The lawyers are already at work contesting the decision by the governing board of Arizona’s Washington Elementary School District to exclude student-teachers from a Christian university after a long and productive relationship.
In recent years, more than 100 students and teachers-in-training from Arizona Christian University have taught in the district’s elementary schools. ACU’s president, Len Munsil, said that many of these students have been hired as full-time teachers. Munsil also said that the high quality of ACU student-teachers prompted school administrators to ask for more trainees from the university.
Then the board noticed the mission statement of the ACU website. The university holds to “biblically informed values that are foundational to Western civilization, including […] the centrality of family [and the] traditional morality and lifelong marriages between one man and one woman.”
No one has alleged that any of ACU’s student-teachers have brought religion or discrimination into the district’s public schools. So, what’s the problem? School board president Nikkie Gomez-Whaley said that she doesn’t believe Christian student-teachers can separate their Christian values from their professional obligations, making them unable to treat students equally. “For me,” she told The Christian Post, “this is not a concern about Christianity, there are plenty of Christian denominations who are LGBTQ friendly.”
But what about the denominations and religions that hold doctrines similar to that of the ACU?
For example, what will the Washington Elementary School District do now about teachers drawn from the pool of more than 60 million Roman Catholic Americans? Despite the softening of Pope Francis on criminalizing same-sex relations, he has not changed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which calls same-sex relations as “intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law.”
That’s a stronger statement than the one made by ACU. Is the Washington Elementary school board now going to exclude Roman Catholics?
Opposition to same-sex marriage is also prevalent in Orthodox Judaism and Sunni and Shia Islam, as well as many Eastern religions. Is the Washington Elementary school board also going exclude Jewish and Muslim teachers?
Let us suggest a way out for the school board: acknowledge that people can belong to faiths that have dogmas with which you disagree or even find offensive. Understand also that all the great world religions endorse the fair treatment of all people. As long as teachers do not bring their faith into the classroom, they should be judged by the quality of their teaching.
Anything less than that is a gross violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.