Xavier College Preparatory, a Catholic school in Phoenix, Arizona, is refusing demands to fire a theology teacher for handing out pro-life literature to students.
Gavin Ahern, who also moderates the school’s Right to Life Club, handed out a pamphlet from the pro-life group Life Education Resource Network (LEARN) on the disproportionate number of black lives lost to abortion.
In response, last week a former Xavier student (who graduated in 1993) launched a petition calling the material “unsubstantiated hate speech” and declaring, “Women-shaming and race-baiting such as this by a teacher in a classroom of young women is an abuse of the authority and trust placed in Mr. Ahern.” It also accuses Ahern of “misogynistic rhetoric against women.”
It demands “swift action to remove Mr. Ahern from the classroom immediately” and “whatever steps are necessary to permanently remove him from the Xavier community.” At the time of this writing, the petition had 12,384 signatures, only 11% of which came from Arizona residents.
But in response, Xavier released a statement affirming the school’s duty to teach “respect for the sanctity of human life, in all forms and at all stages,” and concluding, “Xavier will not allow the threat of controversy to intimidate our teachers, counselors, and administrators from discussing these important controversial issues, nor silence us in our duty to impart the values of our faith to the young women entrusted to our care.”
A counter-petition supporting Ahern has reached 1,975 signatures at the time of this writing, 76% of which came from Arizonans.
In addition, Rev. Dr. Clenard Childress, director of LEARN, defended the pamphlet: “It’s data, provable data. It’s a fact. Don’t tell me I can’t come with a sociological fact.” He went on to “commend and salute the teacher for being willing to share the facts with his students.”