Judge not, but still judge sometimes (just not too much)

You may have heard or read about the story of the student at a Christian high school who has been barred from walking at her graduation because she is pregnant (out of wedlock, as most pregnant high schoolers are). The school’s argument is that she violated the pledge she signed not to engage in “immoral behavior” (something not unlike BYU’s Honor Code). The student and her parents argue that she has already been punished (by being removed from a leadership position on the student council), and forbidding her to walk at graduation is just too much punishment. Her cause has been picked up by some pro-life advocates because, after all, if she’d had an abortion, no one would have discovered her “immoral behavior” and there would have been no issue. They’re afraid that shutting a pregnant student out of her own graduation sends the message that it’s more important not to get caught than to “choose life” for their unborn babies.

I tend to agree with the pro-lifers’ hot take. Obviously, a private Christian school can do what it wants. I’m not interested in compelling it to do otherwise. But I do think this school is sending the message that appearances matter more than moral choices. It was appropriate for the school to punish a student caught violating the rules. Maybe it would have been appropriate for them to expel her. But she wasn’t expelled. They chose not to expel her. Why not? Was it mercy on their part? If so, why are they so reluctant to let her participate in the graduation ceremony, when they’re already allowing her to graduate, i.e. receive a diploma from their school? Is it because she hasn’t faced enough consequences for her decision to engage in pre-marital sex? What are the appropriate number of consequences? Why is it so important, specifically, that she not walk across a stage while unmarried and pregnant? Because high school graduation is a major milestone in most people’s lives, and most people want to savor this moment of achievement in an official public ceremony. The school is denying her this moment because they think she hasn’t suffered enough publicly for her sins.

As I said, the school would have been within its rights to expel her, and that’s fine. I mean, maybe it’s not what I would do if I were running a Christian school, but then, maybe there’s a good reason I never went into the Christian school-running business. I just don’t see the advantage to barring her from her own graduation, unless it’s to send the message that no student of theirs will be seen graduating from their institution while pregnant and unmarried. I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of other parents of students at this school who were pissed that she wasn’t expelled, but letting her walk with her class at graduation, wow, that’s really too much forgiveness. Doesn’t this school have any standards? Maybe the school was just trying to split the baby, a la Solomon.

Of course, Solomon was never actually going to split the baby. (I mean, I hope not. Let’s work with that assumption.) He just wanted to get the real mother to reveal herself. [1] Maybe the school meant to get the real Christians to reveal themselves. But who are the real Christians in this case? Those who prefer to err on the side of upholding moral standards, or those who would prefer to err on the side of forgiveness? Because there’s a risk of error on either side, unless you’re omniscient or something.

I’m open to the possibility that I’m just being a knee-jerk liberal when I say, “Let the pregnant girl walk.” (I didn’t vote Republican last year. I might actually be possessed of an evil spirit, or Bella Abzug’s ghost. There’s no way for me to tell anymore.) I mean, I have no moral authority to tell anyone to let anyone do anything. I’m just saying what I would do. Maybe there was a time in my life when I would have said, “Meh, them’s the breaks, sister.” But I’m old now, and some crap just doesn’t matter to me anymore. Crap like moral standards. No, I mean, stuff like kids thinking their lives won’t be over if they have pre-marital sex–because even Christian kids already know that their lives won’t be over if they have premarital sex; even Christian teenagers already play Russian roulette with their fertility. And Christianity already sends a mixed message: everybody’s a sinner, but everyone can be forgiven (just not necessarily in time for graduation).

It reminds me that I knew a lot of young women in my ward(s) growing up who became pregnant out of the wedlock. I recall only one of these young women coming to church while she was still pregnant. At one point (I don’t remember if it was shortly before or shortly after she had her baby), this girl bore her testimony in sacrament meeting, and one of the things she said was that her mother warned her people would talk about her and would judge her, but that she should just “hold her head high.” Knowing this girl’s mother even as casually as I did, I can’t imagine the woman meant that her daughter should be proud that she’d broken the law of chastity—or proud despite having broken the law of chastity, or proud of anything, particularly. I think she meant that her daughter should behave with dignity because she was a child of God and had as much right to be at church as any other sinner there.

At what point does supporting someone during a trial largely of her (or his) own making start being too much like condoning sin (or whatever the kids are calling it these days)? Is it okay to throw a baby shower for an unwed teen, or does that make it look like you’re celebrating fornication? Is it okay to let a pregnant girl walk at graduation with all the other kids who haven’t obviously violated the rule against having pre-marital sex, or does that make it look like you have no moral standards for your students? [2]

What would Jesus do? Just kidding. I meant to say, what should we do?

___________________________

[1] Solomon’s advantage, of course, was that the fake mother was actually a total monster. Not every judge is so fortunate!
[2] Are all of my examples about pregnant girls because being pregnant is just about the most obvious way to announce you’re sexually active and it only affects females? Yes.

Comments

  1. If the father of the unborn baby was a senior at the Christian school too, would he be barred from walking at graduation?

  2. Impossible to know for sure, but no reason to assume he wouldn’t be similarly punished–unless he denied being the father. That would complicate things considerably.

  3. Interesting question, though. Let’s say he does deny that he’s the father, or that he ever had sexual relations with that woman. There’s no way to prove it one way or the other until after the baby’s born, is there? (Or am I showing an appalling ignorance of modern science?) In that case, do you punish only the girl because her sin is provable? Do you punish the boy without proof? Do you somehow punish the boy retroactively? (How?) Do you punish neither of them? It’s a dilemma (for people who want to uphold firm moral standards).

  4. I don’t have a problem with this, actually. If the high school considers it a major sin, then yes, having a pregnant teenager publicly receive her graduation sends the wrong message. Milestone or not, she’ll get over it.

    The pro-life position here is wrong. This teenager needs to take responsibility for her actions, even if those consequences seem unfair.

    As we know ourselves, sometimes there is a public component to forgiveness and repentance: sometimes members are forbidden to take the sacrament, or offer prayers, hold callings etc.

    If indeed the father was allowed to receive his graduation, then that would completely change the situation.

  5. When I was in YW, one of the girls, about a year older than me, got pregnant. Well, I’m sure she wasn’t the only one, but she was particularly visible because she continued to come to church and YW activities. This of course caused a lot of people to complain about setting a bad example and sending the wrong message and so forth. Finally the bishop had a special meeting with the YW and basically said, look, we believe in the atonement and repentance. The girl wasn’t a friend of mine, and I didn’t at the time have strong feelings one way or the other (though it didn’t escape my notice that the father of the child, also in the ward, was not a center of scandal in the same way), but looking back I think he was exactly right. Unwed pregnant teenage girls have plenty of challenges to cope with; I don’t see how public shame and exclusion make the situation better for anyone.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    When I was en mish there was a young woman (maybe Laurel age?) who had a young baby out of wedlock. We were close to the family and spent a lot of time there. My sense was she was fully accepted by the ward. But that was largely because her mother (her father wasn’t around) was a fierce mama bear advocate for her daughter and would brook no crap about the situation, and the ward seemed to just follow her lead.

  7. I was a Mia Maid and went to Stake YW (Girls’) Camp with a Laurel who was 6-months-pregnant. There was considerable arguing between leaders beforehand, whether or not to let her attend at all. It ended in compromise – she attended, but slept in quarters with only women leaders and kept a low profile. In hindsight, I appreciate the decision to include her. It’s not like any of us were thick-skulled enough to believe anyone condoned anything.

  8. Evan – I don’t doubt she’ll get over it. Probably a lot faster than she’ll get over having a kid.

  9. AnonObviously says:

    I have to laugh at many of your comments, otherwise I’d probably go burn something down. I speak from my own experience, having given birth to a baby boy that I signed away to a couple that I wasn’t allowed to know or meet beforehand. I did this because I felt it was the best decision for the baby. In the decades since I signed those papers, I have never been completely sure that it was the best decision.

    I have also endured many and varied consequences that none of you are aware of at all, that you might in your best hypothetical wisdom have considered, to fulfill your desire that such things not happen in your proximity. None of you are qualified to judge, not one thing you can think of to ‘un-celebrate’ unwed pregnancy would actually have the effect you desire. Give it up. Give up and let the natural consequences you know nothing of do their job. Your job is to trot down to the local Target and buy a lovely shower gift, and welcome the too-young woman with the unfortunate baby bump into whatever group, activity, or sheepfold she desires to be in. This is what Christ would have you do and nothing more. There are things you can do to reduce unwed pregnancy, but shaming unwed moms isn’t one of them. Stop it.

  10. Suzanne Lucas says:

    The father, from what I’ve read elsewhere, does not attend that school.

    I’m torn on the whole issue. If you don’t have consequences for rule violations, you should not make rules. But if I was the school principal and the girl was otherwise repentant, I’d let her walk.

  11. The Other Aussie Mormon says:

    With the greatest concern and compassionate interest, I would love to hear more from AnonObviously and others who have walked in those shoes.

  12. Echo AnonObviously. Not me but through the eyes and on behalf of a good friend.

    But this whole thing makes me angry so I’m going to sputter. One more iteration in sex-obsessed “Christians” self-righteously arrogating the ‘punishment’ job!#<~#*!!

    (Slightly) More calmly . . . it's a mistake to frame this as judgment and punishment for extra-marital sex in the first place. That's a whole other matter. If you/we/they are going to insist on crime-and-punishment talk, let's frame the 'sin' as failure to use birth control.

  13. jaxjensen says:

    It seems like you are upset that since they didn’t decide to expel her that you think they forfeit the moral right to have any punishment. I don’t see it as outrageous at all that she can’t “walk” but still graduates. It seems like a fine compromise punishment without going to the allowable extreme.

    An argument similar to what you make above would seem to compare to getting mad that since the church didn’t excommunicate somebody, they therefore can’t disfellowship them. Expulsion, like excommunication, would be a complete break of the relationship. You are no longer a member of the group. Disfellowship, like not walking, means you’re still a member, but can’t participate in public events like bearing testimony, taking sacrament, giving public prayers, etc. It would seem ludicrous to be upset that since the church didn’t excommunicate someone that they were wrong to disfellowship them.

    That is what this feels like to me. They school decided she wasn’t worthy of full membership and the rights to participate fully in their event, but that she wasn’t worthy of being completely thrown out and ostracized. There is nothing wrong with a middle of the road decision in my mind.

  14. AnonObviously, thank you for everything you said. My birthmom was 15 years old when she had me and placed me up for adoption and I can’t bear to think of anyone treating her the way this girl is being treated. I was told that my birthmom was sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle, members of the church, while she carried me and that during that time she was the happiest she had been in a while when she got to spend time with the girls her age in the church. It meant a lot to her to be included. I can’t imagine denying her or someone in her shoes such a small act of love as including them and letting them participate in the things their peers are doing.

  15. Oops, not “small act”, meant to say simple act of love. There was nothing small about the support my birthmom received from her Aunt and Uncle and members of the church that included her and loved her.

  16. Chadwick says:

    Echo AnonObviously. Thank you for sharing your story.

  17. Loursat says:

    Public shaming is not Christian. Private shaming is not Christian. Shaming coerces conformity by belittling people, and it has no place in a community that ought to be based on love.

    In most of our dealings, we do not work in communities that aspire to abide in love. In some of those communities, like the military, coercion is a necessary part of what makes the community work. But communities where coercion is necessary are emphatically not models for Christian life. I’m not trying to pick on the military here. Most of what we do every day is involved with institutions that are not good models for Christian life.

    When a school claims to be Christian, it takes on the responsibility of building a community based on love. By using tactics like shaming, the school admits that it doesn’t really believe that love is an adequate basis for a disciplined community.

    The same observation goes for our church. Shaming is not consistent with a Christian community. It has no place in our church. It is pharisaical to cloak such practices in the name of Christ.

  18. jaxjensen says:

    The school isn’t involved in “public shaming” of this girl. They are specifically keeping her FROM the public. They aren’t bringing her on the stage and using her as a example and saying, “don’t be like her.” That would be disgraceful public shaming. They aren’t doing that though. They aren’t doing anything similar to that. They aren’t bringing her on stage at all. Any public shaming that is taking place is from HER putting herself out to the public, or others doing it on her behalf. The school did pay for air time or print advertisements that she wasn’t going to walk. I’d say the school choose to let the girl graduate out of love, rather than expel her. I’ve seen no action the school has taken that can rightly be categorized as “shaming” this girl.

  19. AnonObviously says:

    jaxjensen, trust me, excluding her from walking counts as shame that is happening in public. Your logic is so poor that I wonder if your real intention is deliberately baiting those who disagree with you.

  20. jaxjensen says:

    By the logic used to say this girl is being shamed by the school, then any person who has been disciplined by the church has similarly been publicly shamed. And I don’t think that is true at all, in either case. Being told not to take the sacrament isn’t public shaming. Nor is being told not to bear testimony, teach lessons, or attend the temple. Unless the institution is making public announcements that you aren’t allowed to do those things, then THEY aren’t publicly shaming you. The act of public shaming would involve an increase in the public spotlight on you and your actions. The schools decision is doing the opposite, removing you from the public spotlight.

    If you, or someone on your behalf, take the matter public then any shame you feel is your own fault. Public shaming from the school would be more along the line of telling the girl that if she wanted to graduate that she HAD to walk across that stage while obviously pregnant so that everybody could see her. That would increase her public visibility and would be public shaming. The school is specifically doing the opposite of what public shaming is meant to do. It is NOT public shaming. It IS a form of discipline/punishment.

    slightly off topic:

    I wonder if anyone would take this point, “Public shaming is not Christian” and apply it to treatment of the current US President. Any want to write a post about that? It seems like that would be an interesting discussion. It seems there has been lots of public commentary saying it IS a Christian’s duty to publicly shame DJT’s for his many shameful activities.

  21. jaxjensen, I don’t attach shame to my birthmom becoming pregnant with me at 15. I think my birthmom was courageous in her decision to give birth to me and showed tremendous strength and selflessness. I suppose i’m feeling very protective of this young woman because she reminds me of my own birthmom. If this young woman wants to walk in her graduation she ought to be able to. If she keeps this child, she will probably miss out on lots of things her peers will be doing because she’ll be busy being a parent and so to deny her this milestone I think is petty and cruel. Let her walk in her graduation if she wants to. Who is it going to hurt?

  22. jaxjensen says:

    Cat… I was adopted by my parents from a mother who felt too young to keep me. I understand the sentiment. But the school hasn’t drawn attention to this girl. They haven’t ridiculed nor have I heard an insult leveled at her by them (other deplorables have done that). That is my argument against labeling this as “public shaming” by the school. The school issued a discipline for violation of their rules. All of the publicity I have seen has been from his girl or others (reporters specifically) on her behalf. Any shame she feels about this being public is not caused by the school.

  23. Andy H. says:

    Jaxjensen: Church discipline is a form of public shaming. Failing to take the sacrament is quite noticeable to other people sitting near the disciplined person. The public prayer restrictions can also play out very publicly. The bishop won’t call on someone to pray after placing them under church discipline, but other leaders such as ward FHE group leaders and institute teachers will continue to publicly ask a disciplined person to pray. In these situations, the person who says the prayer isn’t asked in advance and allowed to privately decline. The disciplined person gets to publicly decline the request to pray, which no one not under discipline would do in the church. The fact that you don’t think these things count as shaming shows that you haven’t ever considered them from the perspective of someone who was disciplined.

    The church sometimes practices public shaming for sex in other situations. One year at scout camp, our senior patrol leader confessed to a visiting bishopric member that he had been having sex. He was forced to confess his sin to all the scouts and resign his position. It appeared to be a quite traumatic experience for him and it seemed unnecessarily cruel to make him confess in that way.

  24. jaxjensen, how do you know she feels shame? She has every right to not feel one ounce of shame and walk in her graduation. She has pointed out that other students have broken the school’s honor code and are being allowed to walk in graduation. Why is she being singled out for this type of punishment/discipline when others have broken the same rules and are allowed to walk? The school has drawn attention to the situation by barring her from walking in her graduation. Now she has to explain to her friends and family why she can’t walk in her graduation, something that people’s relatives often attend and would have expected to attend.

  25. jaxjensen says:

    Cat, I didn’t say she does feel shame, only that IF she does it was her actions that cause it, not the school’s actions. She has every right to not feel one ounce of shame. She has no “right” to participate in the private event of a private organization. Like every other person on the planet she may only do so with the permission of that organization. She broke their rules and they are withholding that permission. Totally acceptable. I view the middle ground of still allowing her to graduate as very reasonable. I would view expulsion to be too harsh.

    Andy H. I’m undergoing church discipline right now and can do none of the things mentioned. Trust me when I say I HAVE considered things from my own point of view. The shame that comes from having to say no to the sacrament, or prayer requests, isn’t because the church is engaged in publicly shaming me. It is a result of my own actions, not the church’s.

  26. marcella says:

    When I was in YW my friend got pregnant and the rest of us were sat down and told that she was no longer a YW and had to attend RS and that we were to not talk to her or spend time with her. I was so angry by that! Actually, I still get angry when I think about how they treated her. The handbook used to be pretty clear about it although in now looking it appears they’ve softened up a bit and girls younger than 17 can continue to attend YW and the older girls only get pushed there if they decide to keep their child.

    As to the post, I’m not sure what the rule of her not participating in graduation is supposed to fix. That girls whole world has changed and is going to shift even more when her baby is born, what good does keeping her home from graduation do?

  27. AnonObviously – Thank you for sharing your experience. Yours is the most important perspective in this discussion (since none of us is Jesus).

    As to some other points that have been brought up: I do think the school was trying to split the difference between zero punishment and expulsion. What looks to some like moderating justice looks to others like moderating mercy. Complicating the issue, for me, is that graduation–the ceremony–is the “last word” on this girl’s relationship with the school. A school is going to have stricter rules than a church, but it’s still trying to be a Christian community–so what is the take-home message for the girl from this Christian community?

    I’m quite sure the school would rather have handled this quietly; it’s the girl and her family who have made it public in order to draw attention to what they feel is an unfair double standard. I suspect that one of the reasons the school didn’t throw the book at her, as it were, is that her father was a board member. (He isn’t any longer.) If not for the very visible sign of her rule-breaking (pregnancy), would they have thought there was as much harm in having her walk? I don’t know. I can’t read these people’s minds, and I don’t want to assume uncharitable motivations, but it’s very difficult to draw the line between just-enough mercy and too-much mercy. Not walking at graduation won’t ruin her life, but it is meant to hurt. It seems fair enough from strictly a justice standpoint, but considering everything else she’s going to be dealing with for the next several years, it also seems gratuitous. But that’s just me.

  28. lastlemming says:

    let’s frame the ‘sin’ as failure to use birth control.

    christiankimball, this is going to be totally unfair, but if there is anybody here who can answer this question it is you and it relates directly to your above comment. In the Miracle of Forgiveness, President Kimball at one point (in the Sin Next to Murder chapter) singles out “fornication, pregnancy, and abortion” as ugly sins. When I read that as a teenager, I immediately got the fornication and abortion parts, but not the pregnancy part. I reasoned at the time that it wasn’t a sin because it didn’t involve a choice (independent of the choice to fornicate, which was already covered). But as an adult, it occurred to me that “pregnancy” in that context could be read as a proxy for “failure to use birth control,” which is very much a choice. I am skeptical, however, that President Kimball had such a meaning in mind when he wrote that. Can you shed any light on the matter?

  29. lastlemming: No, i can’t shed any light–any helpful light–on the Miracle of Forgiveness. I’ve written elsewhere (at BCC) about some of the most egregious sections, concluding that they can not be redeemed and must be rejected. Likewise, I believe that the “fornication, pregnancy, and abortion” line (and similar phrases) is simply wrong. It is wrong to group such unlike situations, and it is wrong to classify the grouping as “next to murder.” I don’t have anything to say in support. I suppose your idea of pregnancy as a proxy for failure to use birth control is plausible. But it’s not at all what I had in mind and I have only mean-spirited things to think about what SWK had in mind.

    Having been drawn out, let me elaborate. I heard the “sin next to murder” line as a boy. Oh yes I did. I spent my teens so frightened that I came very close to eschewing all relationships. In my teens sex ranked as an end-of-life event. But years passed, experiences multiplied, my friends and associates and confidantes and later confessions during a stint as bishop expanded my awareness of sins and crimes and violations that have some “sex” element. Sex trafficking and slavery, sexual abuse including of young children, rape in a number of different contexts, selling children, adultery that violates covenants and breaks up families, abortion as a method of birth control, and the list of horrors goes on. I can find situations in that list that rank next to murder in my book. At the same time, two teenagers having consensual protected sex diminished in seriousness in my mind, by comparison and as an absolute. Today, if I had occasion to ‘discipline’ a young man or woman, depending on the circumstances (of course) and despite the fact that even the word ‘discipline’ makes my skin crawl, I’d probably be saying “that wasn’t smart, don’t do it again.” Over and done. (And that alone may be a sufficient reason that I’ll never be called as a Mormon bishop again.)

    To be clear, I’m strongly in favor of sex being reserved for marriage. I’ve preached and taught the same. A potentially awkward reference (depends on the forum) is that in 1998 I gave a speech at an Affirmation conference (that I sometimes characterize as the talk that made every political quadrant unhappy) advocating that gay people get married and advocating that such marriage be respected.

    Taking this back to birth control, I strongly believe and advocate rich and complex sex education including–obviously–birth control. I think the abstinence only programs are a travesty, doing a great disservice to our children and verging on immoral. And when a teenage girl is unintentionally pregnant, if we insist on talking about punishment (which I would not do in the first place), I think everybody should consider that the punishment is really about pregnancy not sex, that the failure has to do with birth control, and that the fault is probably distributed–that the girl is being made the sole scapegoat for a group failure.

  30. Personally, after reading the post (not the link), I think the school handled it perfectly. Not allowing her to walk at graduation is not public shaming. Public shaming involves putting a person on display, not keeping them from display. Nor do I think that excluding her from walking is an attempt at punishment. I think the school just wants the rules to matter, and allowing her to walk sends the message to everybody who sees her that they don’t. Expelling her rather than allowing her to graduate would be a punishment, and a rather harsh (if just) one at that, and I’d be surprised if the school was interested in that. If she wants to make a public stink about it, then she’s the one putting herself up for public shame.

    If the baby’s father was a senior student and denied it was him, I think they’d have to let him walk. Sends the message “innocent until proven guilty”. If he was subsequently proven to be the father, the school could retract his graduation (which would be the appropriate response to fraud).

    I agree with jaxjenson.

  31. Loursat says:

    “Public shaming involves putting a person on display, not keeping them from display.”

    This argument is amazingly silly. It’s almost as if the people who are saying this have never lived in a community of actual people. Public shaming involves singling a person out for punishment in the eyes of the group. Stopping a person from appearing at her graduation ceremony does this just as effectively as putting her on a stage and throwing tomatoes at her. The student’s absence is what calls attention to her. That’s because people know each other and miss each other when they are absent.

    Why did anyone have to explain that?

  32. Aussie Mormon says:

    There are 15 people in her graduating class (based on the article) in a school of 175. People will definitely notice if she isn’t there.

  33. Riffing on what christiankimball said above, maybe what needs to happen is that whoever teaches the sex ed class at that school shouldn’t be involved in the ceremony, since it’s really his or her failure on display here.

  34. Ironically… a lot of judging in these comments. I guess some repenting will ensue…?

  35. Riffing on what H_Bob said, then her parents ought to be charged with all associated costs of the pregnancy and child rearing through age 18 and any minor children in their custody taken away since it’s the parents’ failure to properly instruct their daughter on the benefits of using birth control and/or abstain from sex outside of marriage on display here.

  36. Honestly says:

    Huh just suggested that the woman (girl) in the case and her family be made to bear all the costs of premarital sex? How feudal. How Victorian.

  37. I believe Jesus was quite clear that it isn’t our place to judge others; judgment is in God’s hands.

    This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take actions to protect ourselves and our communities from the harm that some sinners can cause (murderers, etc.) The question is, in this case, what threat does a pregnant teenager pose that would require her to be shamed? (And yes, it is shaming, that whole argument is a distraction.)

    Does anyone really think that allowing the teenager to participate in the graduation would be seen as an endorsement of premarital sex? Teenagers aren’t stupid, they can differentiate between an endorsement and an act of mercy (which it would surely be.)

    And frankly, I don’t think that’s the reason for this anyway. Her pregnancy makes the school look bad to others of their own community, so they are punishing her. It’s a form of virtue signaling. Sadly, they are doing it at the expense of a teenager mother, and forgoing the chance to display Christian compassion.

  38. This post and discussion are fascinating to me because they really do illustrate a very fundamental difference in thinking between more conservative and progressive points of view. If a teacher tells her class that if they finish reading a book and turn in a book report by a certain time they’ll get a treat/privilege/reward, some kids probably aren’t going to earn that reward. It’s not “public shaming” for them not to receive it, even it those kids feel shame. Their rights have not been infringed, they have not been put down, they simply did not live up to the conditions for the reward. If they feel bad, then next time they should try harder. I suspect in the progressive universe, no teacher should be allowed to offer such an incentive.

    Whether or not the young woman got pregnant or not has no bearing (in my mind) on whether she should be able to walk in graduation. If her immoral behavior had been publicly outed in another way (such as simply being caught), it would also disqualify her from walking, especially since the school is so small. The whole point of having a separate Christian school is that the graduates are supposed to live different standards. It’s their brand. Her behavior dishonors the school and its brand. Why should the school honor her?

    It’s remarkable to me is that she would want to walk. Is she trying to actively protest those standards, because she doesn’t agree with them? Or does she just think all the other students misbehaved just as badly as her, only they didn’t get caught, so it just not fair that she should be singled out?

    I know she and many people here think getting pregnant is punishment enough. Yep, getting pregnant sucks for her. It sucks just as badly for her parents and everybody else whose lives are going to be affected. It sucks for that kid, even if she/he gets adoptive parents who are fantastic. But getting pregnant has nothing to do with punishment. It’s simply a consequence. Not letting her walk in graduation isn’t about punishment either, in my mind. It’s a consequence as the school balances conflicting interests.

    Yes, contraception should be taught in schools. Yes, if this school doesn’t teach it, that’s horrible. But there’s no reason to infantilize a privileged 17-year-old girl. Pregnancy rarely results from a one-time mistake, and even if it did, she is still responsible for her choice. Not walking in graduation seems like a pretty irrelevant thing compared to the other concerns she has to worry about.

    Finally, the idea that teen mothers should be protected from any consequences to their actions in order to prevent abortions is ludicrous to me. Should we remove consequences for rapists or robbers because we’re worried that doing so will encourage them to murder their victims or witnesses?

    It seems to me that progressives have concluded that sex outside of marriage isn’t really that big a deal. To them, there’s no such thing as a victimless crime, because if there’s no victim, there’s no crime. They think consensual sex is victimless because there’s no excuse for pregnancy or disease these days, as long as people are educated, so if there’s sin, it belongs to those who should be educating. It also seems to me that progressives are fundamentally opposed to honor codes in general, so the idea that there should be consequences to violating one is repugnant to them.

    To me, I actually still believe in choice and accountability, and in trying to live up to my commitments, even if it is just an honor code. That doesn’t mean I don’t support sex education in schools, because I’d prefer to minimize victims too. But the idea that this young woman is being unfairly publicly shamed is stunning to me.

  39. Honestly says:

    Leave it to a bunch of males to be “stunned” at the thought that anyone would object to a young unwed mother being publicly shamed or ostracized. You’d think none of us had read The Scarlet Letter.

  40. Maybe it’s because I’m in the throes of toddler disciplining, but I have been thinking a lot about natural consequences with regards to this. I feel like the reason why not letting her walk doesn’t seem right to me is that it doesn’t seem at all like a natural consequence to me. Walking at graduation, in my worldview (and I think the worldview of many people), says something about how you have conducted yourself in the academic sphere (you’ve passed the academic requirements, and not by cheating), and it’s much less about how you have conducted yourself in other spheres of your life. The linked article says that other students who have broken the honor code (presumably in different ways) *are* walking, so it seems that the school at least partially subscribes to that view as well, it’s not just me being “progressive.”

    Of course, I am also influenced by thinking that the idea of having a sexual-morality-based honor code for a school at all is weird. The one school I attended with an honor code — Caltech — had an honor code based on not taking unfair advantage of anyone else in the school community, which seems much more to the point. And yes, I get that it’s a Christian school, but that’s actually a little weirder for me. What would have happened if she had refused to pledge to the honor code to begin with? In the lives of most of the people I know, that wouldn’t really have been an option; there would have been a crazy amount of pressure from parents and school to do so. (With college there’s a bit more choice involved and the kid is a bit older, so it’s a bit less crazy to me.)

    That is also the difference I see between this case and that of disfellowship/excommunication. I mean, I don’t know that I really like it in the Church context either (it seems to me that pride, for example, should be a much, much harsher sin than sexual immorality… and it’s not like this young woman isn’t getting quite a lot of natural consequences on her own, either…) but at least it seems a little more in line that sin, something a church naturally concerns itself with, has church-related consequences.

  41. We are all pretty quick to jump to the “Don’t judge, lest ye be judged” perspective, which feels right in this case to me. And I also immediately agreed with this statement by Nepos:

    And frankly, I don’t think that’s the reason for this anyway. Her pregnancy makes the school look bad to others of their own community, so they are punishing her. It’s a form of virtue signaling. Sadly, they are doing it at the expense of a teenager mother, and forgoing the chance to display Christian compassion.

    I personally think that this girl is being punished because the immorality can’t be hidden, unlike others who apparently have violated the same code, but not become pregnant. The school seems to be protecting their brand. But haven’t we (more justly, I) just jumped from “Don’t judge the sinner,” to “that hypocritical-backwards-creationist-teaching-evangelical school?”

    AnonObviously takes the day here, and I go away, dropping my stone, because I know my own sins. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  42. When a woman gets pregnant out of wedlock, she has three choices: have an abortion, have the baby and give it up for adoption, or have the baby and keep it. The ONLY choice that keeps people from judging her is the abortion, because it’s the only one that nobody needs to ever know about.

  43. chompers says:

    Some good comments. I have a question though: since when did all punishment become “shaming”? Should we avoid any and all punishment for fear of “shaming” someone? Is it because this is about sex and a female that this is termed as “shaming”? Would there be the same response if it had been a male student caught doing something immoral? I wonder…

  44. AnonObviously says:

    RJ, thanks for the support. After all these years, I still feel shame over this part of my life, hence the anonymity, and I ponder about the statute of limitations when I read comments like Martin’s, jaxjensen’s, and others who value the institution’s image or “brand” over the damage done by unnecessarily and unfairly shaming the young human woman.

    Loursat, your comment had a quality of mercy within that warmed my cold, cynical heart. And you called out the faulty logic that I couldn’t muster the energy to put words to. God bless you.

    Christainkimball, I wish you had been any of my bishops from whom I sought help. Thank you for speaking up. And others who valued my voice or spoke in the young woman’s defense, I thank you. I felt your mercy too. It feels like what Christ would want for us bad girls.

    One thing I haven’t seen addressed in the comments is the prevalence of young women being vulnerable to predatory sex-seeking by the male partner, aka unwed father. The younger the woman, the more common it is for her to be coerced into having sex that otherwise she may not seek, but for some reason (cough), that element of the unwed mother problem goes unexamined and unacknowledged. Like, it’s really common. In this discussion of who-where-how to place the blame, I think it matters. Right, guys?

  45. stephenchardy says:

    Several here have said things to the effect of this: Rules are important, and any rule is meaningless without “teeth” of some sort. They say that there must be a consequence.

    Well, this young woman did break a rule, and she will be involved with the consequences of that decision every living day for the rest of her life. She may keep the child and raise it, and thus face the consequences of her rule-breaking. Or she may give the child up for adoption and suffer the life-long soul-searching of whether she did the right thing. The consequences of breaking the rule are strong and life-long. It is now up to her Christian community to love and support her in her apparent righteous decision to carry on with the pregnancy. There have been and will be plenty of consequences. Shame on anyone who wants to kick someone when they are already down. If any of you wonder why Christianity appears to be fading in importance and influence: You need look no further than this so-called Christian school.

  46. Martin wins the thread with his comments about stealing candy from children. Well done!

  47. kevinf, to me there is a difference between judging individuals and judging organizations. U.S. law notwithstanding, corporations aren’t people, but a collaboration among different people, and we can judge the results of that collaboration without judging any individual.

    Jesus avoided judging people, but he certainly judged groups of people (notably the Pharisees).

    So I feel that it is okay to judge that the school is being hypocritical and un-Christian, without assigning blame to any one person.

  48. AnonObviously from May 31: This thread is old but a completely unrelated discussion in an unrelated to Mormonism site brings me back to say, about the predator, that it’s one of the very few situations where excommunication ought to be considered. (Jail too, but this is the churchy comment.) Predators take advantage of affiliation to gain trust and get close. They should be denied that affiliate credential.