Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wisconsin Arts Board Withholds Funding for Marquette’s Haggerty Museum: The Inside Story

We have blogged about the decision of the Wisconsin Arts Board to defer funding for the Haggerty Museum here at Marquette. The reason? The fact that Marquette refused to hire a woman named Jodi O’Brien as Arts and Sciences Dean.

O’Brien is not only an “out” lesbian, her writings are sharply at odds with Catholic teaching about homosexuality, marriage (which she does not like) and the need to “queer” Christianity.

The Board objected, and decided to defer funding for the Haggerty, pending a decision at a meeting in the fall.

We now have the audio of that meeting. It can be heard via an embedded player (below) or downloaded by clicking on this link and doing “save target as.”
Gay Board Member Leads the Charge

An entire list of grant awards was on the verge of being approved when Paul Meinke, a member from Green Bay, spoke up, saying “I have a question. I have a concern about one of the recipients. . . one of the recipients receiving an award.” And further: “That’s with Marquette University Haggerty Museum.”

Meinke continued: “In view of what’s going on currently, I’m not comfortable with state dollars being sent there. And I don’t know how to address that.”

In explanation, he said, “It’s . . . it’s a very strange situation. The university sent out a contract to an individual, and then rescinded the contract. . . . Some were saying that it’s because she’s a lesbian, but I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it goes back to some of her writings that she’s written twenty years ago that are in conflict with the interests of the Catholic Church.”

Meinke, who is an “out” gay male, pointed out that faculty and students have objected to the decision, and continued: “I disagree with it based on two reasons, one because it’s a GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] issue, and two because . . . we’re not, you can’t tell. It’s so easy to hide that.”

Meinke then continues (rather incoherently) “and two, if the religious institution wants to jump into education when do they start indoctrination versus education . . and [some unintelligible words] state dollars . . . I think they made a mistake and I don’t think they deserve to be recognized with state dollars.”

It’s ironic that Meinke mentions “indoctrination,” since there is vigorous indoctrination about homosexuality going on at Marquette: pro-homosexuality indoctrination.

At this point the Executive Director of the Arts Board, George Tzougros, spoke up and offered a caveat.
The only thing I would say is I understand that concern for the overall institution, but I think in the case of the Haggerty they would be the very people that would be defending and promoting the very issues we are trying to support by that action. . . . Haggerty would be the one institution on the campus that would . . . .
Meinke then jumped in with “I said then let Haggerty do it, but not with our money.”

Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton then spoke up to ask “have they made a final decision?”

Meinke gave a non-responsive reply “I’ve read that the Archbishop in Milwaukee is actually the one who blabbed it to them.”

Lawton then continues “. . . but in terms of our relationship if we want to discuss this further between state funding and what has an appearance right now of discrimination . . . that we may want to wait while this is in process. . . . I don’t know if this is final . . . is anybody aware?”

At this point, Tzougros says “they have rescinded the letter but there is a lot of process ongoing. . . my comfort level would be in holding it and acting . . . if you as a board said ‘I’m not going to give it until I see the resolution of this process’ I’m good with that. I would hate to see you say ‘absolutely not’ because there is no coming back from that because the money would have to be distributed elsewhere.”

Then Lawton claimed “it’s a hiring of a dean, they don’t want a news story that goes on the air,” to which Board member Jerry Kember replied “they may try to sidestep . . . may sidestep the issue, the real issue.” Replied Lawton: “and that’s why I think we could flag it for our next meeting, and it would allow all of us to examine it more carefully and to examine the implications.”

Meinke then jumps in with “you realize she would be coming from a school with equivalent religious base . . . she’s already working at a school that is exactly like Marquette, and I just don’t understand.” Aside from the fact that she is not a dean at Seattle, Meinke seems oblivious to the fact that some “Catholic” universities take their Christian mission more seriously than others.

After a little parliamentary wrangling, Lawton invites a motion to remove Marquette from the current list of grantees, and to take it up in September. Tzougros then jumps in to insist that Marquette has a right to know why it is not getting funded. There is agreement on this.

A Dissenting Voice – That Quickly Backs Down

At this point Jerry Kember speaks up saying “I’m struggling with this a little bit in that I totally agree with Paul, but I also . . . I’m not sure it’s our place to make some sort of political stand here.” He is quickly silenced by Lawton saying “it’s discriminatory . . . .” Kember then folds saying “well, OK.”

Helen Klebesadel then chimes in with “I think it’s our place. . . I think it’s viewpoint discrimination, but I think it’s unresolved.”

Klebesadel appears not to recognize that “expressive organizations” have a right to “viewpoint discrimination” (that’s what being an expressive organization means).

Kember, in a final futile attempt to be sensible repeats the point that Tzougros made earlier, asking “who are we hurting? Are we hurting Marquette as a whole, or are we hurting the museum?” But Kember is quickly silenced, as Lawton says “we’re not hurting anybody,” and “it allows them to understand how this impacts their image and the messaging that counts. . . . ”

Later in the meeting, Meinke and Lawton return to their idea that the O’Brien decision is bad public relations. Meinke says of the controversy that “it does not paint a very nice stroke for the school or for the city of Milwaukee.” Lawton smugly adds “for the state, I think, for the state.”

Apparently, Lawton and Meinke care most about how the decision plays among secular liberals like themselves, rather than among loyal Catholics.

The motion to defer the grant to the Haggerty passes unanimously.


So a gay member of a liberal/left leaning Arts Board chose to make an issue of Marquette’s failure to hire a lesbian dean. By his own admission, he had no evidence that she was rejected because she was a lesbian. But he and the rest of the Board had suspicions.

(In fact, Fr. Wild knew O’Brien was a lesbian when he made her the offer, and only rescinded it when the nature of her writings became known.)

A couple of other Board members offered some caveats, but were overruled and silenced. The Board, claiming that this might be discrimination against a lesbian, decided to defer the grant to “send a message” to Marquette. It was, quite simply, an exercise in bullying.

And the claim of illegal discrimination looked for all the world like a cover for the fact that Board members don’t like Catholic views on homosexuality.

Both Meinke and Lawton were unavailable for comment.

Marquette’s Response

Our response to something like this would be to sue immediately, since Marquette has always maintained the right to “hire for mission,” and that includes the right to reject job applicants who outspokenly oppose Church teaching.

Marquette fully recognizes academic freedom, meaning that faculty (but not necessarily administrators like deans) have the right to reach whatever conclusions they want and publish and teach those conclusions, regardless of Church doctrine.

But Marquette is in fact playing it cool.

We talked to Wally Mason, Director of the Museum, and he told us that he had heard nothing further about the Arts Board decision. “We know nothing at this point” he told us.

Mason was a little perturbed that the letter announcing the deferral was released to the media before it was sent to the Haggerty. The Haggerty did know the letter was coming, since a supporter of the museum is on the Arts Board (but was not at the meeting).

But what is Marquette’s response? According to Mason:
We at the University decided in consultation with the Provost to not explore it any further with the thinking, I guess, that they made their point by this decision and maybe that’s all they wanted to do was make their point of stating this and I guess we’re optimistic that they’ll reinstate the funding in September.
In other words: no push back, but no groveling either.

Hopefully, Mason is correct and the funding will be approved. We can’t be sure, however. This could certainly end up as another of the cases (extremely common these days) in which the gay lobby (and liberal allies) persecutes those Christians who disagree with their orthodoxy.

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