The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to rethink our lives and cancel various plans. Vacations have been canceled. Sports have been canceled. Classes have been canceled. But at my university, I soon found “cancel culture” taking this canceling to whole new level. I was removed from my job as Student Senate President at Florida State University because my peers and administrators decided to cancel my Catholic faith.
My story started on a bright day in early June. Though we were in the midst of the summer semester, I remained digitally engaged with my classmates during the pandemic, including those in the Catholic Student Union. In our Catholic GroupMe chat, one student shared a YouTube video that was soliciting donations and collecting ad revenue for several organizations, including the ACLU and BlackLivesMatter.com.
These two organizations take several positions that clearly conflict with Catholic doctrine. For example, the ACLU is so unabashedly pro-abortion that it is fighting Ohio’s law that protects unborn children from being aborted because of their disability status. BlackLivesMatter.com aims to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” where children are raised by a married mother and father. Both BlackLivesMatter.com and the ACLU also support radical secular theories on transgenderism.
I decided to politely point out my concerns to my classmates in the Catholic GroupMe chat. I realize that our nation is wrestling with very challenging issues on race right now, and the solutions to those issues are complex and unclear. But what remains clear is the objective harm caused by supporting pro-abortion and anti-family organizations, including BlackLivesMatter.com and the ACLU. I had no intention of creating anger or division. I just wanted to make sure my friends were not unknowingly supporting organizations that are hostile to some of the core tenets of our faith. I was making a point I thought all Catholics could agree upon.
Sadly, I found out that not everyone did agree.
The content of my messages was leaked and mischaracterized all over social media. I had countless false accusations of “hate” and “discrimination” levied against me, and by extension, against Catholicism. Thousands of people signed a petition saying I was unfit to serve as Senate president. And less than a week later, an overwhelming majority of the Student Senate that I had worked so hard to serve succumbed to these demands, removing me strictly because of my Catholic beliefs.
After unsuccessfully trying to appeal this decision to the university administration and the Student Supreme Court, I have now decided to file a lawsuit with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom.
It is heartbreaking that so many people have bought into the secular falsehoods that claim people who hold orthodox Judeo-Christian beliefs cannot be tolerated in public life. I, like my fellow classmates, have legitimate concerns about the social issues facing America today. My classmates also say they want to love others, and that they are hoping to create a brighter future. I share these same aspirations. But as Archbishop Charles Chaput succinctly put it in his newest book, “candor is not an enemy of love. And real hope begins in honesty.”
Sept. 5 was the day the Catholic Church celebrated the feast day of a saint who displayed true love like few others: St. Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa draws admiration from people of all faiths or no faith at all. The modern-day saint loved the poorest of the poor unconditionally, even winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and her contributions to this world cannot be overstated.
And yet, according to the secular orthodoxy that permeates many universities, Mother Teresa would be declared unfit to serve as a public figure on campus, simply because she was devoutly Catholic.
Mother Teresa once said, “Calcutta is everywhere.” Many people, including her biographer Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., have taken her words to mean that various forms of poverty can be found everywhere. And as a college student, I have found the university campus to be a Calcutta of its own kind: a Calcutta of spiritual poverty.
If we are to address this poverty, people of faith must be free to partake in public life and express their deeply held beliefs, just as everyone else is. That’s why I’m standing strong for my faith at Florida State University.
Jack Denton is the former student senate president at Florida State University.