The bishop of the Cleveland diocese has issued a letter outlining the terms of the contract that all elementary teachers at more than 100 elementary schools must sign. The letter explicitly spells out its “morality clause” in detail, giving a long list of activities teachers must agree to avoid, even outside of school, or they will lose their jobs. The church is essentially telling teachers that they have jurisdiction over their entire lives.
The teachers will also henceforth be called ‘Teacher-Ministers’, suggesting that their functions are at least partly religious and thus they have few of the legal protections that secular people have at their jobs, even though they may not be religious themselves. The US Supreme Court had already ruled unanimously in 2012 that religious organizations had a ‘ministerial exception’ that freed them from complying with federal, state, and local anti-discrimination employment laws in the case of any employee that it considers to have a ministerial function. Calling teachers ‘Teacher-Ministers’ seems designed to make sure that teachers are in no doubt that they are considered such and thus can be fired at will.
Here’s the relevant section 6 from the morals clause on page 2 of the Cleveland contract. It is really something to see.
As such, the Teacher-Minister agrees to act, speak, and live at all times in a manner consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and understands that actions and speech that are contrary to Catholic teaching will not be tolerated by the Parish and shall be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination. The following, although in no way an exclusive list, represents by way of example certain speech or actions that are considered to be contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church:
a. Public support of positions contrary to Roman Catholic Church teaching (including, but not limited to, publically supporting abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, surrogate parenthood, direct sterilization, or so-called homosexual or same-sex marriage or unions).
b. Procuring or assisting another in procuring an abortion.
c. Making use of or participating in artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, or surrogate parenthood.
d. Preparing for or engaging in a same-sex marriage or union.
e. Engaging in or publicly supporting sexual relations outside of marriage (which shall be understood for purposes of this Agreement as being the marriage between one man and one woman.)
f. Living with another as husband or wife without the benefit of a marriage recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic Church or cohabitating outside of marriage.
g. Engaging in or supporting transvestitism, transgenderism, or sex reassignment.
h. Membership in any organization that is anti-Catholic or whose philosophy is in any way contrary to the ethical or moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
i. Indecent or lewd behavior (including, but not limited to, the unlawful use of drugs, substance abuse, or use of pornography).
j· Serious dishonesty.
k. Entering into a marriage with a person when one of the parties to the marriage is validly married to another person in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church (e.g., entering into a marriage if one of the parties has entered into marriage previously and has not received an annulment from the Roman Catholic Church).
l. Use of social media or electronic means of communication (e.g., email and texting) in an improper, immoral, or scandalous manner (including, but not limited to, use of social media or electronic means to communicate, post, share, or send material that is lewd, indecent, sexually suggestive, or pornographic).
Notice a glaring omission in the list? There is no mention of birth control and contraceptives. This may be a tacit admission that this is an issue that they have lost on a practical level. After all, the very fact that their teachers are not like the Duggars suggests that contraceptive use is rampant among them.
Another surprise was the hostility to ‘transvestitism, transgenderism, or sex reassignment’. Why is that a moral issue? What is their problem with transgender people? And isn’t it a bit rich for the Catholic church to object to transvestitism when their priests wear long dresses and their bishops dress like below, with chic purple sashes to boot?
If the diocese strictly enforces all these rules, I suspect that about 90% of teachers would lose their jobs immediately and the remaining 10% would be those who are really good at hiding their private lives from scrutiny.
Note that teachers are not only prohibited from doing these things, they are also banned from publicly supporting them. But what does public support mean? If one is invited to a same-sex wedding, would attending constitute public support? What if your child is gay and invites you to attend some function where allies are welcome? I have a t-shirt that says “LGBT? Fine by me” and a rainbow wristband that says “LGBT ALLY” and a Safe Zone sticker on my office door. If I were a teacher in a Catholic school would any of those be grounds for dismissal? Does that mean that you cannot even engage in a campaign to change any of these rules?
“In my eyes there is nothing wrong with my son,” [Molly] Shumate told The Cincinnati Enquirer, (http://cin.ci/QoY9DJ). “This is what God gave me and what God created and someone I should never be asked to not support.”
Shumate said signing the contract would send a message to her son, who’s 22, that she doesn’t support him. “And I won’t do that,” she said.
In a tight job market for teachers, many will have no choice but to sign but this kind of morality clause will delight those who have private vendettas against others. All it would take is to send an anonymous tip to the diocese that a teacher is doing one of these prohibited things and that person will be in the dock. It may be something as innocuous as a Facebook post or ‘liking’ something that the church objects to.
These policies are not (as yet anyway) applicable to high school teachers in Cleveland because they are unionized and thus policies have to be negotiated, another strong argument in favor of unions.
You can now expect the Catholic church to indulge in an elaborate song-and-dance that this is not as hateful and narrow-minded as it obviously is. Good luck with that.