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Thread: the flag or the crucifix

  1. #1
    GepperRankins's Avatar we want your oil!
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    http://www.gnn.tv/headlines/5595/Hig..._Out_over_Flag

    Teacher fired for refusing to display flag in class.

    Stephen Kobasa has been a Catholic schoolteacher for 25 years.

    For the last six years, he has taught English at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport, CT.

    He no longer teaches there.

    Here’s why.

    Kobasa does not believe there should be an American flag in his classroom.

    “Everything in the Gospel rejects what flags stand for: boundaries, hatreds, creation of enemies,” Kobasa says. “For a Catholic Christian school that holds up the crucifix as a symbol of God’s love, the flag can only be a contradiction. The Church can only function with its prophetic voice by standing outside the state.”

    For the past six years, whenever he found an American flag in his classroom he removed it, he says.

    That never caused a problem until this semester, he adds. At a faculty meeting in August, he says, a new policy came down from the board of education at the Bridgeport diocese: The school day would begin with a prayer and a pledge of allegiance.

    Kobasa, who is part of the extended community of the Hartford Catholic Worker and Jonah House in Baltimore, knew he would have trouble abiding by that. He hoped to negotiate some compromise.

    “I met with the principal, and she said she was aware that I had not been doing the pledge, but that now there would be a problem because it was the policy,” he recalls.

    “So what I offered was an arrangement by which any students who wanted to make this oath of fealty could do so with a flag that they could have available. But only for the duration of the pledge itself, and then the flag would once again be removed.”

    The principal, Jo-Anne Jakab, went along, he says.

    “She agreed to that,” he says. “So I thought that was the end of it.”

    It wasn’t.

    “Ten days later, I was called down to her office, at which point she announces that this compromise, which she thought would be acceptable, is not,” he recalls. The superintendent of schools, Dr. Margaret Dames, warned that “if I refused to accept the policy, that would be taken as an indication that I no longer wished to work for that school system.”

    Later, Kobasa asked to meet with the superintendent in her office.

    He wished to explain that his action “was a longstanding, faith-based commitment and not a whim of mine or some excuse to be defiant,” he says.

    On September 30th, he met with Dr. Dames in her office. He says he was given “an edict: My obedience was expected.”

    Principal Jakab was at the meeting, as well, and, according to Kobasa, she said that “the following Monday there would be a flag in my room and I was expected to leave it there.”

    Kobasa said he decided to accept the decision “under protest and under duress,” and he filed a grievance with his association of schoolteachers.

    In his classroom, he attached two quotations to the flagpole.

    One was from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    The other was from Father Thomas Merton: “We must remember that the Church does not belong to any political power bloc.”

    When Kobasa’s teachers’ association refused to back him up, however, he realized that his days as at Kolbe Cathedral High may be numbered.

    So Kobasa wrote a letter to the head of the diocese, Bishop William Lori.

    “Your Excellency: It is with both sorrow and dismay that I write you concerning the issues raised below, but I am convinced that it is my obligation to pursue every possible means of resolving this dispute in a spirit of Christian charity rather than confrontation,” the letter began.

    Kobasa wrote that to permanently display the flag in his classroom “would be to act against my conscience as a believing Roman Catholic Christian. My teaching can never take its legitimacy from any symbol except the Cross of Christ. To elevate any national emblem to that level would be for me to ignore the fundamental call of Jesus to compassion without boundaries.”

    Kobasa wrote that the threat of his dismissal “creates the unmistakable impression that national loyalty is being valued over faithful obedience to the Gospel.”

    He did not get a response from the bishop.

    Knowing that his options were running out, Kobasa decided to take a stand.

    At a faculty meeting on October 12, he asked to speak. “This is likely to be my last meeting with this faculty,” Kobasa remembers saying. “I made it clear that I had never imposed my views on anyone, but that I expected my own conscience to be honored, and since it was not I would have to take action to preserve it.”

    Kobasa says this was his way “to give the principal some notice that I was not simply going to resign myself to the policy.”

    The next morning, October 13, Kobasa did not hesitate.

    “I went directly to my classroom and removed the flag and brought it to Mrs. Jakab and said I could not have it in the same room with the crucifix which was the image of my faith,” he says. “She asked me if I understood the consequence of this. And I assured her I did.”

    Kobasa was given till the end of the day to leave.

    “It was a gift,” he says. “I was able to explain to my students what had happened and why I was making the choice I was, and to tell them what a loss it was for me to not be able to continue with them.”

    Some students “were extremely upset,” he says. “I was really stunned by the kinds of testimony I was getting.” A few held signs in his defense, including, “Save Mr. Kobasa,” he recalls. “I don’t know if it was about salvation in the absolute sense, but I felt very good about it.”

    Principal Jakab, Superintendent Dames, and Bishop Lori could not be reached for comment. When I called them, I was referred each time to Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.

    McAleer refused to answer questions but referred me to a statement on the website of the diocese.

    Here is the entire statement: “It is with regret that we confirm that Mr. Stephen Kobasa is no longer a member of the faculty of Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport.

    It is not our policy to comment on any internal personnel matter. Our Catholic Schools provide a dynamic learning environment in which respect for the opinions of others as well as respect for school property are both key components. The Diocese of Bridgeport has long believed that the American flag is an important fixture in its Catholic School classrooms.”

    Kobasa and his wife have two daughters, seventeen and fifteen. “Our eldest had to amend her college application to read ‘former high school teacher’ under father’s occupation,” he says.

    Asked what he is planning to do next, Kobasa says: “I don’t know. You got any work? Seriously, I’m just sort of breathing in and breathing out. It’s tough for us all. It’s an anxious time. The practical terms are not going to be easy. But compared to the sacrifices others have made. . . .”


  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    Santa's Avatar dvhyt5er
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    burning flags has death penalty

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    I am put on mind of the Roy Harper lyric

    The history of religion is the history of the state*
    Incestuous exploiters of a catalogue of hate.

    His error, it seems, was to assume that organised religion is independent of the state.

    *The Spirit Lives (for those that might be interested)
    Last edited by Biggles; 10-20-2005 at 08:21 PM.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    vidcc's Avatar there is no god
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    I admire his stand for his principles. However from what I can make out from the story it was the schools choice to have the flag and not a state mandate. (I'm sure someone will correct this if wrong). So he made a personal choice and was not forced to leave.

    I strongly believe in separation of church and state and if it is the case that any religious private school is compelled to have the flag I would suggest that it would be unconstitutional as would a state school displaying religious symbols. If it were a state school then he would have to accept the flag regardless.

    it’s an election with no Democrats, in one of the whitest states in the union, where rich candidates pay $35 for your votes. Or, as Republicans call it, their vision for the future.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    I imagine that the teacher was missing the entire point.

    To give praise to the country you live in does not threaten ones association or belief in God.

    God is number 1 and his teachings are what one follows.

    The pledge to the flag is an aknowledgement that your country respects your right or desire to glorify a particular God.


    This privilege should not be taken for granted, as many countries will not let you express your beliefs as you desire.

    So the bottom line is the God is number 1, but you also can give props to a country that allows you to express your individual belief as you see fit.

    Belief in Jesus and Catholocism is a right you can express in America. Appreciation of this right, by acknowledging the flag or repeating the National anthem, in no way changes or compromises this belief, but give props to a tolerant society which allows one to view God in a personal way.

    My point is that Jesus is not threatened by a flag.

    Both appreciations can exist independently.

    You may love God and respect him by the Cross.

    You may love your country, and it's acceptance of how you view God, and salute its flag,

    but the two are non-competitive. You can apppreciate both, not one or the other.
    Aren't we in the trust tree, thingey?

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Helghast004's Avatar Jelly Filled Donut
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    ~message deleted~

    I'll just walk away from this one...
    Last edited by Helghast004; 10-21-2005 at 01:16 AM.

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Busyman's Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!!!
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    The guy's an idiot.

    From his standpoint one can't even be a patriot and religious.

    He must have a disorder. He looks at the flag in his classroom and gets all OCD about the flag being religious.

    In the end it worked out and he GTFO.
    Silly bitch, your weapons cannot harm me. Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, Bitchhhh!

    Flies Like An Arrow, Flies Like An Apple
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  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    GepperRankins's Avatar we want your oil!
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    i don't know if you read any of that busyman or just made up a story based loosely on the title and gave us your oppinion of that.


    his point is that the symbolism of a national flag contradicts christianity, which in my eyes it does. i'm neither patriotic or religious but i fucking hate flags. good on this teacher i say

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    Quote Originally Posted by Busyman

    From his standpoint one can't even be a patriot and religious.
    I think that is his point in a nutshell. There is a school of thought in most religions that the trappings of this world are at best a distraction to religious contemplation and at worst actually the spawn of Satan.

    He would not be the first Christian to take the view that countries per se are an obstacle to God's work. As the school is a religious one it would be reasonable to assume that he had the right to go and discuss this matter with the Management Team as it was a Faith "issue".

    However, there is also the view that religion plays second fiddle to the State and therefore he was always on a hiding to nothing - as the case turned out to be.
    Last edited by Biggles; 10-21-2005 at 06:04 PM.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    Busyman's Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biggles
    Quote Originally Posted by Busyman

    From his standpoint one can't even be a patriot and religious.
    I think that is his point in a nutshell. There is a school of thought in most religions that the trappings of this world are at best a distraction to religious contemplation and at worst actually the spawn of Satan.

    He would not be the first Christian to take the view that countries per se are an obstacle to God's work. As the school is a religious one it would be reasonable to assume that he had the right to go and discuss this matter with the Management Team as it was a Faith "issue".

    However, there is also the view that religion plays second fiddle to the State and therefore he was always on a hiding to nothing - as the case turned out to be.
    Thanks Biggles.

    The truth is that trappings of the world are a distraction to religion. The problem that this guy doesn't get is "no shit".

    There are beautiful women, obligations to the state to fight war or crime (possibly killing), lying to possibly save one's ass, cursing a fella out 'cause he pissed you off, etc.....and this guy focused on a flag.

    I suggest he move outta the country.

    The guy is going "Aww man, if I pledge allegiance to the flag, God might send me to hell."

    If the guy really believes then he'd know that a flag sitting in the classroom means shit when it comes down to it.

    What's funny is that this guy probably fornicates, lies to save his ass, and curses people out yet he "takes a stand when it comes to the flag."

    He's an idiot and I'm glad he quit or was fired.
    Last edited by Busyman; 10-22-2005 at 08:25 AM.
    Silly bitch, your weapons cannot harm me. Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, Bitchhhh!

    Flies Like An Arrow, Flies Like An Apple
    ---12323---4552-----
    2133--STRENGTH--8310
    344---5--5301---3232

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