in 2018…they still do this type of thing."
After same-sex marriage became legal, Florida's archbishop "reminded" Catholic school staff and faculty that they are expected to represent the Catholic Church's teachings. And that means no same-sex marriages. Because they are a religious institution, Catholic schools (and other religious schools) are generally cleared to ignore antidiscrimination policies that contradict their beliefs. Miami-Dade County prohibits anti-gay job discrimination, but the school is exempt.
I hear frustrations in parts of the LGBT community about those exemptions. But that "We must have the government do something" attitude ignores the role of cultural pressure in fixing things like this.
It wasn't the government that caused the dramatic increase in support for same-sex marriage over the years. Public engagement and cultural influence did. It's significant that the parents themselves sought out publicity and turned to the media to highlight Morffi's termination. It may not change anything in the short term for Morffi's job, but it highlights parents' power to influence schools in a positive direction.
It would be silly to expect the Catholic Church to change its position on gay marriage just because laws have changed. But cultural pressure from Catholics themselves may do the trick. That these parents have the freedom to take their children elsewhere to get educated is as important a tool for pushing for reforms. School choice matters.
Catholic schools cannot just assume they're going to get students, particularly if parents worry that their kids will get a worse education because a school prioritizes church doctrine over teacher quality.
The same should be true for public schools. School systems would be less likely to protect bad teachers and more likely to reward good ones if they were forced to take families' preferences more seriously.