The Religious Stranglehold on Marriage and Morality

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Firing teachers is all the rage these days in private religious schools around the United States. Recently reported was Professor Heather Clements who was fired from Azusa Pacific University after she made the announcement she was transitioning into a male.

Now it is Tippi McCullough, Teacher at Mount St. Mary’s in Little Rock, AK. McCullough received a phone call 40 minutes after marrying her partner –another female– telling her that she had violated the schools “morality clause” and was offered the choice to resign and receive a great recommendation, or she could refuse and be fired.

The continued problem here is that these schools, the Catholic Church and many religions in general seem to think consensual marriage lies in the realm of morality. It does not.

Two people being married does not have a consequential result. The act of marriage does not affect the well being of any other parties outside of the two involved in the marriage.

Written By: Dan Arel
continue to source article at secularprogramming.org

28 COMMENTS

  1. The continued problem here is that these schools, the Catholic Church and many religions in general seem to think consensual marriage lies in the realm of morality. It does not.

    That is certainly a problem but I don’t think its the problem. It is going to take a long time for the Catholic Church and its members to get more educated views and/or to just die off. In the mean time IMO the problem illustrated by these examples is that gay people don’t have the same civil rights as religious people, african americans, women etc. You can’t legally fire someone because they are black or a woman but you can legally fire people for being gay in most states in the US right now.

    I’m actually surprised that this doesn’t get discussed more and that there aren’t, at least as far as I know, any major movements to sponsor legislation at the federal level to deal with this. It could be that the gay rights movement realizes that getting any such legislation passed with the current congress could never happen.

  2. Marriage is a civil contract, religion has at best a loose grip on the deluded. So few countries allow religious marriages on their own it can’t really be said to be a strangle hold.

    While I don’t want to underplay the interference on those living in theocracies I also don’t want for one minute a religious person to assume marriage is only for the crazies. Marriage is for the sane too.

    The preposition feels like the “when did you stop beating your wife” or the Dove “all young women have self esteem problems” fallacies. Interesting, proof please…

  3. If a person is gay or uses birth control, get out of the church. If these were secular places employees deserve support but the Catholic and most religions are pretty clear on these things. I am not the only one who just doesn’t get why these folks are upset and why they stay connected to the religion.

  4. This gay thing is so strange. It is one of thousands of sins from the OT. Almost all such sins are ignored by the modern church, e.g. eating owl. But the modern church focuses on being gay/having gay sex as the only sin that matters. Further, it is not god who punishes but vigilantes who use a variety of punishments from firing to refusing service, to refusing lodging, to beating up, to murder.

    Obviously stealing hurts others. But marrying your preferred gender has no effect on others. Why is it even considered a sin at all? The bible does not even condemn being gay, just promiscuous same-gender sex. We have been blaming the bible, but that does not explain the obsession.

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      This gay thing is so strange. It is one of thousands of sins from the OT. Almost all such sins are ignored by the modern church, e.g. eating owl.

      You just wait. If the gay people can get married, everyone will be eating owls next. It’s a slippery slope.

      One would think there would be a larger push for legislation that prohibits divorce, since that’s a bigger issue (and makes so many people adulterers).

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      You are right that the Bible is not the source of their morality. Their hatred of homosexuality is tied to ideas about natural law. But even more surprising is that their morality is not always dependent even on their own teachings from most of their history. Abortion for example would not have caused them too much trouble until relatively recently when they came to mistakenly believe that a person exists at conception. Something at least some of them must know now is just not true. But what a profitable mistake to have made heading into modern times!

      This is what they do. It is perhaps their biggest contribution to society today. Where would they be without their opposition to the conclusions drawn from modern moral philosophy? The new Pope says to talk less about those things and more about the message of salvation. But that’s hopeless. If they aren’t creating moral dilemmas their influence may just disappear.

      edit: “they” as in Catholic leaders opposed to a healthy morality (I think we can call it that, right? healthier, at least?)

      • In reply to #7 by Sean_W:

        In reply to #4 by Roedy:

        They came to mistakenly believe that a person exists at conception.

        Oddly they invented this idea from a muddled scientific understanding of how DNA fuses at conception. Prior to that, Christians taught that life begins at “quickening”, when the soul first enters the body, at the time the mother can first feel the baby move.

  5. These schools are (as far as I know) private schools based on certain Biblical standards. Since they are not public, within their sphere of influence, they have the right to deal with these matters as they see fit. As far as a “stranglehold on marriage or morality”, nonsense. No one is forced to go to these schools or accept their beliefs. To say otherwise is a reach, not to mention implying they have the power to expand their beliefs in a coercive manner to cover society as a whole. If they were public, of course, then charges of discrimination could be made. Having stated this, I don’t the word, “bigotry”, applies since they are simply following what they believe is right within the scope of their school policy in the same way many non-religious institutions operate per stated policy.

    • In reply to #6 by rodan:

      These schools are (as far as I know) private schools based on certain Biblical standards. Since they are not public, within their sphere of influence, they have the right to deal with these matters as they see fit. As far as a “stranglehold on marriage or morality”, nonsense. No one is forced to…

      So what if a church sacked a white female teacher for marrying a black man and said it was immoral?

      Private school OK, public school discrimination?

  6. Since these schools are private, they have the right to make policy and expect those who work for them or attend them follow the policy. (I assume that these instructors were aware of school policy.) No one is forced to work for or attend these schools. Their scope is limited to those who believe as they do, and not to society at large. Thus, to infer they hold a “religious stranglehold on marriage and morality” is a reach if one implies they hold to power to coerce the public at large to follow their beliefs. If these schools were public, then all bets are off and charges of discrimination would be appropriate.

    Also, I don’t believe the word, “bigotry”, applies in this case since all these schools are doing is applying policy within their limited scope. If they are displaying bigotry, then so are many other large institutions or groups, non-religious or otherwise, as they deal with disciplinary issues per their their established policies.

    • In reply to #8 by rodan:

      If there were private Nazi schools, would they have a right to teach it is one’s moral duty to torment and kill Jews?
      If not, then why are catholic schools permitted to teach it is one’s moral duty to torment and kill homosexuals?

    • So you think that just because an organization is private they are allowed to discriminate in any way they want? In reply to #8 by rodan:

      Since these schools are private, they have the right to make policy and expect those who work for them or attend them follow the policy. (I assume that these instructors were aware of school policy.) No one is forced to work for or attend these schools. Their scope is limited to those who believe…

  7. I am really not sure of the issue here and maybe someone can explain it better since I seem unable to access the link provided. If these schools are private religious schools and they aren’t receiving money from the federal gov’t then why is it a problem that they fire someone who doesn’t follow the religion of the school? I mean it’s not like all of the sudden these institutions and religions are just not revealing that they are against homosexual behavior. I don’t understand why people seem to think that a religion can’t enforce its own standards.

    • In reply to #9 by Mormon Atheist:

      enforce its own standards…

      no blacks?
      no aboriginals?
      no gays?
      no women?

      Some prejudice you think is justified by religion, some not. This says more about your personal prejudices than about some overarching moral principle.

    • In reply to #9 by Mormon Atheist:

      I am really not sure of the issue here and maybe someone can explain it better since I seem unable to access the link provided. If these schools are private religious schools and they aren’t receiving money from the federal gov’t then why is it a problem that they fire someone who doesn’t follow the…

      I don’t know about the law in different states but in the UK being a private business does not give you a free pass to discriminate. There have been high profile cases where Christian B&B owners wanted the right to turn away gay people, a councillor wanted to be able to turn away gay people and adoption agencies want to refuse gay people entry to the adoption process. In each case the law courts have told them they can’t do it and fined them appropriately.

      To be honest I don’t understand why you think the lack of state subsidy means the schools can do what they like. Could they practice corporal punishment because they were privately run? or lock their charges in broom cupboards for the night?
      Laws are there to protect everybody no matter who their employer is.

    • So you think private institutions or organizations can discriminate in any way they want to as long as they are open about their bigotry? In reply to #9 by Mormon Atheist:

      I am really not sure of the issue here and maybe someone can explain it better since I seem unable to access the link provided. If these schools are private religious schools and they aren’t receiving money from the federal gov’t then why is it a problem that they fire someone who doesn’t follow the…

    • In reply to #9 by Mormon Atheist:

      I am really not sure of the issue here and maybe someone can explain it better since I seem unable to access the link provided. If these schools are private religious schools and they aren’t receiving money from the federal gov’t then why is it a problem that they fire someone who doesn’t follow the…

      The principle is that freedom of religion is supposed to be more or less absolute in the US as long as your practice of religion only effects you. So if your religion tells you not to go to a doctor and you decide not to that is fine. But when you force a child to also follow that, its not fine, society has a vested interest in assuring the basic rights of children and your right to practice religion doesn’t trump society’s right to ensure those basic rights. Or to take another example, if you want to have a religion where people come into your church and hear how white people are superior to black people that is your right. As soon as you open a store or corporation and you start establishing segregation of your work force or customers society has a right to say that that is just too harmful to the rights of black people. So the idea is that gay people should have the same rights as blacks, children, women, etc. Once you move into the public sphere, and that includes establishing a school that hires people from the general public, your rights are no longer absolute.

  8. It depends on the employment laws of the State. Religious schools are not exempt from the same anti-discrimination laws binding all the other employers in the State. Churches do get special breaks for employees who are in a position of teaching doctrine. I don’t know if companies can use the morals clause re sexual orientation in AK, but I guess we are about to find out. From what I was able to read about it in this Huffpo press story, I doubt the teacher can do anything about it.

  9. Roughly 7 to 8 percent of men in Germany are homosexual. If that is how things remain, our nation will fall to pieces because of that plague. Those who practice homosexuality deprive Germany of the children they owe her.
    ~ Heinrich Himmler (born: 1900-10-07 died: 1945-05-23 at age: 44)

    So in the Nazi view, homosexuality was wicked because gay people failed to hand kids over as cannon fodder to the state. You would think they would be equality upset with unmarried, sterile or childless couples.

    But gays had been a part of Germany for eons. The lack of breeding did not hurt.

    • Well, in fact they were. Sterile people were seen as sub-humans. They also thought that people should get married and form ideal Germanic families. Arranged marriages were very common in Nazi Germany. Living a single life was not something the Nazis looked upon lightly. The duty of every man and woman of pure descent was to get married and have pure babies. The rest of the population was to be erased. Either by force or nature. In reply to #11 by Roedy:

      Roughly 7 to 8 percent of men in Germany are homosexual. If that is how things remain, our nation will fall to pieces because of that plague. Those who practice homosexuality deprive Germany of the children they owe her.
      ~ Heinrich Himmler (born: 1900-10-07 died: 1945-05-23 at age: 44)

      So in the Na…

  10. Religion is an institution based entirely on claims it has no way of proving. Going back to when we science was in its infancy and religion’s answers were the norm this was absolutely the case. Now, instead of assuming that whatever way they interpret their gospels and doctrines as being will be accepted as fact, they instead focus entirely on the things it assumes it has control over thanks to their influence on their followers. Because the world no longer has any reason to accept their word as anything but fiction and rather than simply slowly moving into obscurity over the long course, it seems to choose irrational and in some cases extreme acts.

    Religion still wants to be at the forefront of our social consciousness, despite its inability to explain, discover or innovate. The enlightenment, modern science and technology, and secular law all provide and innovate in ways religion cannot. Kindness, empathy, charity and all the things typically attributed to religion have never been solely theirs but it certainly never stops them from taking credit or from hijacking ideas they couldn’t possibly have any part in and making it their own.

    So the fact that they have their issues with much of our modern perspective is not really surprising, considering how out of date their source materials are. At some point they will have to give up some or all of these struggles, but sadly I suspect it will only be replaced by something else. It is the clinging to the ancient in such a way that holds them back.

    That morality and marriage are social constructs is common knowledge for people without the inherent blindness or faith. Obviously neither idea is perfect and will always be in a process of improvement. Pretty much like most of life itself. If you allow yourself to think ancient books told you everything you need to know about all problems, you do it very often in spite of reality, not in agreement with it.

    • In reply to #17 by achromat666:

      Religion still wants to be at the forefront of our social consciousness, despite its inability to explain, discover or innovate.

      It says a lot about religion when one of its main claims to credence is espousing the current zeitgeist, especially in a bid to get more members. A regular Joe accepts gay rights, and that’s just common sense. The RCC makes vague conciliatory remarks towards any gays “of goodwill who seek the Lord” in spite of their own doctrines, and apparently that warrants special attention as though that made them revolutionary progressives.

  11. from the article,

    Tippi McCullough, Teacher at Mount St. Mary’s in Little Rock, AK. McCullough received a phone call 40 minutes after marrying her partner –another female– telling her that she had violated the schools “morality clause” and was offered the choice to resign and receive a great recommendation, or she could refuse and be fired.

    So the school is blackmailing her on moral grounds, (unfortunately this is not unique to the religious)

  12. I commented earlier about the need for a national bill to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. It turns out there is such a proposal, it’s called ENDA and Harry Reid is trying to get it passed. Although with the current congress I doubt it has a chance but at least it’s nice to know people are proposing legislation to address this. Realistically, I think this couldn’t happen until after the 2014 elections a year from now and only then if the democrats pick up a significant number of seats in the house.

  13. Other folk have argued the rights side of this better than I can. In this individual case though it seems cruel in the extreme to dig up small print to persecute a well loved and effective teacher for following a lifestyle harmless to others, and perfectly legal to boot. Clearly the “morality clause” only applies to certain people.

    Another facet of this I find disturbing is the constant reference to the rights of the school. The “school” is made up f the individuals in it – the majority of whom are pupils. Around 5-10% I believe it is fair to assume are LGBT. More will be at that vulnerable age where they’re not sure yet about their preference. Say the school has around 500 pupils (educated guess) then there are around 25 – 50 LBGT. They have been shown that at any point they can be persecuted with impunity, simply because of their sexuality. The remaining 450 odd have been shown that it is perfectly acceptable to persecute people on the basis of theor sexual preference.

    I wonder about the schools anti bullying policy – I make the assumption that like in the UK this is required by law. How are they going to support LBGT students who are being bullied. After all sexuality related bullying has now been shown to be perfectly acceptable, as demonstrated by the principle no less. One of the few members of staff that would have been well qualified to support students has been bullied out of a job. Other staff who wish to assist will clearly have their work cut out as they can’t trust the backing of the school hierarchy.

    If you presume to educate the real treasure of any nation, to try and extricate yourself from adhering to and promotion of the human rights of your pupils and staff shows that you are not fit for the role. This illustrates precisely why religion has no place in schools.

  14. Other folk have argued the rights side of this better than I can. In this individual case though it seems cruel in the extreme to dig up small print to persecute a well loved and effective teacher for following a lifestyle harmless to others, and perfectly legal to boot. Clearly the “morality clause” only applies to certain people.

    Another facet of this I find disturbing is the constant reference to the rights of the school. The “school” is made up f the individuals in it – the majority of whom are pupils. Around 5-10% I believe it is fair to assume are LGBT. More will be at that vulnerable age where they’re not sure yet about their preference. Say the school has around 500 pupils (educated guess) then there are around 25 – 50 LBGT. They have been shown that at any point they can be persecuted with impunity, simply because of their sexuality. The remaining 450 odd have been shown that it is perfectly acceptable to persecute people on the basis of theor sexual preference.

    I wonder about the schools anti bullying policy – I make the assumption that like in the UK this is required by law. How are they going to support LBGT students who are being bullied. After all sexuality related bullying has now been shown to be perfectly acceptable, as demonstrated by the principle no less. One of the few members of staff that would have been well qualified to support students has been bullied out of a job. Other staff who wish to assist will clearly have their work cut out as they can’t trust the backing of the school hierarchy.

    If you presume to educate the real treasure of any nation, to try and extricate yourself from adhering to and promotion of the human rights of your pupils and staff shows that you are not fit for the role. This illustrates precisely why religion has no place in schools.

  15. In reply to #16 by Aber ration

    Thanks for your response. My reply is somewhat delayed so I’m not sure you will see it.

    Good question. It made me realize that my statement about private institutions having the right to deal with things as they see fit was too sweeping and has some pitfalls when taken at face value. Yes, if (I assume a Christian) church sacked a white woman for marrying a black man and said it was immoral, it would be wrong, disgraceful and violate the spirit and commands in the New Covenant. Such a church shouldn’t even be called Christian; call it something else.

    Should the church have this right? It hurts to say this but I believe it does. As punishment, hopefully, public opprobrium, opposition to such behavior by the faith community would right this wrong.

    In the larger sense, I believe the government does have the right of supremacy over all organizations to promote the public welfare and help ensure just treatment of all citizens. How far this impinges into the rights of private institutions to make policy, I guess, would have to made on a case-by-case basis. In the case you brought up, since the vast, vast majority of churches find this behavior abhorrent and unbiblical, the couple can, and should, exit and go elsewhere ASAP to be married.

    This is the best I can answer right now. Thanks again for a good, thought-provoking question.

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