Forces of Intolerance Target Mount Saint Charles


The forces of intolerance are on the march, and unless they are stopped, they will forbid every American from disagreeing with their narrow understanding of reality.  They will allow no discussion about how we can all live together despite different interests and beliefs.  Like Big Brother in 1984, they will train children to watch their families and their churches and to report them to the government or to the ideological news media, as appropriate.

Writing in The American Interest (spotted via Instapundit), Michael Needham describes the attack on religious freedom in America.  On marriage, for example, Needham describes the traditional or conservative view as not only founded in religious texts and human history, but also in the observation that traditional marriages provide the best environment in which to raise children:

This is the conservative perspective. It has become, somewhat surprisingly, a controversial one these days, to be sure, and it’s one that supporters of same-sex marriage reject entirely. But at this stage of the debate, Americans who hold these views don’t expect those on the other side of the debate to be persuaded on the merits, at least in the short term. The Left has already won on marriage, after all, at the Supreme Court, and a constitutional amendment or Supreme Court reversal doesn’t seem to be in the cards for now. So what matters now is not so much whether the conservative perspective will win out but rather whether it will even be tolerated in polite society. …

[If not, it] would mean creating a culture that makes good people and institutions out to be evil, teaching our children that the friendly Catholic neighbors across the street are morally suspect, that the religious immigrant family warrants suspicion for bringing alien, socially conservative values into the community, that those bearing Bibles shouldn’t be trusted by Americans who believe in the gospel of tolerance.

As experience should have suggested that it would, the Left isn’t taking its assault in reasonable steps meant to move the culture a comfortable step at a time, but pressing its advantage.  Late this week for example, Rhode Island Catholic middle and high school Mount Saint Charles came under fire not for having taken any discriminatory action, but for updating its admission policies to address the apparently hypothetical situation of admitting transgender students going forward.

The stated reason is that the school “is unable to make accommodations for transgender students,” suggesting that the preemptive policy is less a conflict over identity than a question of what principles the school might be forced to violate for said accommodations — say, with bathrooms or locker rooms.  I’ve been given by a reliable source to understand that the school has had transgendered students in the past, so the new policy may reflect not even a bias, but a fear that the legal environment is changing.  A school with no policy may find itself without defense now, while in the past it has been able to consider every student on a case-by-case basis when it comes to such sensitive issues of identity and belief.

It’s been reported that the initial expressions of the predictable outrage came from “young alumni,” and reading through online comments and social media posts shows a disconcerting belief that the policy should be a legal matter ripe for lawsuits and a stark faith that there is simply no explanation besides bigotry and animus. That is, they cannot conceive of a reason for the policy that is substantially different than simple Jim Crow racism.  And this from young adults who attended the school.  (N.B. I haven’t seen any indication that alumni are anything but surprised at their own snap conclusion.  That is, they aren’t alleging that this is a continuation of policy, but rather a regression.)

This is what the popular culture and the public school systems are teaching.  And the immediate lesson is that those of us who see it for what it is (and the schools that uphold our religious worldview) have to offer a countering approach, plan, and rulebook in every forum we can find, especially in schools.

The lessons have to go beyond specific teachings about things like identity, sexuality, and marriage.  They have to include lessons on the appropriate way to live together in a pluralistic society, respecting others while holding firm to one’s own beliefs.  For one, taking to the Internet in order to present those with whom you disagree as the “other” shouldn’t be the first recourse, if it is a recourse at all.  Rather, the first step should be seeking explanation with the implicit expectation that there could actually be a legitimate one.

Unfortunately, even many of those who are under attack and willing to resist don’t seem to understand what’s at stake.  If we fail now, our principle that people should be treated as our brothers and sisters, as individuals, will be overwhelmed with the principle that people divide up into categories and should be excluded and driven out of society if they are in the wrong ones.

Even those who are willing to capitulate on some of the social or political questions must begin looking forward to the end game, which is that we will be forbidden from expressing and passing along our understanding of the world, which, for those of us who are Christian, has consequences for our eternal souls.

  • Joe Smith

    Here’s the dilemma for MSC; since the Obama administration change to include sexual identity under Title IX, dozens of private schools have applied and been granted waivers from the sexual identity aspect. These schools cite the inconsistency of being made to comply with the law when the law conflicts with the tenets of the controlling organization.

    So, if MSC and the church want to say (like abortion, same-sex marriage, and (some) forms of birth control) that sexual identity is also a conflict, then apply for the waiver. However, it seems MSC wants to have it both ways – because the “can’t accommodate” reason seems a bit specious.

    The school, along with most of the other catholic high schools, likes to participate in RIIL instead of the private athletic conferences (because it gives them a huge recruiting advantage). RIIL, which has heavy catholic school influence in its organization and operation, says:

    “All students should have the opportunity to participate in RIIL activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.”

    As a religious school, I’m sure it has a better grasp on teaching values and MSC sells that “students are “known, valued,
    treasured, and taught in partnership with the family. Hospitality,
    availability, personal interest, and concern for others are hallmarks of
    the charism of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. So, the student treatment of a transgender student shouldn’t seem difficult to accommodate.

    Additionally, MSC has done and is in the process of million dollar plus renovations; how hard among all that spending would it be to add stalls or small accommodations? What’s missing from MSC’s statement is what are the shortfalls it believes exist to accommodate given the main areas of dispute tend to center on restrooms and locker rooms?

    MSC is the entity that brought up the issue; if you are going to say we can’t accommodate, you must have some benchmarks or standards to measure against in determining your shortfalls. So what are the facilities shortcomings, especially when MSC knows the guiding rule for athletes (and not all student are athletes, but RIIL policy mirrors the current federal interpretation) and others is to treat transgender by their identified sex?

    I do agree the backlash is over the top, but why doesn’t MSC simply apply for a waiver instead of its seemingly disingenuous statement or be more transparent about why the school can’t accomodate despite major renovations in progress?

    • OceanStateCurrent

      Your comment goes right to the point of my post. If we look at people as human beings trying to make the best decisions in their circumstances, rather than seeing an intolerant bigot just waiting to be found out and made to renounce their intolerance, the MSC response starts to make sense.

      There is some reason that you and I don’t know that led to the inclusion of this policy. Assume it was a reasonable call, given unknown pressures. In the blink of an eye, some non-theologist folks who mostly want to run a school and to keep within the challenging boundaries of the Catholic faith are suddenly in the spotlight of the social justice warriors, accused of being subversives to the official state ideology by their own recent graduates. Is it likely that such people’s first thought would be to lay out every reason for their decision for public scrutiny?

      On the other hand, if a concerned graduate or two had contacted the school, essentially asking, “What’s up with this?,” in a sympathetic way, they would have been more likely to get the explanation. But they appear to have been more interested in proving that they were good citizens ready to take down their own school and Church in order to secure a pat on the head for “tolerance.”

      The only way to achieve a truly pluralistic society is if we have space to disagree on fundamental issues, without fear that the government will start branding us if we overstate something or even overstep our own principles. Instead, the U.S. is becoming a place where we must instantly conform to whatever new social innovation is declared “tolerance” and snap into place when we’re corrected, which generates not only an inability to develop power structures outside of government, but also a general fear and insecurity keeping us on edge to discern what the power elite want us to say.

      • Joe Smith

        Assume it was a reasonable call, given unknown pressures.

        I’m willing to give administrators the benefit of the doubt; what I question is the thought process behind the implementation.

        Let’s say the pending lawsuits, policy decision by RIIL and others, and the general lack of clarity over the Obama administration’s position on Title IX and sexual identity made the administrators feel the need to have some stated policy.

        For simplicity, the positions would be prefer not to enroll (apply for a waiver) or enroll with either the case that accommodation is available or accommodation is unavailable. The latter two still require some analysis of what constitutes accommodation in order to reach a conclusion.

        Why wouldn’t he administrators be clearer in their policy announcement? If it’s the former; fine, I think as a private religious school it should be able to follow its beliefs and eschew public support if there is a conflict or apply for a waiver and receive, to the extent it qualifies, public support. If the waiver is rejected, the school can cross that bridge at that time.

        If it’s the latter, why wouldn’t the administrators at least clarify what accommodation shortfalls exist? Even if it errs on significant accommodations (separate locker rooms, single user restrooms) that are presently unavailable and would cost $XXX to implement, then at least the response would make more sense.

        And perhaps you are correct in that a simple request for clarification should have been the more appropriate response from those who were troubled by the announcement, but shouldn’t the MSC leadership have at least anticipated the reactions to a not fully developed position? Given MSC and the other catholic schools are big players in the RIIL, this issue is not one that jumped onto their radar screen.

        • OceanStateCurrent

          I’m not in a position to answer your questions. I will say, though, that our society has become prone to pretend that these issues are not incredibly complex on multiple levels… legal, social, personal, theological, with regard to news media, and so on. This is all reduced to simple declarations about discrimination that, I would argue, probably wind up causing unnecessary harm to people who are transgender.

  • Philip Spadola

    Interesting post Justin given that you are an advocate of a school choice scheme that would force me to send my tax dollars to an institution such as MSC. According to your post MSC states that they are unable to accept all students who may want to attend their institution. And the primary objection to this policy is not coming from your hated government or progressives or leftists but from recent graduates. Not quite a ringing endorsement if you ask me. Joe Smith makes a good point about the fact that MSC has not applied for waivers that would grant them an exclusive status in respect to rejecting transgender students . Even if they do why should I be compelled to financially support the kind of which their own recent graduates object.

    • OceanStateCurrent

      But you wouldn’t be. Only tax dollars from people who support the program would be used. Your tax dollars would all be going toward things for which I currently pay but would prefer not to support.

  • Rhett Hardwick
    • OceanStateCurrent

      That was predictable. Big bad Millennial graduates get the risk-free high of pretending they fought the civil rights fight while treating their neighbors and their school as an “other” whose perspective does not matter and who must be trampled underfoot in the name of tolerance.

  • tdickinson

    Your characterization of the alumni response as showing a “disconcerting belief that the policy should be a legal matter ripe for lawsuits and a stark faith that there is simply no explanation besides bigotry and animus” is bizarre to me.

    I am seeing quite the opposite from the majority of my fellow alumni, most especially the five organizers of the facebook group at the center of the response (one of whom is a transgender MSC alum who is currently a postulant for Episcopal Holy Orders studying at Yale Divinity school, whose blog post about his own thoughts and experiences you probably came across if you have looked into this discussion at all, and which should have obviated the need for you to cite my father’s tweets as a “reliable source” as to this person’s existence).

    I am seeing repeated statements of disappointment in the policy coupled with love and support for the school itself. I am seeing a desire to work with the administration, not against it. I am seeing expressions of justified confusion about the school’s vague mention of “accommodations”. I am seeing thousands of dollars proactively raised by alumni on GoFundMe–money raised to assist with any difficulties the school might face in accommodating transgender students, but to be donated to the school as a show of good faith regardless of any policy decision.

    With scant few exceptions, I am incredibly proud of the responses posted by my friends, peers, and fellow alums, for the respectful and patient way in which they have tried to initiate a productive dialogue. I’m not sure what productive purpose you imagine your snide dismissal to serve.

    • OceanStateCurrent

      It takes all of two seconds to find comments like this, on the “peaceful protest” Facebook page (edited)

      pulling the suicide number (and appealing to sympathy doesn’t work). these people don’t give a f*** if we die

      To which Anthony Maselli replies:

      Yeah I don’t disagree. Most people who impose these kinds of policies aren’t open to reason. I do think though that these facts serve as a conversation starter for otherwise oblivious parents.

      The same is true of any public commentary I’ve seen about this issue. Assuming that his inclusion in a national-audience article about the matter would lead people to hunt him down for attacks, David Coletta asked his Facebook friends for moral support. Responses include such things as “F*** haters” and “classic religious schools being dicks.”

      On news articles, comments tend to go straight to suggestions of lawsuits and ending any kind of tax-exempt status, let alone funding.

      It’s all well and good that some alumni are trying to take positive steps, but the critical point is that they’re coming after ego-stroking declarations to the media and a protest during an important recruitment event. People who actually respect those who run an institution that’s important to them would privately contact those administrators for answers first and work toward resolution quietly.

      You’re not operating in isolation, here. There’s now a recurring theme of students and others hunting out reasons to attack their institutions. This approach is conspicuously in keeping with the our worldly society and inconsistent with Christian principles.

      The productive purposes I hope to advance, in my small way, are:

      1. To let well-meaning administrators who probably feel under siege in a way well out of proportion to both their actions and their public profile know that there some of us out in the public square who think they’ve been treated unfairly.
      2. To provoke a little awareness among the self-congratulatory activists.
      3. To encourage Catholics and especially Catholic schools to consider whether they are inadvertently promoting the worldly approach to human interactions and should consider making a stronger effort to teach the inherently counter-cultural Catholic approach.
      4. To push society back toward truly pluralistic and tolerant behavior, rather than the progressive lynch-mob culture under which we’re living.

      • tdickinson

        Are you aware that the protest in question was not organized by MSC alums? Or that the “concerned alumni” group gently disavowed involvement in the protest, encouraging any alums who felt compelled to attend to be respectful to the administration and community, and to exercise discretion when talking to the media? Or that the first commenter you quoted is not a MSC alum? (The second, I’m not so sure about–it’s not a name I recognize but then again I don’t claim to recognize the names of everyone in the community.)

        It’s simply not true that positive steps are coming only after “ego-stroking”. The positive and productive response began to mobilize immediately on Thursday afternoon within an hour or two of this policy being made known to the alumni community. Which is to say, well in advance of any of the unsavory behavior you cite. If the order of events appears otherwise to you then this is only because those acting positively and thoughtfully are necessarily acting slower and less visibly than the rashest internet commenters. Have you considered the possibility that the respectful and quiet work toward resoluton is in fact exactly what the vast majority of concerned alums are doing–a fact that is simply invisible to you precisely BECAUSE it is being conducted in the way you suggest?

        Further, I don’t appreciate the repeated references to concerned critics of the policy as “self-congratulatory” or “ego-stroking.” Surely it’s occurred to you that those whose opinions differ from yours may in fact be every bit as sincere in those opinions as you are. I would think that assuming good faith on the part of those who disagree with you would be a major part of “the appropriate way to live together in a pluralistic society, respecting others while holding firm to one’s own beliefs.” Am I wrong about this?

        • OceanStateCurrent

          Well, look, if the comments don’t apply to you, then don’t be offended by them; it would be absurd of you to assert that nobody, whether alumni or not, is in this for self-congratulation.

          If news reports are to be believed, the fact is that the issue came to public awareness because “alumni of the school took to social media criticizing the policy of the school.” An arguably sensationalizing news outlet hopped on the story because it rightly recognized that it would become click bait (which the initial alumni should have recognized, themselves), and here we are.

          I don’t blame you for being frustrated that your measured response is being overwhelmed by the ego-stroking activists (which imbalance is clearly part of the social environment that I decry), but I’d suggest you’re aiming at the wrong target by going after me. Get your like-minded peers out in the media, the comment sections, and the social media sites and defend the school, defend its reasonable (if disagreeable) misstep, and defend the need for a tolerant, pluralistic society to allow people and their localized communities to express their beliefs and resolve them cordially without becoming the target of the roving Internet lynch mob.

          Of course, I know from experience that doing so will open you to unfair attacks that you’re an intolerant bigot, but that’s where the real courage is, not in reporting thought-crimes to the mob via social media.

  • Jamie Dunnon

    This is yet another example of the tyranny of the minority–the flawed notion that all, not just a few, institutions need to invest time, effort and $ to meet the self-proclaimed needs of a minuscule number of individuals. We are 19 Trillion dollars in the hole–at what point does the absurdity of meeting everyone’s needs become the straw that breaks the nation’s back?

    Yet so many get up on their ethical/ideological high horse and proclaim their disdain for those that question the need to change all for a few. Few of these Face Book heroes, however, pay the bill. It’s easy to be a saint as long as you can avoid the pain of martyrdom.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Here is a proposition, I would be interested in responses.
      If tomorrow I were to put on a skirt, present myself at the Providence police station, announce that I now identify as a female, and demanded to use the ladies room; what result?

      • tdickinson

        Okay, here is a response, since you’re interested. I do not know what they would do but I hope they would simply take you at your word and allow you to use the bathroom, raising an eyebrow at you behind your back in gentle mockery of your ostentatious “demand” to do something so simple and mundane.

        Since it seems to me based on the way you have framed the question that you do not actually identify as a woman (and my apologies if I’ve misread your comment), it would be unfortunate that you had acted in bad faith and deceived the unsuspecting state house personnel out of some misguided attempt to make a hazily defined statement in protest of other people’s thoughts about their own identities.

        On the other hand it is also possible that they would prevent you to take you at your word, which would be doubly unfortunate: their refusal to take you at your word and your bad faith actions being the proverbial two wrongs that don’t make a right.

        • Mike678

          What of the women in this public bathroom that are not comfortable with having a biological male in their bathroom? Do their opinions/right to privacy not count? Does the “women” sign on the door create an expectation that should be met?