Do Christian Institutions Have a Right to Exist?

By John Stonestreet | February 23, 2018 | 11:07am EST
Former Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School first-grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi (right) with her wife, Natasha Hass (left) at their wedding ceremony. (Screenshot)

Here’s an outrageous proposition: Maybe Christian schools should be able to require their teachers to adhere to Christian teaching.

Peter and Paul Catholic School in Miami recently made national headlines for terminating the employment of first grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi. The reason was that Morffi had just announced her “marriage” to her lesbian partner.

“In their eyes I’m not the right kind of Catholic,” Morffi complained on social media.

According to the Washington Post, a “dozen angry parents” showed up at the school the following day and demanded an explanation. Local politicians took time from their busy schedules to likewise wag their fingers at the school.

“It’s 2018,” said openly gay Florida State House Representative, David Richardson. “But you may be surprised to learn that you can be fired from your employment not just because of gay marriage but also because you’re gay.” Although there’s nothing in the story that confirms the last part of his allegation, Richardson still thinks the whole affair “underscores the need” for state and federal legislation prohibiting discrimination.

Of course, Miami-Dade County already has a local ordinance forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But there is a religious exception.

In response, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese gently reminded the media that Morffi was, in fact, a teacher at a Catholic school. As part of her job, she signed a contract pledging to follow the Catholic Church’s teaching—including its teaching on marriage.

It may be that Representative Richardson needs reminding of the Hosanna Tabor case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that religious institutions have certain rights to control employment matters without interference from the courts—or legislatures and county councils for that matter.

Well, let’s set aside for a moment that this teacher made a promise to her employer, and that people ought to keep their promises. Is it really that shocking for a Catholic school to expect their faculty to teach and live the Catholic view on marriage?


As a father who has to make hard choices about my kids’ education, I say this with the utmost sincerity and respect: Parents, if you’re upset by this teacher’s termination, you might consider a different option for your children’s schooling.

If religious institutions don’t have the right to define themselves by their beliefs, they don’t have reason to exist. Period. They might as well send their students home, close up shop, and sell their buildings for office space.

But that’s not how America works, and that’s not how our Constitution treats religion. Religious institutions do have a right to define themselves, and to enforce those definitions, including beliefs unpopular to the broader culture.

The fact that actual legislators are pushing for laws to outlaw this most basic religious freedom is insane. And it puts the lie to that snarky question we were all asked a few years ago: “How does my gay marriage hurt you?”

This is how. Administrators of this Catholic school are now being bombarded with negative press. People like Barronelle Stutzman, Jack Phillips and Elaine Huguenin, as well as other business owners, artists, and charity workers have been taken to court. They’ve lost their livelihoods. They’ve faced brutal verbal abuse, and they’ve had their reputations ruined by LGBT activists simply because they wanted to live and work according to their faith.

Anyone who thinks Christians are overblowing this concern about religious freedom or that we have a persecution complex, should ask themselves: Do they really want to live in a country where one official view of life is enforced by the government, and there is no freedom for disagreement? Because that’s the kind of world we’re going to have if we insist that Catholic schools have no right to be Catholic.

John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and BreakPoint co-host.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.

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