Letter to the Editor: Alumnus shares opinion on removal of gay-pride painting


I am writing to express my concern regarding the doublespeak evident in the statements and actions of adults at John Carroll regarding the removal of an LGBT art piece for their Open House.

Obviously, the Catholic Church does not treat same-sex families the same way it treats heterosexual families. Some call this the will of God; I call it oppression. But my goal here is not to start a substantive debate about these teachings.

Rather, my goal is to prevent institutions engaging in discrimination from maintaining any moral illusions about how their policies supposedly apply equally to all.

In the Patriot’s article covering this event, Principal Tom Durkin said the school has policies about public displays of affection, and it would not have kept the artwork up, regardless of whether the couples were same-sex or opposite-sex.

I could not find any policies in the student handbook relating to public displays of affection. When I emailed Principal Durkin asking whether any written policy on this matter existed, he said, “Public displays of affection between students have never been allowed at John Carroll, regardless of the specific policies in the handbook.”

However, such a policy would not support the removal of the painting, because this was an artistic representation, not a physical occurrence, and the display of affection certainly did not occur between students.

In fact, when I attended John Carroll, artistic public displays of affection between students occurred seasonally in most of the school plays. These plays, like Open House, were public and surely attended by prospective students and their parents. Why has the administration never once prevented such displays, which could easily offend the more puritan among us?

In other words, why has such a policy about artistic displays of affection revealed itself only when it was LGBT people being represented? The answer is in the question.

According to art teacher Erin Stellmon, the Office of Enrollment asked for the painting to be removed not because of a public display of affection policy, but because “it might disturb some people.”

Can you imagine this same concern of ‘disturbing’ people being expressed when it comes to non-pornographic artistic displays of affection between heterosexual couples? I cannot, and as I have already demonstrated, the administration never prevented such displays during my time there.

If you do not treat representations of LGBT couples the same way as you treat representations of opposite-sex couples, just say it. That way, at least all the parents at Open House will know what they are signing their (potentially LGBT) children up for. However, to not only discriminate, but then also to pretend you are doing it on the basis of some ‘neutral’ policy, only adds insult to injury.

My other goal in writing this is to let any current LGBT students at John Carroll know that a more just, more equal world awaits you outside of these school doors—a world where representations of your identity are proudly displayed instead of removed from the walls.

Scott Novak
J.D. Candidate at Georgetown Law
John Carroll Class of 2012