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Arkansas Catholic schools crack down on LGBT students

It would be “untruthful” to ignore “the biological fact of how God created” LGBT people.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DANNY JOHNSTON
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DANNY JOHNSTON

The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock has a new plan to keep LGBT issues out of Arkansas’ Catholic schools: Keep LGBT students out of Arkansas’ Catholic schools.

Last week, the Diocese issued a new addendum to the student handbook used by all Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the state with strict new prohibitions on LGBT identities. The guidance outright rejects the legitimacy of non-heterosexual orientations and transgender identities and requires that students who express such identities be expelled. Even graduates who later transition will be deadnamed on their diplomas.

It claims to respect those who “struggle” with LGBT identities, but calls them “untrue”:

We must not demean or deny the sincerity and struggle of those who experience same-sex attraction or who feel their true gender identity is different from their biological sex. Rather, we seek to accompany them on their journey of life, offering them the light of the Gospel as they try to find their way forward. These truths are not merely faith-based; rather, such realities are also knowable through the use of properly functioning senses and right reason.

We do not serve anyone’s greater good by falsifying the truth, for it is only the truth that frees us for the full life that God offers to each of us. Thus, when a person experiences same-sex attraction or some form of gender dysphoria, such struggles do not change the biological fact of how God created that person, and it would be untruthful for the Catholic Church or our Catholic schools to pretend otherwise. The policies of our Catholic schools, therefore, must reflect these fundamental truths.

Even though it’s apparently okay to completely reject the reality of LGBT identities, the guidance does prohibit bullying on the basis of the student’s perceived sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. But it also lays out these strict requirements:

  • Chastity — Since nobody should be having sex, the concept of “chastity” also encompasses “modesty in language, appearance, dress, and behavior,” and “accordingly, romantic or sexual displays of affection are generally not permitted at school.”
  • Sexual Orientation and “Same-Sex Attraction” — Students are not allowed to “advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction” in any way that might cause “confusion or distraction” in school or at school events. The guidance also explains that “same-sex attraction” — a phrase originally devised by the Mormon church to take the identity out of homosexuality — is the preferred lingo because it is “a more appropriate description in accordance with the truths of Catholic faith and morals.”
  • Gender Dysphoria (Transgenderism) — There will be no consideration for trans students whatsoever. “All students are expected to conduct themselves at school in a manner consistent with their biological sex,” including in athletics, dances, dress and uniform policies, all facilities, titles, names, pronouns, and official school documents. Because school documents like diplomas and transcripts are ‘historical documents,” they will always reflect the name of the student when they were enrolled, so even if a person legally changes their name, school documents will still deadname them: “Original Name, n.k.a. New Legal Name.”

For any student who expresses their gender, sexual identity, or sexuality in a way that “should cause confusion or disruption,” that “should mislead others, cause scandal, or have the potential for causing scandal,” it’s a short path to expulsion. The school will talk to the student’s parents, and “if the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the school, whose primary goal must always be up to uphold Catholic truths and principles,” then the student will be given the opportunity to withdraw from the school before being dismissed.

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The Diocese oversees 27 schools servicing over 6,700 students. A current student at Catholic High, who chose not to publicly identify himself, told KHTV said that his sexuality has never been an issue there, but the new policy would drastically change that. “It’s really non-Christ-like and discriminatory, and I really don’t think it should be a thing,” he said. “They should really be much more merciful about this.”

Church leaders have been relatively mum about who is responsible for the new guidance, but it seems to have come from Little Rock Bishop Anthony Taylor. Taylor has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality who once argued to the Arkansas Supreme Court that allowing same-sex couples to marry would lead to incestuous unions of “couples such as mother and daughter, sister and sister, or brother and brother.” After the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling last year, he called it one of “the two worst Supreme Court decisions of our lifetime” (along with Roe v. Wade), warning that it will have “damaging consequences” for children.

A brief comment from the Diocese only explained, “The mission of our Catholic schools includes reflecting the fundamental truths as revealed by God in both natural law and divine revelation, and it is the adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church that makes our schools ‘Catholic’ and distinct from other schools.” Taylor has so far refused to reconsider the addendum to the handbook.