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Iowa Math Teacher Fired for Being an Atheist

I don’t get it.

Why are people so up in arms about this?

Abby Nurre, a math teacher at St. Edmond’s Catholic School in Fort Dodge, IA, was fired because she joined Atheist Nexus, a social networking site for atheists. She also posted some material on her Facebook page that leads one to the inescapable conclusion that she was, indeed, an atheist. (She denied it, but I’m thinking if you don’t believe in God, that necessarily makes you an atheist. But whatever.)

Why would this upset people? When we join a group, we limit ourselves in some ways by necessity.

A manager in my workplace recently got facial piercings. All facial piercings are forbidden by the dress code. She signed the dress code policy when she accepted employment. Moreover, as a manager, she is bound not only to follow the dress code but to enforce it. Despite this, she is shocked and very unhappy that her job is now in jeopardy unless she agrees that she won’t wear the offending jewelry during work hours.

When Anthony Flew, a prominent atheist, came out as a deist, most in the atheist community crucified him. Richard Carrier, for example, forwarded the theory that Flew’s new book wasn’t written by Flew at all. Others posited that, as an older man, Flew had probably succumbed to senility. Senility is the only way to explain God-belief manifesting in a convinced atheist like Flew, right? Either way, he has been excommunicated from whatever sort of community that atheists have.

Francis Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, announced his conversion to Roman Catholicism. He wanted to stay on as president, but the ETS is an Evangelical Protestant organization, so most felt that it would be a serious conflict of interest. While being a Catholic doesn’t necessarily conflict with the generalized statement of faith required of all members, Catholicism does have very different ideas for how grace and works relate, as well as what the “finished” work of the Atonement really means.

These examples demonstrate the point I’m trying to drive home: when we associate with a group, we implicitly agree to the underlying philosophies that set the group apart from all other groups. When we show, by word or deed, that we no longer accept the core group philosophies, we have eliminated ourselves from membership in that group.

Ms. Nurre didn’t get fired so much as eliminate herself from the ability to be included in that particular group. She doesn’t embrace the core philosophy of Catholicism: affirmation in the existence of deity, and the revelation of deity in the person of Jesus Christ. Her dismissal shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Why is it?

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on July 1, 2010, in Roman Catholicism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It all depends.

    Was fidelity to the Catholic faith part of her employment contract?

    Does this school receive public funds?

    Is the school considered public or private?

    • Fidelity to the Catholic faith isn’t usually required for employment in Catholic institutions, but living according to Catholic values are. In my experience, atheists and theists have very different sets of values. An atheist teaching in a setting like that could cause serious problems.

      My wife works at a Christian daycare. They have a morals clause in their employment contract where if you violate Christian values by your lifestyle outside of work, you will face termination. Cohabitation, procuring an abortion, maintaining homosexual relationships, excessive drinking, and promiscuity can all cost workers their jobs. I will assume that this school had a similar morals clause in place.

      Receiving public funds is irrelevant. Any nonprofit can file for an exception and be able to discriminate based on religion, or lack thereof. I don’t believe that receiving public funds changes their ability to file for this exception, but I’m not for sure. I couldn’t locate any relevant information about that via Google.

  2. For me he was not fired because of the fact that he doesn’t believe in God. He is in a Catholic school and they teach religion in that school. So it is against the schools rules and regulation. I mean how you could be in a Catholic school if you are questioning God, right. The case would be, you might be encouraging your student to disbelieve in God.

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