Catholic High School Stands Firm Against Makers of Lesbian Film

salesian highCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Salesian High School, a Catholic boys’ school in New Rochelle, New York, is taking heat for refusing to allow its premises to be used to film a scene for a movie about a lesbian couple, an incident that is being used as yet another hammer with which to pummel Church teaching.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Salesian school principal, John Flaherty, reversed a decision to allow the school to be used to tape a scene for the movie Freeheld – a film based on the true story of a New Jersey police detective with terminal cancer and starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page.

Flaherty changed his mind when he learned that the story was actually about two lesbian lovers.

The scene producer Michael Shamberg wanted to film at the school involved the detective (Moore) applying for a domestic partnership with her partner (Page) at the town hall of Ocean County, New Jersey for which the school was being used as a stand-in. Moore was applying for the license because she wanted to pass on her pension to her lover.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Shamberg said the school “turned us down because of the subject matter,” even though the school has allowed other productions to shoot on the premises, such as a music video and TV commercial.

He claims that he sent an email to Flaherty clarifying that Freeheld was about the final days of Det. Laurel Hester and not about gay marriage. “It is about recognizing the dignity of a woman who was a brave civil servant,” he wrote, adding that “I believe the theme of the movie is what Pope Francis recognized just yesterday when he called for the Church to welcome and accept gay people.”

Flaherty told Shamberg he would forward the email to the school’s president, Father John Serio, who did not respond.

When he was asked to comment on the decision, Flaherty told BuzzFeed, “All are welcomed at Salesian High School. Our school chooses to embrace the social issues such as hunger, homelessness, poverty, and helping the less fortunate.”

Not surprisingly, the whole situation was turned into another opportunity to malign the Church with Kelly Bush, a top Hollywood publicist and another producer on the film issuing the usual talking points.

“Freeheld captures the inequality and bigotry that one couple faced while coping with cancer and the end of life,” Bush told The Reporter. “That our film was denied access to a location because of the subject matter — a same-sex couple fighting for their legal rights — illustrates just how important it is that this story be told.”

Because the gay “rights” community is not known for respecting anyone’s rights other than their own, we can only imagine what fodder this would have been if the filming had been allowed.  Activists would trumpet their victory far and wide that part of the movie “was filmed at a Catholic school!” It would thus have been used to demoralize Catholics.

And I question why no one bothered to use the Ocean County town hall where the actual event occurred? It’s not like the place is on another planet. It’s a two hour drive due south!

If for some reason, they didn’t want to make the drive, why not use a town hall closer to their location – which is what eventually happened?

For that matter, why did it have to be a Catholic school? There were no other public schools in the area they could have used?

Sorry, but anyone who doesn’t “smell a rat” here needs to have their olfactory nerves checked. This was nothing more than another trap for the Church in which she would be put into an untenable no-win situation – damned if they allowed the filming and damned if they didn’t – in order to make the gay community look as if they’re the ones being persecuted rather than people of faith.

This bullying is really starting to get old.

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