BRIDGEPORT — A teacher at Kolbe-Cathedral High School has been dismissed for reportedly refusing to display the U.S. flag in his classroom. Stephen Vincent Kobasa, an English teacher at the Catholic high school since 1999, was fired Thursday after he refused to follow what he called a "policy which has no official documentation" that requires the flag to be displayed in classrooms of all parochial schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Kobasa said Friday that his career long personal policy has been not to display the flag of any nation in his classroom. Such displays violate a deeply held religious conviction, he said.
When a new diocesan policy was enacted at the beginning of the academic year requiring the Pledge of Allegiance be recited in classrooms every morning, Kobasa said he reached a compromise with school and diocese officials. "I went to the principal [Jo-Anne Jakab] with a compromise that they could have a flag in the classroom for that period of time," Kobasa said. But, according to the New Haven resident, on Sept. 30 he was called to meet with diocesan Supt. of Schools Margaret A. Dames and issued "a mandate" that he fly the flag or be fired. On Thursday, Kobasa said he was "told to turn in his key" since he refused to comply with the directive. Kobasa said Jakab told him that an unidentified colleague had registered a complaint about his refusal to observe the flag policy.
… He said in the e-mail that his beliefs on the issue are based on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, which states that nationality and gender are not a prerequisite for faith. Although he filed a grievance with the diocesan school district, Kobasa said he has no plans to file a lawsuit. [Source]
You can just bet his antipathy to both the Pledge of Allegiance and the flag goes deeper than the pretext of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. A flag in the classroom certainly does not mean that nationality is a prerequisite towards faith. A pretty silly argument to make considering the universality of the Catholic Church.
Precisely because our Church is UNIVERSAL and CATHOLIC-not the church of England,church of Ireland or Lutherans culturally tied to Germany, Orthodox,in bed with Russia,Greece,etc.- THERE IS NO PLACE FOR OUR NATIONAL COLORS IN A NON STATE-RUN SCHOOL. Otherwise it falls into the SECULAR RELIGION IDOLATROUS WORSHIP that is being pushed by the religious right. BRAVO PROFESSORE!!!!
Having a flag in a Catholic school is no more idolotrous than having a flag of Vatican City. St. Paul in his letters to the Romans speaks of our responsibility to the state and the state’s responsibility to obey God.
Just as we are called to love our neighbor, so we should love our country – this does not mean that we unquestionably support everything our country does, anymore than love of neighbor requires unquestionably supporting anything they do.
Pledging allegience to the United States and flying the flag is not contrary to our faith nor is faith and patriotism the sole possesion of the “religious right”.
I just love the TOR’s.
Perhaps this fellow hasn’t encountered this weekend’s gospel reading: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”
“One nation, under God…” puts just the right priority on it.
And besides, Catholics suffer enough prejudice from people saying (falsely) that we aren’t loyal Americans, a few flags in classrooms to help teach patriotism by example to our students doesn’t seem so terrible.
Too, if patriotism is so incompatible to Catholicism, I’d sure hate to be the one to try to explain that to the 4th Degreee of the Knights of Columbus (the “Patriotic Degree”) — they’re the guys with the funny hats, capes, and swords.
A Canadian flag is commonly displayed in Catholic churches in Canada (as is the papal flag). Ditto for the Catholic schools. There is nothing in Catholic doctrine that speaks against this.
Fly your flag. It’s a good one as flags go. Like ours, it heralds freedom. The God we worship respects and honours that.
Of course having the flag in the classroom doesn’t imply that only Americans can be Catholic. I’ve seldom heard anything so foolish. What we’re saying when we have the flag in a parochial school is that the people in this particular classroom are American and Catholic. It’s about the quality of analysis I’d expect from an English teacher who doesn’t know that gender is a property of the nouns of certain languages other than English; sex is a property of living things.
A lot of Catholic churches in the US dislay both the US flag and the Vatican flag in the sanctuary although it is usually something you see in older churches or at least those that tend to be more orthodox.
So if I believe in the universality of marriage, I shouldn’t wear my particular wedding ring?
With you on this one, Curt Jester. Betcha the guy’s got National Catholic Reporters under his mattress.
And on that score, if I’m married to a sinful and unsatisfactory wife, I should take off my wedding ring?
Catholics are starters and stickers, if you know what I mean.
Most of the commentors are missing the point. Fine, you disagree with Stephen’s reading of Paul’s letter. But to make these glib comments about a sincere follower of the faith who has lost his job for the sake of “property rights” and patriotism is unsettling to say the least. If this had happened to a “conservative” Catholic in a liberal school, I don’t doubt you’d have a different perspective. The Church should be big enough to allow conscientious objectors to flag allegiance, even if the official teaching “allows” it. My understanding is that the doctrine does not “require” it (except in the theological capital known as Diocese of Bridgeport apparently). Of course, if you read the pledge carefully, it is arguably idolatrous, because it professes allegiance not just to the country, but to the flag itself (separate and in addtion to the republic “for which it stands”). I think one student summarized the situation best in saying “it’s stupid to lose a good teacher over a stupid policy.” Apparently you all believe in a Christ that is smiling because a faithful servant (even perhaps a misguided one) has been called out by a snitch and terminated so the American flag can stand. Call it a victory for partisanship and cynicism.
Of course, if you read the pledge carefully, it is arguably idolatrous, because it professes allegiance not just to the country, but to the flag itself…
This is a true statement only if “allegiance” is the same as “worship”.
This teacher was dismissed because he dissented from his employer’s policy. What other policies did he dissent from?
I don’t get to dissent from my employer’s policies on the what is allowed/forbidden/required in my workplace. Why should he?
If the policy was so important, one might think the colleague would have the guts to criticize Kobasa publicly. Or that there would be something in writing. Cowardice reigns at Kolbe-Cathedral High School, and you can bet the students are well aware of it.
I wouldn’t go so far as Todd, even if I think this is kind of sad. The guy’s welcome, as a catholic, to be uncomfortable with even the tiniest bit of nationalism, which is something beyond patriotism. At worst, he’s a scrupe. Scrupes should be treated charitably. Unless he’s lax in key areas; if so, terminate him, posthaste and above board.
Stephen Kobasa has sacrificed his job and jeapardized his family’s well-being to defend a Christian principle, i.e. “the crucifix cancels all flags.” (Hartford Courant, 15 October 2005).
I can not fathom the depths of heartlessness and ideological sclerosis in the person who could see anything other than a Christ-like sacrifice in Kobasa’s refusal to pledge allegience to anyone or anything but Christ.
Shame on you who say otherwise.
The pledge of allegiance is stupid.
Refusing to literally pledge allegience to anyone but Christ?
Do you forget that St. Paul commands us to follow proper governmental authorities?
And would you deny your own mother, on the pretext of following only Christ?
It is *because* I am a Christian that I love my family, and my country. As a Knight of Columbus, I can say the Lord’s Prayer, the Pledge of Allegience, and a rosary to stop abortion in America, all in one night. No contradiction.
Shame on you if your devotion to Christ is so narrow that you would avoid those responsibilities that Christian virtue itself requires of us!
Replying to Dev Thakur:
Your post astonishes me. I wrote about Stephen Kosaba’s sacrifice, not you or your position. My post concerned the ways that people were not recognizing the motivation of Kobasa, that he did, in fact, conduct a Christ-like sacrifice on the basis of his faith. One may disagree or agree with it. That’s not the point. The point is the blindness or ideological sclerosis of a person who could not recognize it for what it is. I find that, and your post, amazing.
And, again, I say: shame on you.
Original post by mattusximus