Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Last August, Mark Krolikowski was laid off after 32 years of teaching at St. Francis Preparatory School, a 150-year-old Catholic school in Queens, New York. Now, Krolikowski is suing the school, saying that the school fired him because of his transgender identity, which he revealed eight months before he was dismissed. According to the suit, after a complaint about his appearance from the parent of a freshman student, Krolikowski was told that being transgender was “worse than gay.”
Krolikowski, who routinely wore suits and neckties to work, admitted that his habit of wearing earrings and French manicures was “unconventional.” After meeting with school administrators about the complaint, he said that he promised to “tone down” his appearance, but he was dismissed at the end of the year. Since then, an online student petition, asking the school to apologize, has made headlines.
More than 8-in-10 (81%) Americans – including 84% of Catholics – agree that legal protections that apply to gay and lesbian people should also apply to transgender people. Approximately 9-in-10 Americans (89%) and Catholics (93%) also believe that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics say they know what the term “transgender” means, and 1-in-10 (10%) Catholics say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender.
The school’s lawyer denied all of the allegations, saying that Krolikowski was terminated legally. Krolikowski’s lawyers are, however, arguing that the firing violated New York State and City law. New York City specifically includes gender identity when prohibiting hiring and firing based on various characteristics like age, race, and sexual orientation.