Maddy Paige is a 12-year-old girl from Locust Grove, Georgia who was the starting defensive tackle for her sixth grade football team at Strong Rock Christian School until the school’s head, Patrick Stuart, decided that the order of the universe depended on his implementing a new policy declaring that “Middle school girls play girls’ sports and middle school boys play boys’ sports.”
For all the benefits and wisdom a conservative approach to public policy can add to society’s progress, conservatives will always erode their credibility and trustworthiness by their tendency to stubbornly insist on unjust and arbitrary rules because “that’s just the way it’s always been.” This will be the impact of conservative opposition to gay marriage, now officially shown to be futile by the Supreme Court’s DOMA rejection yesterday on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, and it is the lesson to be harvested from Stuart’s fatuous move.
USA TODAY Sports revealed the school CEO’s “thinking, ” according to the account of the banned player’s mother:
“[Stuart] told me students are coming of age and the boys will have impure thoughts and urges and they have the locker room talk and it’s not appropriate for girls to hear,” Paige’s mother, Cassy Blythe, told [the paper.] . “Then he said he prayed about it and he really feels that there’s not supposed to be mixing of the genders. They need to be kept separate.”
Oh, well that makes…what???
- The boys will have impure thoughts whether Paige is tackling them or not, because they are boys. That’s not Paige’s fault.
- Why is the locker room talk appropriate for boys to hear and not girls? Isn’t it up to Paige and her parents what she should be permitted to hear?
- Locker rooms can be supervised, and should be, if speech is an issue.
- Won’t Paige be changing in a separate area?
- Gee, I’m pretty sure that there is “supposed” to be some “mixing of the genders…right?
- What does he mean, they “need” to be kept separate? Where do they “need” to be kept separate? Just on the football field? In locker rooms? In classes? In the street? In elevators? If Paige had a lot of brothers, should she have been sent away? Why do the genders “need” to be kept separate? Where did that rule come from?
If Stuart has real reasons for discriminating against Maddy, rather than this assorted garbage, he has an obligation to state them clearly. It is wrong to arbitrarily forbid one person from doing something they want to do that others are permitted to do based on irrelevant status differences, like race, religion, and gender. The only valid reason for having separate teams for male and female participants isn’t exclusion but inclusion, because of the general physical disparities and abilities of the genders, not because of their “impure thoughts.” If a student is physically fit for a sport and there is only one team, gender is not a reasonable or fair justification for exclusion. There is no logic or common sense supporting Stuart’s edict, only bias, archaic tradition and refusal to deal with the world as it is, rather than how people once were told it was.
Worst of all, I think, is that Stuart plays the God card, telling Maddy’s parents that “he prayed” about the decision, as if that gives it extra credibility or weight. The implication, of course, is that God sent him a sign or a neural twitch, and that He also doesn’t want Paige to hear those nasty locker room jokes. If a decision maker wants to pray about a dilemma, that’s his right, but he should keep that fact to himself. Using it to validate the decision is cowardly and an attempt to ship responsibility to Heaven.
It is also foolish. If a critic is dubious about religion, then such an explanation is the equivalent of saying that “I found me a three-eyed toad and read its entrails at midnight” If a critic is a God fan and has the sense to recognize the idiocy of Stuart’s policy, he must either conclude that Stuart is lying, that God was playing a cruel trick on Stuart, that the Lord has an unhealthy desire to make a 12-year old girl miserable, or that He is no smarter than Stuart is, which is a terrifying thought.
Maddy and her mother have started a Facebook campaign called “Let Her Play.” The page has over 23,000 likes in one week; I’m sure Stuart thinks it’s significant that God isn’t one of them.