Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett previously served as a trustee with a string of private Christian schools with anti-gay policies.
Barrett’s time with Trinity Schools Inc. ran from 2015-2017. Trinity operates three schools in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia. The organization is affiliated with the People of Praise community, of which Barrett and her husband, Jesse, have long been members.
According to Associated Press, the schools had policies that effectively barred children of same-sex parents and could lead to gay teachers being dismissed. The policies were in place when Barrett became a trustee.
Former employees and students told the AP that People of Praise has been consistent in its teachings, which include considering homosexuality as an abomination, and marriage as only existing between a man and woman.
A 2018-2019 enrollment agreement states, “the only proper place for human sexual activity is marriage, where marriage is a legal and committed relationship between one man and one woman.” It goes on to state “fornication, pornography, adultery and homosexual acts, and advocating or modeling any of these behaviors” goes against the school’s core beliefs.
Questioned about its policies, Trinity President Jon Balsbaugh told AP, “Trinity Schools does not unlawfully discriminate with respect to race, color, gender, national origin, age, disability, or other legally protected classifications under applicable law, with respect to the administration of its programs.”
Religious-based organizations are largely exempt from the recent Supreme Court ruling that gives protections to LGBTQ employees from discrimination.
Last week, during her Senate questioning, Barrett was not asked about her membership of People of Praise or serving as a trustee for Trinity. It’s known that at least three of her children attended the Trinity school in South Bend, Indiana.
Of the former employees and students AP spoke with, most wanted to remain anonymous. However, some did not. Tom Henry was a student ambassador at Trinity School in Minnesota in early 2017. He would often show the parents of prospective pupils around the school. One day, a lesbian mom asked him directly if her child would be welcome at the school. Henry, who is gay, was unsure how to respond. The next day, he asked Jon Balsbaugh, who was then headmaster at the school.
“He looked me right in the eye and said, the next time that happens, you tell them they would not be welcome here,” Henry recalled. “And he said to me that trans families, gay families, gay students, trans students would not feel welcome at Trinity Schools. And then he said, `Do we understand each other?´ And I said, yes. And I left. And then I quit the student ambassadors that day.”
Balsbaugh told AP his recollection of the conversation “differs considerably” but did go into details, claiming he probably just gave Henry a copy of the school’s guidelines.
AP sent detailed questions to the White House press office about Barrett’s trustee position with Trinity. However, White House spokesperson Judd Deere, who is himself gay, instead of offering answers, criticized the media outlet for its line of questioning.
“Because Democrats and the media are unable to attack Judge Barrett´s sterling qualifications, they have instead turned to pathetic personal attacks on her children´s Christian school, even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that religious schools are protected by the First Amendment.”