Thursday, July 03, 2003

This Is The Sort of Thing I Was Talking About

"The firing of a gay music director has split the congregation at Holy Family, the largest Roman Catholic church in this industrial city of 150,000. Bill Stein, the music director and organist for five years, was fired June 17 after he refused church leaders' request that he promise to lead a "chaste" life - a vow he equated with giving up his partner of 10 years, Manny Ahorrio. "

As someone quoted in the story correctly pointed out, it has long been a commonplace that those who work for the Church, especially in high-visibility positions, be expected to live according to Church teaching. Occasionally one hears stories of teachers at Catholic schools being disciplined or even fired for engaging in cohabitation, having affairs, etc. Usually this requirement that an Church employee live in accordance with the Church's moral teaching is written right into one's contract.

Some of the parishioners and choir members seem to be afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome regarding this choir director in a manner reminscent of what has happened with some priest-abusers: "We all loved this guy for what he did for the parish and the community," said one choir member. Well, it is only logical that we should expect those who work for the Church in a public capacity to witness to their faith with their lives. The parishioners and choir members protesting this musician's firing are every bit as confused as parishioners who beg to keep their pedophile-priests.

But apart from that, and more seriously, now with the Lawrence being the law of the land, I do not see how, legally, this firing can now stand up against a legal challenge. Lawrence has said that sodomy, or any other sexual conduct, is strictly a matter of private behavior and untouchable by the State. Existing anti-discrimination laws mandate that one cannot discriminate in hiring based on individuals private lives. Since the choir director's homosexual relationship, it could be argued, does not impinge on his employee duties, and is strictly a private matter, it seems to me it can't stand up to a legal challenge. And so we come to what I predicted last week: this is exactly the sort of situation that could lead to a Church being forced to hire or retain openly gay employees. If some legal beagle out there can tell me how a Church could defend against this, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Whether or not this particular musician will sue the parish or not for wrongful discharge remains to be seen. But if he doesn't, someone else will, and sooner rather than later. This is exactly the kind of thing that the gay activists will use to try to advance their agenda. And I'll be keeping an eye on this: It's a little too early yet to say "I told you so," but it looks to me as though I'm going to be proved right even sooner than I thought.