Lauren Brown applied for and got a job as counselor at the Catholic all-girls St. Mary’s Academy. But the school later learned that she is a lesbian. And so like good Catholics, they withdrew the offer. And in the time-honored Catholic way, they tried to buy her silence by offering her a year’s salary and benefits if she would keep quiet about why she was not being hired.
But Brown did not play along and when the news became public there was a backlash.
Some students at the school launched an online protest in support of Brown after the details of the withdrawal emerged this week.
A major donor to the school, Tim Boyle, chief executive officer of Columbia Sportswear Co., had also condemned the decision and told a local newspaper there was no place in the workplace for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“The news this week is an example of how to not prepare students,” Boyle told the Oregonian in an interview published before the school updated its employment policy.
While students can be ignored, major donors cannot so the school board met and unanimously decided to include sexual orientation as part of their non-discrimination policy. The new policy reads:
St. Mary’s Academy does not discriminate against any person because of age, gender, color, race, national origin, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or any other class protected by law. St. Mary’s Academy will make efforts to ensure that employees and applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of the characteristics mentioned above in terms or conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, classification, compensation, promotion, training, termination or any other employment decisions.
The backlash and adoption of the new policy are good things showing that as usual, the community is ahead of the church. But this is not entirely a happy ending because Brown was not offered the job again. The school said it had offered it to someone else before the new policy was adopted. So while this new policy is a step forward, in practical terms what the school will likely do is be more careful in its screening of candidates to ensure that no member of the LGBT community slips through. Because that is what Jesus would do.