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Monday, August 21, 2006

Firing the Church Lady for Being too Female

OK, this is effed up. Associated Press reports that a sunday school teacher in Watertown, NY has been fired for being female -- despite having taught at the church for 54 years.

The minister of a church that dismissed a female Sunday School teacher after adopting what it called a literal interpretation of the Bible says a woman can perform any job - outside of the church.

The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.

The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

The Rev. Timothy LaBouf, who also serves on the Watertown City Council, issued a statement saying his stance against women teaching men in Sunday school would not affect his decisions as a city leader in Watertown, where all five members of the council are men but the city manager who runs the city's day-to-day operations is a woman.

"I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to" outside of the church, LaBouf wrote Saturday.

The church is doing what fundies always do -- picking and choosing what parts of the Bible they consider important and what they can safely ignore. In this case, I'm assuming that they're not taking the entire chapter of 1 Timothy literally. The letter quoted Timothy 2:12, but ignores the broader message of the passage:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

I'll bet damned good money that the First Baptist Church of Watertown, NY doesn't make women hand over their jewelry and let down their hair before they're allowed into the church. Somehow, the idea of good baptist women taking off their wedding rings for church doesn't seem all that likely.

Since LaBouf's on the City Council, the Mayor Jeffrey Graham felt he should put the letter into perspective. "If what's said in that letter reflects the councilman's views, those are disturbing remarks in this day and age," Graham said. "Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now."

The church got a little heat from the community over this. Newswatch 50, a local TV station, reports:

In a four paragraph statement released Friday evening the Diaconate Board said, "In the specific case of Ms. Lambert the Board's decision to remove her from a teaching position was multifaceted and the scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of that decision."

The statement goes on to say, "Christian courtesy motivates us to refrain from making any public accusations against her."

In a separate two page statement, Rev. LaBouf addresses the community, saying it's been frustrating to remain silent on the controversy while the board formulated a response.

LaBouf said in his statement:
-- That he felt he had to confer with the Diaconate Board before making a public statement.
-- That as he made changes at the church after becoming pastor in 2004, "a small group decided to forgo the mechanisms...for dealing with conflicts..."
-- That the board had originally intended to include all reasons for Lambert's dismissal in the letter sent to her. But after legal review it was decided to stick with "spiritual issues..."
-- That his belief is "that the qualifications for both men and women teaching spiritual matters in a church setting end at the church door, period."
-- That he is "heartbroken that this situation has created pain the lives of many in our community..."

The thing is, their opinion of a biblical ban on women teaching in church either is or is not true. When the mullahs of First Bapist say, "the scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of that decision," that's pure bullshit -- either they can or they can't. It's either the reason or it's not. It's like saying that something's only 'technically illegal' -- they're weasel words (Newswatch 50 has the full text). If God forbids it, God forbids it. Since when is God's opinion only one of many factors considered in a church's decisions?

The 'other reasons' are just a cover for their misogyny.


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