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September 23, 2005

Why I Don't Understand Organized Religion

From The Associated Press:

School Expels Girl for Having Gay Parents
By Associated Press
Published September 23, 2005, 6:05 AM CDT

ONTARIO, Calif. -- A 14-year-old student was expelled from a Christian school because her parents are lesbians, the school's superintendent said in a letter.

Shay Clark was expelled from Ontario Christian School on Thursday.

"Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Superintendent Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, the girl's biological mother.

Stob wrote that school policy requires that at least one parent may not engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style, such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship," The Los Angeles Times reported in Friday's edition.

Stob could not be reached for comment by the newspaper. Shay and her parents said they won't fight the ruling.

School administrators learned of the parents' relationship this week after Shay was reprimanded for talking to the crowd during a football game, Tina Clark said.

Clark and her partner have been together 22 years and have two other daughters, ages 9 and 19.

Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press

Now, you'd think the school masters would use this as an opportunity to offer "proper" guidance and put the student on the path to the straight and narrow instead of simply tossing her out and condemning her to hell. But, no, they'd rather be vengeful little cocksuckers and shit on her immortal soul in order to get back at her abominable parents.

Obviously, I've been reading different versions of the bible than they did. That's understandable; there are so many.

The girl's better off. So are her parents.

Posted by Mike Gold at September 23, 2005 11:51 AM

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You sure they weren't expelled for being Canadians?

Posted by: Londo at September 23, 2005 01:46 PM

Nothing worse than a stable household with two parents who apparently love each other. Hard to get more un-Christian than that.

Posted by: Knuckles at September 23, 2005 02:18 PM

The school handled this horribly. From some of the other reports it looks like they just tossed her out right in the middle of the day.

This school requires a "Family Interview". How did they manage past that one? How exactly did her family life come up at the football game? Too many unanswered questions.

Posted by: anon at September 23, 2005 07:32 PM

Well, I have to agree with the school here. Although not for the reason the school gave. I would have kicked her out because the parents lied to the school. They knew the rules going in, and so they lied so their daughter could get in. No telling what else they've lied about. And we know that they're teaching their daughter that 1) it's okay to ignore the church's teachings (so you have to ask yourself why are they there) and 2) that it's okay to lie and defraud people if you can get something of value out of the deal and 3) she's unfairly taking up a student's place who will gain something from ALL the lessons the school has to offer.

Oh and Mike, if the parents aren't going to reinforce the lessons at home, kind of makes the lessons pointless, doesn't it? They're wasting the kid's time and the school's. So yeah, you're right, the parents ARE abominable, but it's my guess the press (and certain bloggers) is the one painting the school as "vengeful cocksuckers", and probably because they don't agree with the school. The bible doesn't say "thou must be gullible and let people use you". If the school DIDN'T enforce it's own rules, THEN you'd just be claiming that they aren't that important in the first place.

Obviously, I've been reading different versions of the bible than they did. That's understandable; there are so many.

And all written by someone who didn't agree with the version before it. Let me know when you write yours.

Posted by: eclark1849 at September 24, 2005 12:15 PM

Oh, come on Earl. You know the kid was expelled because the parents were both muff divers. But you missed the point. I'm not asking why the school didn't like Lesbian parents, I'm asking why the school didn't take the opportunity to provide a better, more devout experience -- even for the length of the school day -- to a child of what they consider to be a morally corrupt family. I gather "turning the other cheek" stops at two.

I have no idea why the parents chose this particular school. It seems looney to me, but perhaps it was an act of political activism. But like I said, that wasn't the point of my post.

As for the bible I'm writing, please re-read my April 1st post.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 24, 2005 12:25 PM

You know after re-reading the School's comments I find I can't disagree with ANY of the reasons they cite.

1) They're lying to and defrauding the school and teaching their daughter that it's okay to do this. How is that NOT "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style"?

2) The girl's parents aren't married, but they ARE cohabitating. Ironically, if they WEREN't living together but seeing each other it'd be okay.

3)The parents ARE in a homosexual relationship.

They don't have to agree with the rules, but they SHOULD be required to follow them or get out.

Let's change the rules in basketball next. The goal should no more than one foot off the floor so EVERYONE can dunk a basket.

Posted by: eclark1849 at September 24, 2005 12:33 PM

And the basketball comment is relevent because...?

For the third time, my comment wasn't about the rules or the religion, it was about how the school missed an opportunity to save (by their standards) a child. That's why I titled it "Why I Don't Understand Organized Religion."

Oh, and if everybody followed the rules, that school could have slaves ... and you'd be only 3/5s human.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 24, 2005 12:39 PM

Private schools have the right to be as whacky as they choose to be...within the boundaries of the law. Historically, Christianity has proven to be a remarkably intolerant religion, and most religions are remarkably irrational. I would expect no less from a "Christian" school.

Our daughter attends a Catholic high school, which has no parental sexual orientation restrictions of which I'm aware. They do, however, make her take religion classes, but conversion is not a graduation requirement. Of course, I'm sure many "Christians" would assure me that Catholics ain't "Christian".

That said, I'm about as sympathetic to a lesbian couple sending their daughter to a "Christian" school as I am toward gay Republicans. I've grown accustomed to irrational behavior, but I won't encourage it.

Religion is based on faith. Period. End of discussion. You either believe or you don't. There is no rational argument that can be used against faith or the articles thereof.

Personally, I choose not to believe in an entity that would condemn you to an eternity of suffering, regardless of the extent of your sins in a single lifetime. I don't discount the possibility that such an entity exists, I just choose not to encourage its behavior.

Jesus may have died for my sins, but I like to think he won't hold it against me -- because then he'd just be another petty asshole.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 24, 2005 04:04 PM

The basketball comment was because rules are the way we play the game. Changing the rules while you're still playing is considered cheating.

Your post is entitled "Why I don't understand Organized Religion", but your comment isn't about religion? Come on, Mike, give me a break here. Okay, you seemed to miss my point anyway. It's not the school's responsibility to "save" the child. All ANY school can do, be it church or secular, is to arm the student with the right tools and knowledge. It is up to the students AND the parents to reinforce those lessons at home and in their everyday lives. These parents were a corrupting ( for lack of a better word) influence on this child from the word go. They were basically telling their daughter to ignore what the school said about her home life.

The slavery argument is a red herring. Slavery was forced onto one side. Attending this school was a choice.

Posted by: eclark1849 at September 24, 2005 04:10 PM

The school in question isn't going to arm the child in question with anything since they decided to punish her for the lifestyle of her parents. Very "Christian" of them, don't you think?

And if we're going to be all Republican and let's-take-care-of-ourselves-and-not-rely-on-the-government-so-much, let's try to remember that in many areas the only alternative to the public school system is some form of "Christian" school.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 24, 2005 07:03 PM

So basically, what you're saying is that kicking the child out for ANY reason would be unChristianlike. And so would turning any child away because the classes are over crowded. I'm always amused at the ways non-believers tell tell believers how they should act. It's like someone who's white telling me how to act black. or a woman telling me how to be a man. I've actually had those happen. And I've had people who don't follow my faith at all tell me what's Christian-like. Of course, if you TRY and live Christian-like THEN they tell you how intolerant you are.

Posted by: eclark1849 at September 25, 2005 08:51 AM

I'm always amused by those without children telling those with children how to raise them, and those who have no experience dealing with the educational system as a parent telling those dealing with that experience daily what their expectations should be.

And, gee, no, Earl, I'm not basically saying that kicking the child out for "any" reason would be "unChristianlike"; I'm saying kicking the child out for the actions of her parents certainly sounds unChristianlike to me.

And did it every occur to you that maybe some "non-believers" were raised to be "believers" and so might actually have some intimate knowledge of the subject? I might not know what it's like to be black, but I know what's it's like to learn about Jesus in Sunday school.

So please don't play your "you don't know what it's like to me" card here.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 25, 2005 09:26 AM

Here's where I'm baffled:

School administrators learned of the parents' relationship this week after Shay was reprimanded for talking to the crowd during a football game, Tina Clark said.

A: She was reprimanded for talking to the crowd at a football game?!?!? What the hell is going on there?

B: And how, exactly, does this bring up that her parents are gay?

Posted by: Leviathan at September 25, 2005 10:10 AM

1. I would suspect that the girl's CONVERSATION at the football game would have something to do with the "outing" of her parents. Children talk about anything and everything these days, as opposed to their "uptight" parents who know what to say and what not to say as in this case, and it could have been possible that her "non-biological mother" could have popped up in the conversation. I doubt if the girl refers to her as "daddy."

2.Finding alternatives to public schools seems to be the national obsession to a number of families these days. Charter schools have been an alternative for African American children in my town and Catholic schools have been open to children of ALL races. Unfortunately, disruptions among the students have forced these schools to enforce rules that give them excuses...sorry, REASONS to expel the disruptors, even when they don't involve the students DIRECTLY. I noticed that nothing was mentioned regarding what kind of student this girl was nor how the girl got admitted without the signature of BOTH parents, unless the biological mother was divorced and the school administration decided not to pry about her home environment, although it's apparently an entrance requirement. I wonder what would have happened if the girl lived with her biological father? Would he have been more sexually suspect because it's rare for a man, other than a widower, to raise a girl on his own than a woman?

Posted by: David S. at September 25, 2005 11:43 AM

Educational opportunities differ vastly between communities and economic groups, and educational requirements differ vastly between states.

Where we live, the only alternative to the public high school is a Catholic high school. But we're also lucky enough to live in Illinois, which has very few restrictions on homeschooling; so we had the luxury of being able to homeschool ("luxury" because one parent made enough money so the other could stay at home) until our kids reached high school age, at which point we felt they needed more subject matter expertise than we could provide in the home.

The local Catholic high school has a very pragmatic view: they need the non-Catholic tuition dollars to stay in business; so they don't push their religious agenda very hard.

Virtually all private schools have the luxury of selective enrollment. That's one of the reasons their test scores are consistently higher than public schools. Overcrowded classrooms and mentally impaired and emotionally troubled students tend not to be serious factors in private schools.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 25, 2005 12:32 PM

David S.: >

Well, certain if he was David Crosby.

Good point.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 25, 2005 01:11 PM

Actually, kicking a kid out for any reason wouldn't be Christlike, but then again, if Christ needed more room for the kids, He'd just pass a miracle.

The point about the parents cohabitating is a red herring, as well, eclark - they aren't allowed to get married, except in Massachusetts (and then they've got to deal with such blatantly unConstitutional things as the "Defense of Marriage" Act, or California's Prop 22, which violate the very first part of Article IV, Section 1, of the US Constitution). Even given that, was I the only one struck by the longevity of their relationship? I mean, I don't know that many married couples who've made it through 22 years together...

Posted by: Jonathan (the other one) at September 25, 2005 02:36 PM

Well, Rick, not having kids, I DON"T tell people how to raise theirs. However, somethings are just you know obvious, like not talking to strangers and not letting them play on the highway. On the other hand, sometimes people who have kids are a little too close to the problem to see to see what the trouble is.

And yes, I took into account that you may have once believed, but obviously something's happened to shake that faith. So how can you criticize anyone for what they believe when you no longer do? Since you want to use the parent-child analogy, it's kind of like a parent who's lost a child telling someone how to keep their child safe.

And what you and apparently everyone else wants to overlook is that the parents LIED to the school. So how exactly is keeping the girl in school going to show her how wrong it is to lie by REWARDING her parents? And PLEASE don't tell me you can't see where they would be rewarded. I know you're not that naive.

Johnathan, please don't trot out that bogus they're not allowed to get married argument. it doesn't wash. It wouldn't matter if the sin was legal or not, it's still a sin in the eyes of the church.

Oh, and being Christlike doesn't entail pulling off miracles. If anyone could do it, it wouldn't be much of a miracle now would it?

Posted by: eclark1849 at September 25, 2005 07:34 PM


I don't criticize you for having faith, and I tried to make it clear that the school was well within their rights for expelling the girl. But thanks to Martin Luther, we can all read the bible in the vernacular -- and make our own judgments on matter of faith.

And just to make sure I understand: We can't comment on your positions, because we aren't black/Christian, but you can comment on ours because we're "too close to the problem"? Thanks for clearing that up.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 25, 2005 08:07 PM


And just in case I wasn't clear before:

Your downtrodden black heritage and your righteous devotion to Christ trump my white apostate parent credentials. Abandon all logic and rationale discourse, ye who enter here. Welcome to the wonderful world of bigotry.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 25, 2005 09:09 PM

eclark, the fact that they aren't allowed to marry does indeed factor into your earlier comments. You stated that part of the problem was their cohabitation - that if they'd just been dating, all would have been fine. However, had they just been dating, they still would have been committing that supposed "sin". Their cohabitation is forced upon them by a government that still takes too many of its cues from a narrow interpretation of Christianity, rather than considering all of its citizens as truly equal before the law.

Posted by: Jonathan (the other one) at September 26, 2005 08:16 AM

As the token Jew at an Episcopalian boarding school, I know something about Church teachings. We were required to go to chapel five times a week, and I was almost expelled because I refused to kneel. Thirty years later, at reunions, many of my classmates told me that watching how the "religious" headmaster handled my defiance convinced them their church was wrong. With luck, this situation will have a similar effect on these kids.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at September 26, 2005 12:56 PM

Hmmm... Okay, Martha, I'll bite. Why were you sent to an Episcopalian boarding school? Some sort of community service rap?

And if some of your classmates decided their church was wrong, what was it wrong about -- and what was right?

I'm still trying to figure this "organized religion" thing out.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 26, 2005 01:10 PM

My parents sent me to an Episcopalian boarding school because my public school teacher in Ohio sent me home for reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in class, which the teacher described as pornographic. And my classmates figured any religion that has to punish you to make you believe wasn't worth it. Say what you like about Reform Judaism, but the most dangerous weapon it has is guilt.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at September 26, 2005 03:32 PM


Okay. You win this year's North American Irony Award. Hand's down.


Don't sell the Catholic Church short, Martha. They're pretty damn good at it, too. The Jews -- from lowly Reform Temples to the highest Orthodox shules -- have the "boxing with god" thing down to an art form. This is why I was the only atheist on my Hebrew School's honor role. I was even given a scholorship, despite my complete inability to read, speak, understand, or appreciate Hebrew.

I declined.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 26, 2005 04:00 PM

I think that any religion will be viewed as intolerant by those who don't share its doctrines, and an organized religion almost has to be intolerant to maintain internal coherence and present an explanation for the universe and how it turns, which is what it's supposed to do. Catholicism is pretty specific about marriage. It's between a man and a woman. It is for life because it is a sacrament; therefore, divorce is not countenanced. (I actually admire this a bit because it would keep people like Britney Spears from treating marriage like bungee jumping-- something to be experienced.) These are its teachings and how its adherence make sense of their lives.

I agree that these are not the teachings of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is all you need to know about JC's message. But if you're part of the institution, you do need to follow the rules. Joseph Campbell said that in all of his studies of the world's great religions, enlightenment comes through the painstaking application of one system. It's not a mix and match proposition.

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at September 27, 2005 03:54 PM

Sure it is. That's how most major (and probably most minor) religions have been formed throughout history. To focus on monotheism -- and to oversimplify grossly -- we can start with Judaism, which begat Catholicism which begat all kinds of Protestant faiths all the while begatting Islam and a couple dozen sundry Jewish splinter faiths.

At what point does Judaism end and mysticism begin? Kabala?

I've tried both marriage and bungee-jumping. Whereas I prefer the former (the second time around, at least), I have to admit the latter is less dangerous.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 27, 2005 04:09 PM

I disagree. Perhaps certain religions spun off of others, but the basic idea is that you stick with one system to reach whatever that religion's promised land is. You can't be a little bit Catholic and expect to be saved. That's the principle on which these religions operate, and in this case, Eclark is right. We can't go in and tell Catholics how they should behave if it goes against their dogma, their path. I may not agree with that path, but their belief in it IS their salvation.

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at September 27, 2005 04:18 PM

Once again, I'm not telling anybody how to practice their religion and, once again, I wasn't criticizing the school for their policy. I was asking the question why they didn't use this as an opportunity to save the child from her morally corrupt (by their standards) parents.

As for not being a little bit Catholic, well, I don't think I know any 100% dogma-pure Catholics. Are none of them going to be saved? Are they all going to hell? Again, my essay was titled "Why I Don't Understand Organized Religion."

I also don't understand why some people can't accept the fact that matters of faith can be individual and should not need a totalitarian support group in order to be accepted.

Everybody has faith in something. I have no problem with religion as long as it's not shoved down my throat and they don't use their religion to oppress others who do not feel exactly the same way as they do. That's the problem with organized religion: historically, the bigger organization, the greater the oppression. You know, like war and rape and looting.

And if it makes anybody feel better, I completely agree with Rick Oliver's position that the parents were nuts expecting the school to go along with their lifestyle. But, again, that wasn't the point.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 27, 2005 04:33 PM

I think it's a little disingenous to condemn a religious institution for being what it is. Your essay title "I Don't Understand Organized Religion" should have been "I Don't Understand Organized Religion AND I Don't Approve of It Either".

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at September 27, 2005 04:56 PM

Neat job skirting my concerns.

Given the absolute fact that organized religion is the greatest source of oppression, murder and profit in history, I reluctantly admit that I do not approve of it one bit. Buncha fucking control freak hypocrites, as far as I can see.

But you have proven something to me, something that is very, very important: I should accept it for the evil that it is, and stop trying to understand it.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 27, 2005 05:05 PM

I haven't skirted any issues. You said you didn't understand religion. I tried to explain it. I'm an atheist, too, and adhere to Gandhi's saying, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians." Organized religion, like governments, corporations, and all other instruments of conformity cannot help but sink into corruption for a variety of very human reasons. I find those deep-seated reasons, irrational reasons, very interesting and worthy of investigation. I don't pretend to know how to solve them.

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at September 27, 2005 05:43 PM

Actually, delete that last post. You finished on a high note, Mike! Rah!

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at September 27, 2005 06:05 PM

This girl was expelled because her parents were gay; she is being punished for circumstances that she has no control over and do to no fault of her own.

I think the reaction by the school was overly harsh and punative.

How many other students have been expelled from this school because their parents are divorced and have one or more parent dating?

Is little Mary getting kicked out of school because her dad shacked up with some blonde twentysomething?

The /same/ standard has to apply to everyone.

Posted by: rianax at October 1, 2005 05:56 PM

re: "The same standard has to apply to everyone."

Well, I think from the school's perspective, they were applying the same standard to everyone. No doubt they would expel other students from households with same-sex gay parents.

As I said in an earlier post, private schools can enforce whatever whacky rules they choose to adopt -- within the limits of the law. Private, RELIGIOUS schools can probably even stretch the limits of the law somewhat, particularly if they aren't accredited -- and many of them aren't. In Illinois, I could pretty much hang a sign on my front door that says "Skool" and open for business tomorrow -- and I could insist that all students wear propeller beanies at all times and pray to the god Potrezebie five times a day. And I could probably arbitrarily expel any student I decided was a "troublemaker," with little fear of legal repercussions.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Virtually all states have laws that children must attend school, but I'd be very concerned if the government had complete control over the educational process. Intolerant religious training camps are part of the price we pay for allowing relatively unrestrained alternatives to public schools.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at October 2, 2005 10:49 AM

How is the girl being "punished?" Education is a family thing, unless the parents completely abdicate (which is, sadly, common). They knew the rules, they lied. Mike wants to know why doesn't the school use it as an opportunity to save the child?

Oh, I don't know, respect for the parents? Again, education is a family thing. You don't go behind the backs of parents even if you disagree with them. We have a boy on our Little League team with gay parents (men, in this case). We've got no rule against it, which is good, because the kid is the only decent catcher we've got. I'm a Christian, the kid's parents aren't. I'm more than willing to share my faith with the parents, but not with the kid unless I have their permission. It isn't what Little League is for. Christian schools aren't for evangalization, they are for the concerted effort of educating children in the shared belief of their parents. Why in the world would unbelievers send their kids to a Christian school?

Posted by: Robbnn at October 3, 2005 03:19 PM

"Why in the world would unbelievers send their kids to a Christian school?"

Well, hypothetically maybe because it's the only alternative to a sub-standard local public school. That's a major reason why private Catholic schools still exist. Without the non-Catholic tuition dollars, many of them couldn't stay in business.

Remember: Virtually all states have mandatory education laws, and many states make it difficult to homeschool; so religious schools are sometimes the lesser of two evils.

Parenthood frequently involves hard and unpleasant choices.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at October 3, 2005 04:18 PM

"Why in the world would unbelievers send their kids to a Christian school?"
You know, I’ve asked this question many times, but in reverse. My wife used to teach preschool at a local Reformed Jewish Temple, and there were always non-Jewish kids in attendance. I kept asking the question, and what I got back was essentially the same answer, Rick, because of the curriculum.

I still don’t understood it. Needless to say, I’m supposing that it is also possible that the parents never misrepresented themselves, and that the schools never actually asked the question (“Are you Gay?” “Do you espouse Christian Lifestyles?” Or whatever other code words the religious right uses to separate us heathens away from them.)

Still, you have to wonder how many of the parents, teachers, and/or administrators of the school hold fast and true to the 10 Commandments, and which ones are OK to break so long as everything looks good from the surface.

Posted by: Bob Sodaro at October 7, 2005 03:48 PM

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