Mormon teacher in a "Christian" School

Ok, here’s my first real attempt at starting a thread–and it is one that I may or may not personally participate in; i’m just throwing this out for discussion.

A Christian school contacted the university placement office, asking for help in finding a 'qualified English teacher." The requirements were…a BA in English. Private schools in California are not required to hire credentialed teachers.

The head of the Education department contacted me. She is aware of my goals, and thought that this would be a perfect fit for both the school and for me; it would allow me to teach and continue my doctoral studies, and allow me to do what I have always wanted to do; design and implement an online high school writing curriculum that parents can use both with charter schools and with home schooling, that lets them incorporate their own religious and ethical beliefs. Perfect, she thought…so she told me about the job opening. I contacted the principal of the school, and she was very interested to talk to ME. After all, it would be huge pay cut for me (half…) and she would be getting a “highly qualified” teacher, fully credentialed, when all she was asking for was someone with a BA.

(“highly qualified” is a specific legal term, not bragging.)

So…I sent her my resume and dropped by the office to pick up an application. On the second page is a 'Statement of Faith" that I must either agree with or explain any problems I have with it.

I won’t include the whole thing, but suffice it to say that neither a Catholic nor a Mormon could sign it–though the Catholic would have one less item to quibble with than a Mormon does–or perhaps the Catholic would differ with different points (shrug). The point is, if that statement of faith is a deal breaker, I needn’t even finish the application.

So here’s the question: if you were the principal of that school, and had a chance to hire a highly educated, experienced teacher that would make your WASC score go way up for half of what she would get in the private sector, and that teacher promised NOT to bring her own religion into the English classroom, would you turn that down because she was LDS?

I have no idea whether this particular principal will do this or not…her reaction isn’t really at issue. I’d like to see what YOU think–and why.

(and oh, forget that the applicant is, well…me. )

Diana

Hi Diana,

We have two children that currently attend a Catholic School. Needless to say, when we moved to this area we looked at other Christian Schools. We did not send our children to the Christian School that probably had the best reading program because we could not sign-off on their Statement of Faith. I will be honest and tell you that I think that it will be very tough for you at a Fundementalist Christian School, as it would be for me as well.

God Bless!

Let me respond as a parent who was raised LDS and converted to Catholicism.

The main reason I would send my son to a Catholic school instead of a public school is so he can have a Catholic education. It’s not that I don’t care about his academics. On the contrary, I certainly DO care, but there’s a difference between a teacher failing to teach the correct use of commas and a teacher advocating something contrary to our faith. As it happens, I will probably homeschool my son when he gets to middle school two years from now for just that reason. Qualified teachers are worth their weight in gold, but a big part of what makes them “qualified” to teach at a Catholic school is their agreement with Catholicism, or at least their agreement to teach it. I’m sure if you talked to this Christian school, you would find that they feel the same way.

Please don’t take this personally–none of this makes you any less qualified to teach English, it just makes the job a poor fit. I will pray for you in your job search.

Pax,
-S-

Let me offer a different perspective. I am a Catholic student currently attending a (non-Catholic) Christian university. When I signed up for the program, I didn’t think it would matter. Boy was I wrong! I expected to have to explain my beliefs in the religion class, which I took first, but my classmates bring up religion in every subject. Its like their faith requires every answer to be a personal testimony. Since participation is a class requirement, I have to respond thoughtfully. gah. Sometimes I want to bang my head on the desk. If I had known how bad it would be, I would have looked elsewhere. Despite the cost, I still might…

BTW, I am working on my teaching credential and, let me tell you, you couldn’t pay me double to work at a Christian school. You might think that you could keep your religious beliefs to yourself but its hard to remain silent and respectful when those same beliefs are openly discussed, poorly explained and generally mocked. If you point out the errors, you would be breaking your promise to keep your beliefs to yourself. If you remain silent, the lies stand. It sucks all the way around.

Hi Diana,

If there’s a Statement of Faith involved that all teachers are required to sign then if I were that principal I’d presumably have signed it too and I’d have no choice but to insist that you read it, understand it, and then sign it. If you told me that you were unable to sign it on grounds of conscience then I’d be unable to proceed with your application because you’d have disqualified yourself. If I decided to make you the exception and hire you on pragmatic grounds then it seems to me that I’d not only effectively be declaring to the world that my own signature on that Statement of Faith meant next to nothing but I’d also undoubtedly be storing up a whole heap of trouble and confusion of face for both of us on some future day.

Timidly,
Mick
:thumbsup:

You may have a point, legally.

I wonder…does anybody know about how that would work? I can certainly see where signing it under false pretenses would be cause for dismissal down the road, but if one does not sign it as is, but instead presents a ‘statement of faith’ that the applicant can, with a clear conscious, sign–can a religious school accept that?

I keep flashing to our local Catholic high school, which actually employs a couple of Mormon teachers; a math teacher and a science teacher. That seems to be working out fine, though I have no idea what sort of accommodations everybody comes up with to pull it off.

I have a very well qualified ‘new age’ friend who was hired to teach English at a Catholic high school. She lasted one year.

A strong Catholic friend taught 2 years at a Christian school. He’s an excellent teacher! By the end of the second both he and the school were more than ready to end his time there.

I honestly think that to teach in this kind of school requires someone totally in agreement with and supportive of the belief system. In addition, you would not be teaching something religiously neutral like algebra or physical education. There is a lot of communication going on in an English classroom and your beliefs and attitudes are apparent to the students. It becomes a problem when some of these are in conflict with those of the parents and administration. You may find it more stressful than you would expect.

If I were the principal, I would prefer someone who wholeheartedly supports the goal of the school.

I don’t think the legality is in question, private schools can fire people for reasons that public institutions can not, religious beliefs being one. For example an Evangelical Christian college in Illinois fired a teacher because he converted to Catholicism.

Why should they accept it?? If they want their teachers to hold their views and be able to sign the statement of faith unequivocally why should someone have a problem with it? Personally I think it’s stupid when it comes to subjects such as English, math and so on, so it’s a bit difficult to see me being allowed in this position. At the same time I don’t see that it’s that off base for a school grounded in a particular religion to ask that it’s faculty believe the same as it’s student body presumably believes.

And when you get to Catholic colleges there are probably even more non-Catholic instructors. Just wondering how many faculty at BYU are non-LDS? I wonder how many Catholic students at Catholic universities have been thrown out of school or denied their diplomas because they converted to another religion or didn’t live it in accordance with those in authority???
It’s all part of the same cloth, refusing to hire people based on their beliefs, firing (or ejecting people) for a change of belief, quite frankly BYU does not have a Kumbya record in this area.
And what are we supposed to make of this add for a sales associate from Craig’s list?

*“Missionary Mall is hiring a sales associate for our Layton store. Because we primarily help those going on LDS missions, it is highly recommended that you be a returned missionary. We’re looking for someone confident, outgoing, is a hard worker, makes smart decisions, has excellent people skills, and is teachable. Prior sales experience is a huge plus. Our employees love working here because they get to talk about their mission experience everyday and work in an amazing environment. Plus, you never have to work on Sundays!”
*

Is this really any different and is it legal???

You may have a point, legally.

I wonder…does anybody know about how that would work? I can certainly see where signing it under false pretenses would be cause for dismissal down the road, but if one does not sign it as is, but instead presents a ‘statement of faith’ that the applicant can, with a clear conscious, sign–can a religious school accept that?

I keep flashing to our local Catholic high school, which actually employs a couple of Mormon teachers; a math teacher and a science teacher. That seems to be working out fine, though I have no idea what sort of accommodations everybody comes up with to pull it off.
[/quote]

Hello again, Diana,

When I read your Original Post I immediately thought of that man for all seasons, Sir Thomas More, who made a point of emphasizing to his daughter, Meg, not to jump to the worst conclusion but to wait until he had scrutinized the Oath of Supremacy as he hoped to be able to sign it – his point being that the words in it would convey the ideas. Now here you are also declaring that words convey ideas and for that reason you cannot sign this particular Statement of Faith.

When I posted previously I didn’t have in mind any possible legal difficulties. Rather, I was thinking along the lines of how you would or wouldn’t be likely to “fit in.” From time to time I’ve read some of your posts and it seems to me that you are both articulate and persuasive. So, for a certain mindset with which I’m very familiar with and which can be encountered under the heading of “Christian,” you would definitely be seen as a threat. The sort of machinations that I’ve seen go on in a local “Christian” school where one of my good friends is the principal has given me some insight into the kind of ruthlessness and hardheartedness that can manifest itself when somebody is singled out as a target and however tough one might be it still hurts to be on the receiving end. Ideas have consequences and, sadly, religious people can be extremely malevolent.

Respectfully,
Mick
:thumbsup:

Quite a few, actually.

One thing BYU does that I approve of highly is that when they offer religion classes (about other religions, like Budhism, Hinduism, et.al…).the teacher belongs to that religion.

I wouldn’t know, of course.

Actually yeah, it does…in a way. BYU will hire people of other faiths, but they are expected to live in accordance to the requirements of THAT faith. If they do not, they will be dismissed just as fast as a Mormon professor who goes all anti- on Mormonism will be dismissed.

An LDS professor who simply and quietly converts to, say, Catholicism and then lives like a good Catholic wouldn’t have a problem, though. Wouldn’t be allowed to teach any religion classes, or smoke on campus, but hey…

It might not be any different at all…that’s what I’m throwing out for discussion. I’m not attacking this school for being wary, y’know. I’m simply opening up a topic for discussion.

As to the 'Missionary Mall," it is a strictly non-profit organization; it’s stated purpose is precisely what it says it is. It’s customer base is folks headed for missions. They sell suits with 2 year guarantees, for Pete’s sake! They do not sell anything BUT items for missionaries; Mormon missions are the entire point.

Part of the job of the sales staff is to teach and inspire prospective and ‘called’ missionaries with mission stories of their own. It’s hard to do that if you haven’t had that experience, y’know?

That said, I don’t know if it would be legal for a store to require this in an employee if it were not strictly non-profit, and I don’t know how wise it would be for a Christian fundamentalist school to hire a Mormon–even if she is teaching English, not religion classes.

That’s what the conversation is about, Zif.

I have a question, completely apart from the topic. How come, when I copy YOUR name (and you are the first person to whom I have responded on CAF this morning) and attempt to paste it in order to organize the quotes and answers, STEPHEN’S name comes up? I had to go back and redo the copy/paste stuff. Weird.

I wish you weren’t right (about the malevolence), but…

You are. I think, however, that it is a quality shared by all groups of people considering the outsider, not just the religious ones.

And I truly hate that sort of politics. I just want to teach and leave that sort of stuff out of it.

I didn’t gave you guys the specific statement of faith (it is too long), but this application goes on to ask me if I’m 'capable of teaching a bible class…) (grin) What do you guys think I should put there?
"If yes, what would be [my] subject preferences? (I might be safe with the OT…don’t think they’d want me anywhere near the NT…)

"To what extent do you believe you should become involved in Sunday and Other weekday ministries of the sponsoring church of the church of which you are a member?

…uhm…'way of life." seems to be appropriate here…

“Describe your routine of personal Bible study and prayer”

Ok, that one would be safe. I do have one.

“What books have you read recently that have helped you spiritually?”

Ok, I don’t think they would have any problems with the answer to that, either, since I can list “Mere Christianity” in there…but I’m not feeling really optimistic. However, I don’t think that listing “Jesus the Christ,” The Bible, the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants will go over well.

This school has quite a good reputation, and the people are lovely. I couldn’t blame them a bit for being wary of a true believing returned Mormon missionary, No matter what MY intentions are, they can’t really know them–it’s quite a risk for them.

I was just opening the discussion, because…well, because it’s something very worth considering from both sides of the equation.

Noted and understood. It isn’t just religious people that are malevolent when considering outsiders. Let me make an effort to be more positive. :slight_smile:

I think you can answer yes.

I think it’s possible to “teach the Bible” and keep well away from the contentious doctrinal issues that divide. If you assert that you are capable of teaching a Bible class then it would be illogical to say you have reservations about teaching on any part of the Bible. I feel sure you could figure out a way to do it. Provided you are quite certain about where you shouldn’t go (or allow yourself to be led), it ought to be possible for all your students to draw “life lessons” from your teaching. That, after all, is the whole point of reading and studying the Bible – that one actually does something with the information. Otherwise, it’s just a talking shop.

Absolutely

Excellent. :thumbsup:

No, probably not. But why not just reference some of the books in the Bible? For example, you could easily take the time to read the Sermon on the Mount, the five chapters of the Book of James, the love chapter, and Matthew 25:31–46 and then allow your thoughts to run on. If I were the principal that you’ve described I guess I’d be quite impressed with the applicant who pointed to the Bible as a source of spiritual benefit. Moreover, it would add weight to your assertion that you are capable of teaching a Bible class.

The cynic in me wants to introduce an amendment to the effect that people are lovely until you get to know them. But, you’re right – it is a risk for them.

It’s an engaging thread. I look forward to reading cartloads of wisdom from other posters. My nomination for the wisest post to date is Post #7 posted by Claire from DE.

Ecumenically,
Mick
:thumbsup:

By any chance, is this an Evangelical faith based school? The reason I ask, is some of those questions seem to be directed more at finding members of their own faith than welcoming members of others who may pose some sort of “risk”

I think you know, I am not on board with LDS, (that’s another thread all together), but is it worth it to you on a personal level to have to hide your faith identity in favor of theirs?

Your passion for your faith comes through very loud and clear here on this forums, (which is a good thing) , and stifling that just doesn’t seem to be in your character.

Maybe I’m being a bit of a cynic, but I see soooooo many ways that this could go wrong.

Good luck.

Inasfar as the Assemblies of God are fundamentalist evangelicals, I suppose that the school would be, as well; so that’s a question. I know that I would never attempt to proselytize in the classroom; teaching my beliefs when they are different from those of the parents would be, I think, incredibly dishonorable.

On the other hand, I can’t see hiding who I am, either. (shrug)

I’m not sure you know what you’re trying to walk into. Don’t get me wrong, I used to go to AoG years ago and it wasn’t all bad.

I truly believe you would not intentionally proselytize in the classroom, but I have to wonder how you would reconcile a question that may arise where one of your beliefs differs from theirs. Do you defend a position that you don’t agree with, or do you divert the question, or do you answer it based on your own belief system.

I would also be interested in knowing how their statement of faith would apply to interactions with staff?

I don’t envy you in this decision.

In all honesty, I don’t think I’m the only…or even the primary…decision maker here. :wink:

At least, not at first!!!

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