Catholic school refuses admission to children of lesbian married couple
A Catholic school is accused of rejecting admission to the children of a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation.
Reverend Mike Oenbrink, a pastor at St. Francis Catholic School, in South Carolina, is alleged to have told two mothers their kids could not be accepted by the institution because they were “homosexual.”
In a phone conversation with one of the mothers, Oenbrink allegedly said: “Your children have been denied because you’re homosexual.
“If we admit your children, it will send a bad message to the other families.”
The move sparked outrage from the local community of Hilton Head Island, according to the Island Packet.
The couple sent applications for their children in March.
While not Catholic themselves, they had been encouraged by friends to apply at St. Francis.
After receiving a rejection email, one of the mothers called to inquire about the refusal in more detail. This is when she learned her kids’ application had been rejected because of her relationship.
“My children are being banned because of who I am,” she said. “This is discrimination. Why punish my children for my choices?”
- St. Francis by the Sea, Hilton Head Island (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Farragutful)
According to Oenbrink, the children were refused because of the fact the mothers were in a same-sex marriage, rather than just their sexual orientation.
“We reaffirm the dignity of all human beings, regardless of their beliefs. At the same time, our Catholic schools exist not only to promote academic excellence, but also to build a community of faith and prayer,” Oenbrink said in a statement. “Based on Biblical and traditional teachings, we believe that God wills marriage to be a vowed, loving union between a man and a woman,” he added.
“We celebrate such a union as a Sacrament and, after prayerful deliberation, I reserve the right to admit to our parish school families which actively support that belief.”
The couple – who chose to keep their identity hidden to protect themselves and their children from harassment – married in 2009.
When they toured the school in early March, they say they asked asked St. Francis’ principal, Brian Pope, if their marital status would be a problem and were assured by Pope that it wouldn’t be an issue.
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Their children shadowed classes at the school on several occasions as part of the application process. They fulfilled all application requirements, including immunisation records, birth certificates and transcripts, which is why the refusal came as a shock.
Some parents of students at St. Francis voiced their disagreement with Oenbrink’s decision.
“The pope’s own words preach of inclusivity,” Chris Feltner, a friend of the couple said. “That’s what society needs more of. The more barriers we put up between people, the more division we have.”
According to the Charlotte Diocese, such decisions are completely up to local pastors.
“The Catholic Diocese of Charleston does not currently have a diocesan-wide policy in place when same-sex couples wish to enrol their child in our schools,” said director of media relations for the diocese, Maria Aselage. “Unless there should be a change in the diocesan approach, the decision of enrolling a child will remain up to the pastors of parish schools.”