DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Here are two things Catholics need to know about the appearance tonight during the Democrat national presidential primary debate of three black former students at Lansing Catholic High School who became instant local celebrities when they "took a knee" during football and basketball games in the 2017–2018 school year.
According to an Associated Press article published Tuesday, candidate Robert O'Rourke is bringing three of the four students who have come to be known as the LCHS4 in the Lansing area as his guests at the debate in Detroit because they have "served their community in one of the most American ways possible."
First thing to know: Lansing Bp. Earl Boyea is directly responsible for the anti-Catholic media frenzy nearly two years ago that turned these kids into local celebrities who, tonight, will most likely morph into national civil rights figures who are going to be bashing Catholic schooling forevermore.
Take it from me, who has 22 years of experience as a journalist around Lansing diocesan schools: They are not bad — some are excellent — and nobody was accusing the schools or the bishop of racism until Colin Kaepernick became famous.
Boyea is responsible for this mess for two reasons: First, the most prominent organizer of the months-long series of protests against the Church and Lansing Catholic was LaShawn Erby, the executive director of a hardcore leftist nonprofit Boyea has funded generously since 2012 with $260,000 in grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
As explained in Monday's article, the first part of a two-part series published yesterday, Erby hates Catholic Church teaching on the whole spectrum of LGBTQIA+ issues and on abortion. She also exhibits a special hatred for "little racists" like the Covington boys who were the object of left-wing media distortion in January.
Erby has benefitted greatly for her activism against Boyea and the Catholic Church and was named the top black political figure in Lansing last year. The headline of the article celebrating her carried this headline: "Meet Lansing's next generation of black leaders." Erby declined to be interviewed by this reporter.
And secondly, right from the start of the protests by the students, Boyea and his people backed off from defending Lansing Catholic's administration, which merely "benched" the students for the protest in the first game. He, or someone else in the diocesan bureaucracy, apparently silenced all of the coaches and administrators on the ground who could have countered the venomous campaign against the school and the Church that went on for several months.
Graham Couch, the Lansing State Journal's columnist who fanned the anti-Catholic flames on multiple occasions throughout the months of the controversies, wrote after the first protest on Oct. 6, 2017, that Lansing Catholic High School is no more racist than any other of its type, or of the society at large.
His article is must-reading for those who want to make sense of what has transpired after the CCHD-funded group decided to attack the Church for supposed racism and found a golden opportunity in manipulating the four black athletes at the school.
"I have no doubt that Lansing Catholic offers a terrific education of sorts, that academic standards are rigorous and that there are many good people associated with the school, including some of the folks being criticized here," Couch wrote. "It's probably not any worse than other predominantly white, relatively affluent private schools. No different than much of society."
Then things went downhill real fast for Lansing Catholic and the diocese of Lansing in Couch's column. Given that the school is not that racist, Couch nevertheless needs something to grouse about after the football game. He is, after all, an experienced columnist on a tight deadline with space to fill.
In his column, Couch asks simple questions every reader would ask, and he's wanting some response from Lansing Catholic officials about why the school doesn't want to do the whole Colin Kaepernick thing going on week after week. But the school principal at the time, Tom Maloney; the diocesan superintendent of schools, Sean Costello; Lansing Catholic High School Athletic Director Brian Wolcott; and football coach Jim Ahern all went silent.
Couch reported: "These are fair questions to ask of Maloney or Costello. They're not talking publicly. Same for Wolcott or football coach Jim Ahern."
As every media-savvy person knows, especially those involved in "crisis" situations, the last thing one should do in the heat of the moment is stop talking to the media. Yet, that is how most Catholic bishops behave; they speak of "dialogue, discussion, communication, transparency," but they are the most fearful and hypocritical leaders in our society. They go silent and surrender.
I sent Couch an email several months ago asking for an interview about his coverage of the student-led controversy, and he did not respond.
This story is long but not that complex. The Lansing State Journal has rather comprehensive coverage of the situation, from the start in October 2017 to today. A Google search for any of the names of the students or of the name LaShawn Erby will reveal plenty of coverage about the controversy.
As a Catholic parent who has lived in Michigan all my life and in the diocese of Lansing for the last 19 years, and whose three children have all attended Catholic grade and high schools, I really hope someone within the structure of the diocese of Lansing will mount some kind of credible defense of the schools today and after the famed "LCHS4" go national.
Final summation here: Let's take columnist Couch's word for it that Lansing Catholic High School is no more racist than the culture at large. The problem is the bishop who cannot defend himself, his schools or the hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. Sorry, Bp. Boyea: We are not racists.
As the shepherd of the diocese, Boyea should have tried to defend the boys and the school against ruthless manipulation by Black Lives Matter.
If ever there was a situation that illustrates the need to once and for all end the scourge of the CCHD, it is the scandal developing tonight at the debate in downtown Detroit.