Beltway Confidential

Seattle Times incorrectly attacks Catholic school for firing vice principal on grounds sanctioned by a unanimous Supreme Court opinion

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Gay Marriage,First Amendment,Media,Gay rights,Religion,Catholicism

A gay vice principal of a Roman Catholic school in Washington state lost his job after violating his employment contract by marrying his partner under the state's law.

The development sparked student protests and a predictable outburst of politically correct media denunciation of the religious school.

Eastside Catholic High School vice principal Mark Zmuda resigned after the school, located in the Seattle-area city of Sammamish, learned of his marriage. “The fact that he was gay has nothing to do with this issue," Eastside Catholic High School attorney Michael Patterson told the left-leaning British daily, the Guardian.

"It’s the fact that he entered into a same-sex marriage. The church’s position was pretty clear: they respect gays, and they simply do not condone sexual acts between same-sex partners.”

The Seattle Times editorial board attacked what it described as the "bigotry" of the school: "Sure, church doctrine is staunchly opposed to same-sex unions. And yes, Zmuda signed a contract to uphold Catholic teachings. But the ground has shifted significantly, from the Vatican to Sammamish."

In fact, the Times' editorial board is wrong about that shifting of ground, at least as far as the U.S. Supreme Court is concerned.

The high court ruled unanimously in 2012 that religious schools can fire teachers who fail to uphold church doctrine because they count as ministers.

Justice Samuel Alito, a nominee of President George W. Bush, wrote a concurring opinion that discussed the importance of school officials conforming to the relevant church's teachings.

"When it comes to the expression and inculcation of religious doctrine, there can be no doubt that the messenger matters," Alito wrote in concurring with the court's ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.

"Religious teachings cover the gamut from moral conduct to metaphysical truth, and both the content and credibility of a religion’s message depend vitally on the character and conduct of its teachers.

"A religion cannot depend on someone to be an effective advocate for its religious vision if that person’s conduct fails to live up to the religious precepts that he or she espouses.

"For this reason, a religious body’s right to self-governance must include the ability to select, and to be selective about, those who will serve as the very 'embodiment of its message' and 'its voice to the faithful.'"

Justice Elena Kagan, President Obama's most recent nominee, joined Alito in his concurrence. The ill-informed Seattle Times editorial board members, doubtless, would not.

The editors also accused the school of hypocrisy by rhetorically asking if the administrators "investigate" whether teachers use contraception.

The analogy is not entirely apt, though, because the private use of contraception does not amount to the kind of public message communicated by a gay marriage, much less by the message communicated by the school if it permitted the vice principal to remain in office despite confuting the church teaching he promised to uphold.

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