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Radical Individualism and Sexual Morality
The Sorry Lesson of the Michelle McCusker Affair
[Carol Platt Liebau] 11/28/05

The New York Civil Liberties Union is at it again. Two years ago, it forced a Catholic charity in Buffalo to ban discrimination based on pregnancy, after the unwed director of an after-school program was demoted when she became pregnant. Now it’s trained its sites on St. Rose of Lima school in Queens – and on the Diocese of Brooklyn.

That’s because one Michelle McCusker, a 26-year-old preschool teacher at St. Rose of Lima, has been fired for becoming pregnant without benefit of wedlock. Never mind that the teachers’ handbook that McCusker received states quite clearly that each teacher “must convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions.” Never mind that McCusker, six months pregnant now, must have been aware of her condition when she accepted the post at St. Rose of Lima over the summer.

Carol Platt Liebau - Senior

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at [go to Liebau index]

No, all that matters to the NYCLU is that the school’s enforcement of its policy is allegedly unfair – because there’s no way to “determine if male employees engage in premarital sex.” This sense of gender grievance is supposed to trump the rights of everyone else involved in the whole sordid episode: The Brooklyn Diocese’s right to set standards for behavior that conform to the tenets of Catholicism; the school’s right to enforce the standards to which the teachers agree upon accepting a job at St. Rose of Lima; and even the parents’ right to the “benefit of their bargain.” That is, having made the effort and spent the money to enroll their children in parochial school, surely parents are entitled to expect that the teachers (whose salaries they’re paying) will not be permitted to flout the very values that a religious education is supposed to be inculcating in their children.

But to Michelle McCusker and the NYCLU, the entire concept of collective rights apparently means nothing. The behavior of Miss McCusker is – to use an old-fashioned term – shameless. How can she have so little regard, not only for the tenets of the faith she professes, but for the moral formation of her pupils? Certainly, anyone can make a mistake (and in some way at some time, all of us do). But what’s so outrageous is that rather than accepting responsibility for her actions, Miss McCusker has decided to sue the school and the diocese, just because they’re seeking to hold her to the bargain (and the behavioral standard) to which she agreed.

In the past, someone like Miss McCusker would have acknowledged the justice of the school’s position, and resigned. Today, however, groups like the NYCLU (whose real agenda is to undermine the power of any faith in American life) enable her selfishness with the siren call of “individual rights.”

But the fault doesn’t lie with Miss McCusker and the NYCLU alone. In a sense, American culture in general is to blame – for, in fact, we, too have enabled Miss McCusker and people like her through our own lack of judgment. Time was, Americans talked little about sex, but upheld a clear and coherent moral code – and part of it was that sex outside of marriage was just plain wrong. We were willing to exercise judgment on matters of sexual morality. By contrast, today, “sex talk” is ubiquitous – but aside from pedophilia and adultery, few seem willing to take a stand on any issue of right and wrong when it comes to sex, lest they be deemed “prudish” or “judgmental” by the more “enlightened.”

And in the end, all of us pay a price for our laissez-faire reticence on sexual matters – none more than the babies who grow up without fathers. But the Michelle McCuskers of the world suffer, too. Here were Miss McCusker’s words last week at an NYCLU-arranged press conference: “I don’t understand how a religion that prides itself on forgiving and on valuing life could terminate me because I’m choosing to have this baby.”

Of course, she’s to be commended for carrying her child to term. But there’s something quite sad in her assumption that she’s doing the Catholic Church a favor simply by adhering to its prohibition on abortion – and that being forgiven means little more than absolution from any accountability.

But, then again, given that she’s the product of a culture that tolerates the radical individualism of the NYCLU – even as it hesitates to assert the value of sexual morality and community standards – why wouldn’t Miss McCusker believe that it all should be easy, and that it’s all about her? -one-


Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and tOR / CRO editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

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