As you may have seen in the media, an online petition is currently demanding that our Executive Director, Shannon McGinley, be removed from the Board of Trustees of a private school over her Catholic beliefs on gender, sexuality, and marriage.
Shannon has had children at the Derryfield School since 2009 and has served on the Board for eight years. The signatories of the petition—largely alums of Derryfield—say that expelling Shannon from the board over her religious beliefs will promote inclusion at the school.
The petitioners make generic allegations that Shannon is transphobic and homophobic. We need hardly explain that neither Shannon nor Cornerstone supports discrimination or coercion against anyone.
Shannon is a faithful Catholic, and her beliefs on marriage and sexuality are the formal teachings of the Catholic church, accepted by hundreds of millions of practicing Catholics around the world. And these beliefs aren’t just held by Christians. Billions of other people from a variety of cultures—including traditional Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews—also share these same beliefs.
It is worth considering just how narrow the petitioners’ perspective is. Only in 21st century Western culture would we seriously consider expelling someone from a civic organization for professing things which traditional Christians, and many other people of faith, have always historically believed. The idea of discharging Shannon for her public Christian advocacy reflects a privileged and insular worldview isolated from most of the world’s cultures and perspectives.
The fact that people who refuse to live in a pluralistic society would dare to wave the banner of “diversity and inclusion” is ironic to the point of self-satire. But, as Orwell understood, those who promote totalitarianism never use words like “inclusion” in the dictionary sense of the word.
The attack on Shannon also focuses on allegations that Shannon and Cornerstone promote “conversion therapy.” In fact, Derryfield alum and comedian Sarah Silverman recently referred to Cornerstone as a “gay conversion center.” To be clear, this is false.Cornerstone opposed, and still opposes, New Hampshire’s so-called “conversion therapy ban,” RSA 332-L. This statute prohibits teenagers from obtaining voluntary speech-only counseling that involves “efforts to change behaviors” pertaining to the teenager’s “sexual orientation or gender identity.”
As Shannon explained in a private letter to the Board, already circulating in the media:
Many of the world’s religions, including traditional Christianity, Islam, and Orthodox Judaism, contain teachings about human sexuality which are often in tension with people’s experienced sexual desires. New Hampshire’s ban on “conversion therapy” prohibits teenagers struggling with unwanted sexual attraction from seeking voluntary, speech-based counseling consistent with their values.
To clarify, I would adamantly oppose forcing unwanted therapy of any kind on a minor. This is not something that I, nor any organization I am a part of, has ever promoted. I believe in the right of all patients, including adolescents, to seek voluntary, client-directed, speech-only therapy.
In contrast, those attacking me not only believe in legally sanctioning speech they disagree with but in systematically removing those like me from civil society for opposing them. I invite you to ask yourselves whether their monolithic intolerance or my religious faith is more compatible with Derryfield’s commitment to diversity.
Needless to say, we at Cornerstone stand firmly behind Shannon. But make no mistake: this isn’t just about Shannon. Whatever happens here will not impact who she is or the work she does, but it will have impact. This is about every person in the Derryfield community and beyond—Christian or not—who does not adhere to one rigidly-defined agenda. The message is clear: “Conform or get out.”
Today it’s Shannon. Tomorrow it will be you. Every call to banish non-progressives from the table, if seriously entertained and acted on, leads to an ever-tightening circle of discourse. If left unchecked, this constriction will continue until there is no one left to speak up for you. Cornerstone is grateful to our executive director for her willingness to boldly challenge the increasingly suffocating grip of secular progressivism. We call on the Board of Trustees, and others throughout New Hampshire, to champion true diversity and inclusion by following her example.
-The Cornerstone Team