As relatively progressive as Pope Francis is, the Catholic Church still considers homosexuality among the issues that it resolutely opposes. But not all devotees subscribe to that antiquated view on marriage, as displayed in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday. Following a school's rejection of a gay teacher's hiring, Iowa's Dowling Catholic High students protested the decision by staging a walkout despite the wet weather conditions.
More than 150 Dowling Catholic High students and alumni gathered outside the school for the planned walkout and group prayer, the Des Moines Register reported. The protest was organized as a show of support for Tyler McCubbin, a substitute teacher and track coach at the school who is gay.
McCubbin had reportedly enjoyed his time as a sub at Dowling so much that he applied to be a teacher, and was verbally offered a position — until, that is, a background check revealed that he was engaged to a man. School administrators said they couldn't hire him, but agreed that he could continue coaching track and working as a long-term substitute. When that incident went public and caused a spate of outrage, Dowling officials rescinded that offer, too. In an interview about the school's decision, McCubbin told the Register, "It broke my heart."
Students stood outside in the rain brandishing signs with faith-based slogans that said, "What Would Jesus Do?" and "We Are Not The Gatekeepers To The Kingdom." Grace Mumm, a 16-year-old student at Dowling, noted to the local newspaper that the walkout was intended to highlight that the students did not necessarily share the same beliefs as the administration.
I just want the community to know that this is a really important topic, and that just because our school officials or diocesan leaders might have made this decision, it does not directly reflect what we believe as students.
Parents and residents from the neighboring cities also joined in the protest, according to the Register.
In response to the controversy, Dowling officials issued a letter to students' parents explaining why the school did not hire McCubbin. It read:
Des Moines Catholic Schools go through a multi-phased hiring process which includes interviews, a traditional background check and a social media scan. If at any time during that period the candidate or the organization identifies an issue that would preclude support of Church teaching, the school cannot extend a written offer.
Recently, an individual applied for a full-time position and, after the entire application process based on the foregoing expectations was completed, a formal written contract wasn't extended owing to a personal situation that was at odds with Church teaching.
Leader of the Des Moines Diocese Bishop Richard Pates also spoke up on the issue, defending the school's decision not to hire McCubbin. Pates said that McCubbin was not offered the job not because of his sexual orientation, but because he was open about being gay. Pates went one step further, telling KCCI that McCubbin should neither be a substitute teacher nor a coach at Dowling.
Image: Des Moines Register video screenshots (4)