Friday, February 27, 2004

Blz: If you're pregnant, you must marry, says the Church

It is a situation that is well known in the teaching profession, yet rarely discussed publicly. But the practice by some church affiliated school management bodies of forcing unwed pregnant teachers to get married or get fired is coming under increasing scrutiny--by both teachers and government.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
The education system of Belize is unique, in that our church-state partnership has Government paying the bulk of teacher salaries and the church managing, and maintaining the institutions.

The arrangement has worked, but when it comes to dealing with a moral issue like pregnant unwed teachers, the church and state part ways. In fact, the professors contend policies are not only non-tolerant, they're discriminatory and illegal.

Elena Smith, Catholic School Teacher
"They feel that teachers are not to get pregnant and be in the system if they are not married."

These teachers are attempting to change the rules once they're inside the organization; yet, they entered the organization knowing full well how it functioned. How can the Church sanction unwed motherhood? That is the equivalent to declaring that fornication, out of wedlock sex, is not a sin. If the Church condones such in teachers, then what authority does it have to preach against the same to students? None. In this instance, the Church expels pregnant students from schools; surely, to be consistent, pregnant teachers should meet the same fate?

The issue might seem to be one of individual and job rights, but, at its core, the actions of teachers like Elena Smith are an attack on the authority of the Church. Furthermore, Elena Smith in appealing to the authority of Scripture, on not judging people, unwittingly places herself under its authority, and is by it judged to be wrong in having the sexual relationship that resulted in her pregnancy. Given that she became pregnant, and given her place of employment, she should have complied and got married. The Church did not ask her to have an abortion; it asked her to marry the man whom she found good enough to lie with. If he was good enough for that, then surely he was good enough to be a husband. If he was not, then what does that say about her? Does she not, therefore, justify the Church's stance on the issue?

There are two courses of action possible here: the Belizean government could continue to have the schools managed by the Church, or it could do the job itself. If it intends to leave school management to the Church, then the government cannot expect the Church to accommodate its religion-based morality to the standards of the world. For, if the Church does that, it is no longer Church because it is no longer distinguishable from the world. Therefore, the Belizean government can support the Church and so rid itself of teachers who would pose a poor personal example to students so that they might gratify their own desires. Why would the Belizean government wish to teach its children that unwed motherhood is a fine thing when it is actually a sure route to poverty? No society can be stable or increase in wealth with a high illegitimacy rate. It is in the interests of every society to have children reared in two-parent, heterosexual families.

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