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According to local paper Greenwich Time, Kate Murray, a sophomore at the all-girls private Catholic school Sacred Heart Greenwich, decorated her laptop with stickers, one of which reads, “I stand with Planned Parenthood.” On Tuesday, head of school Pamela Hayes issued an ultimatum: Remove the sticker or leave school, either immediately or at the end of the academic year.
Kate removed the sticker Wednesday according to the paper, in order to enter into talks with the school, but she and her parents, Tracy and Brian Murray, have not made a decision about her future.
The Murrays have generated support on social media with the hashtag #IStandWithKateMurray most notably, from Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, who in January, announced she was stepping down after 12 years as the face of the company. “Kate, Planned Parenthood is so proud to count you as a supporter. Keep fighting for what you believe in,” Richards tweeted Friday.
On Thursday, Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport said in a statement: “The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is almost universally understood, as is its consistent pro-life ethic, which defends the right to life of all those among us, particularly the most vulnerable in our society. As such, the diocese fully supports the commitment of head of school Pamela Hayes to affirm the church’s teaching, while also recognizing and respecting the right of students to question and challenge as they grow in the learning process and prepare to address the important moral and ethical issues they will face in their lives.”
Despite the fact that abortions are only a fraction of Planned Parenthood’s women’s health services, the nonprofit has always been a divisive presence. Planned Parenthood did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
A representative from Sacred Heart sent two statements from Hayes to Yahoo Lifestyle (both of which can be read on the school website). The first read in part, “No one has been dismissed because of this matter. … We encourage the rigorous examination of broad points of view, cultures, and beliefs where it is most appropriate — in our classrooms. Empowering our students with the ability to confidently express their views in an informed, constructive manner, we discourage the display of stickers, posters, buttons or banners supporting or opposing political candidates, positions or organizations on clothing, computers, lockers or anywhere else on our campus. Whenever such displays become an issue, we work with our students to identify other forums for their expressions which are consistent with our academic mission and respectful of the diverse views within our community.
In the second statement, released Friday, Hayes said, “Open dialogue is alive and well on our campus and that’s why we discourage the displays of slogans and bumper stickers, which in an educational environment can have the unintended consequence of stifling open debate. We know there are better forums. For example, in junior year, all students take a theology course in ethics and morality. In the class, students choose from the topics of abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty and then choose a side to debate their view.”
Still, Kate’s parents aren’t happy about what they call an overreaction.
“It seemed an extreme reaction to a very small sticker, which puts forth a political point of view about a government funding matter and does not, at least the way I read the sticker, violate church doctrine or specifically advocate the murder of innocent babies,” Brian Murray told Greenwich Time. “It is a really small sticker that does not seem to be able to cause that much damage to anybody.”
Tracy Murray added, “It is a small sticker. It is not incendiary, it is not vulgar. It is not hurtful. It is a statement of my daughter’s belief and she deserves the same respect for her beliefs that the administration and part of the faculty are demanding for theirs.”
A petition called “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” reportedly launched by Murray family friend and former student Stephanie Viola, is also circulating the internet, gaining more than 2,000 signatures in a matter of hours. “Unless Kate is allowed her freedom of speech, all of my future donations that would have been allocated to Sacred Heart Greenwich will now and forever be donated to Planned Parenthood,” reads the description on the petition.
Yahoo Lifestyle contacted to Kate’s brother James Murray, who is circulating the petition online, but did not hear back. According to the Greenwich Time, Viola and Kate’s sister Alex Murray, met with the school on Friday.
Former student Chloe Kimberlin also told the Greenwich Time, “When I was a student at CSH in 2012, a student in the year below me sent an email to the entire school which contained an impassioned rant urging people to attend the March for Life and speaking disparagingly of women who receive abortions. Worse yet, to reach the written content of the email, one had to scroll through brutal photos of aborted fetuses. When I opened the email in school, I was shocked and disturbed.”
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