A Colorado Catholic school's decision to deny enrollment to a young child with lesbian mothers has divided the religious community with some questioning whether a preschooler should be used to make a political statement.
The child, currently a preschool student at the Sacred Heart of Jesus school in Boulder, would be allowed to finish out the school year, but would not be readmitted for kindergarten in the fall.
The move came after the parents' sexual orientation drew the attention of the parish priest, the Rev. Bill Breslin, and the Denver archdiocese.
Breslin did not return messages seeking comment, but explained his decision in a lengthy blog posting in which he defended his decision as protecting the child and the parents "from the necessary conflict that their relationship would bring to a clear-seeing and committed Catholic community."
"It is not about punishing the child for the sins of his or her parents," he wrote. " It is simply that the lesbian couple is saying that their relationship is a good one that should be accepted by everyone; and the Church cannot agree to that."
The child's ousting became public after some of the teachers who didn't agree with the decision contacted Boulder Pride, the city's gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender services organization.
The child's parents are adamant, executive director Aicilia Lewis said, about not being identified.
"Like any parent, they want to protect their family," she said.
But some members of the community, including a contingent of heterosexual Catholics, are expressing their anger and frustration on the mothers' behalf.
A group of protesters converged on the church for Sunday's Mass, many carrying signs with statements such as "the true heart of Jesus has love for all."
Even some of Breslin's own parishioners didn't agree with the decision.
"I just feel the Catholic Church is a church that should be teaching acceptance and tolerance. I just don't think this is an example of that," Juli Aderman-Hagerty told ABC's Denver affiliate KMGH. "Father Breslin said it right. We're all sinners. Why discriminate against this end of sinners?"
But his congregation and the Denver archdiocese has largely stuck behind Breslin.
"People who understand the Catholic teaching will understand why the decision was made," Fabien Ardila told KMGH after Mass this past Sunday.
Priest Stands Up for Catholic Values Because 'It Seems No One Else Is'
The archdiocese posted a statement on its Web site that read in part, "Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment."
"To allow children in these circumstances to continue in our school would be a cause of confusion for the student in that what they are being taught in school conflicts with what they experience in the home," the statement read.
The school is allowed by law to deny enrollment to any child and is not bound by the same anti-discrimination laws upheld at public schools because it is a private religious institution. A woman who answered the phone at the school said they had no comment on the matter.
Breslin spoke at length on the subject Sunday during a sermon that Boulder Pride board president Dave Ensign attended.
"It was a little hard to hear," he said. "You get a little bit raw."
"I've been around the block a few times on these issues. I don't get too angry," he said. "I feel for the people who are involved. I see a lot of hurt people."
Instead of reacting with anger or furstration, Boulder Pride has encouraged its supporters and supporters of the lesbian couple and their child to contact the school and the archdiocese. They held a short-notice meeting last week to allow the community to vent and share ideas and plan to do more in the future.
By Breslin's own blog, which retold Sunday's sermon, there seems to be no shaking the priest's faith that he is defending his church by forcing the child to leave the school.
"We need to fight for our Catholic values because here in Boulder it seems, no one else is. In many ways, I feel quite alone, even though I know I am not alone," he wrote.
"How long has it been now that we have felt intimidated about our teaching on the sacrament of marriage -- even to the point of feeling that we should apologize for our faith?" he wrote.