The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., is backing the decision of a Catholic school in Costa Mesa to continue enrolling two sons of a gay couple despite opposition from some parents of other students at the school.
After 18 parents complained in a letter to St. John the Baptist School about its admission of two boys who are being raised by two gay men, the 560-student K-8 school issued a policy statement saying: “The personal family background of a student does not constitute an absolute obstacle to enrollment in the school.”
Given the recent national attention to same-sex marriage, more religious schools may be compelled to clarify policies on enrollment of students from gay families, and of students who disclose their own homosexuality, said Burt Carney, the director for legal and legislative issues for the Association of Christian Schools International, in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Where things were quiet in the past, they’re being ratcheted up because people are pushing the envelope,” he said.
Claire M. Helm, the vice president of operations for the National Catholic Educational Association, based in Washington, said she hadn’t heard before of a controversy about whether the children of gay couples should be enrolled at a Catholic school. She said it would be “sad” if a Catholic school shut out a gay student or the children of gay parents.
The parents who objected to the two boys’ enrollment at St. John the Baptist requested in their letter that the school require all students’ parents to sign a covenant of compliance with Catholic teachings, said the Rev. Gerald M. Horan, the superintendent of schools for the diocese, which is located in Orange County.
“If you go down the road of saying the moral choices of the parents determine the eligibility of the student in our programs, you have to be universal and fair about applying that,” Father Horan said. It wouldn’t make sense to exclude the children of couples who have disobeyed the church’s teachings in ways other than practicing homosexuality, such as by using birth control or not getting married, he added.
An attempt to obtain a copy of the letter or a comment from a parent who signed it was unsuccessful.
A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week