The Deacon's Bench

A Wisconsin Catholic school principal found himself in hot water this week for posting a sign supporting Barack Obama in his yard:

The heated reaction to a Barack Obama sign appearing in the Catholic Memorial High School principal’s yard “reflects a complex intersection of personal politics, free speech and the need for clarity about the Catholic identity,” the school’s president says.

The perceived endorsement by Principal Mark Schmitt, of an abortion-rights candidate – a key issue for abortion-opposing Catholics – led to complaints by some parents, and Schmitt removed the sign Wednesday evening.

But school leaders are still wrestling with the ethical fallout, said Father Paul Hartmann, the school’s president.

“(Catholic Memorial) is absolutely pro-life – in its curriculum, its classroom teaching, and its Catholic spiritual life,” Hartmann assured the school community in a late-night Wednesday e-mail.

In an interview Thursday, Hartmann said that he was still gauging the impact of the controversy and conferring with the school’s board of directors.

“I think we’re still trying to assimilate a response,” Hartmann said.

Religion and politics clashed largely because of the well-known location of Schmitt’s home; he lives across the street from the school at 601 E. College Ave.

A fair number of parents this week have voiced their support for Schmitt’s actions, though others are perturbed.

Parent Pat Walters saw the sign in Schmitt’s yard almost two weeks ago and complained in person. According to Walters, Schmitt said that he was an abortion opponent, but that he supported Obama because of the Democratic candidate’s stance on more important global issues.

“I have no problem with who he votes for,” Walters said Thursday, adding that he thought highly of the school and expected to send his five younger children there. “But for the leader of the school to be advertising values opposite of what we’re teaching our children, that’s wrong.”

Schmitt did not return a call for comment.

Previous Posts
Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus