Get Religion highlights a couple of stories about Catholic schools firing teachers who declared their atheism — as well as parochial school teachers who pretend to be believers to get jobs in this terrible economy. Excerpt from the GetRel clip:
As the story notes, there were 12,000-plus new teachers in the province in 2009 and only 5,000 open jobs. That means there are plenty of teachers out there who are highly motivated to take the plunge into religious schools.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Catholic District School Board requires that all teachers, and other employees who work directly with children, be Catholics. Yes, some in modern Canada now argue that this doctrinal policy is discriminatory.
Ah, but is it acceptable for teachers to tell lies in order to land these jobs? Is it acceptable for these adults to read up on the faith a bit, take the right vows to join the church and then take part in the Catholic sacraments, with their fingers — metaphorically speaking — crossed behind their backs?
No way! Deception is unacceptable. But that does raise an interesting question: if a parochial school teacher is an unbeliever, but in no respect questions in the classroom the teachings of the school’s faith, is that acceptable? I still think not, but it’s worth thinking about.
Matthew, our oldest, has attended two schools in his time, both excellent Protestant schools. We were up front with the administration that we were not Protestants, but that we would not object to what was taught theologically in the classroom at those schools. At that level — elementary school — we figured that the theology and Scripture lessons the little ones would receive would be basic Christianity, as indeed they were. Julie and I genuinely respected the right of these schools to teach their particular version of the Christian faith to their students, and we were grateful that they respected our family’s form of Christianity enough to allow our child into their school. There was no deception involved, and a clear understanding that we had no standing to demand special treatment for our non-Protestant child.
But the GetRel post makes me wonder what I would do if I were running such a school, and someone of a different faith applied to be a teacher there. It’s one thing to grant an exception to a student re: signing off on the faith’s confession. It’s another to grant that exception to a teacher. My gut tells me that I would probably go on a case by case basis, but that I would struggle with a teacher who said she didn’t have any problem keeping her (say) Catholicism to herself in the Protestant classroom. Could she really? Is it fair to ask that of her? Is it possible that anyone who was serious about their faith could do that? After all, Julie and I figured that the time would come when Matthew was older, when we’d have to take him out of the Protestant school, because the distance between the teaching he was getting at school and what our family believes would be too great, and I wouldn’t want to make him live with such cognitive dissonance.
Could a teacher live that way, in good conscience? I don’t know. You tell me. At what point does a parochial school administrator have to insist on religious particularity — that her teaching staff profess the religion around which the school is organized — on her faculty? An atheist or agnostic teacher seems clearly out of bounds, but could a Catholic school in good conscience hire an Orthodox teacher? A Baptist one? And what about the difference between teaching lower grades and higher ones? Like I said, you tell me.