The year is 2017. Remember this, as it is important.
Maddi Runkles is a senior this year at a small school in western Maryland. She has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, played on the soccer team, and was the president of the student council. She has never been a disciplinary problem. But Maddi will not be allowed to graduate with her class this month. Why? Because, according to school principal David R. Hobbs, Maddi was ‘immoral’. Maddi, you see, is pregnant.
Maddi attends Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland, a small Christian school. When Maddi told the school of her pregnancy in February, they immediately stripped her of her position as student council president and suspended her. Her father was a member of the Heritage board until his disgust with the treatment of his daughter led to his resignation. He appealed the suspension and Maddi was allowed to return to classes, but not to graduate with her class. Because she was immoral. Shades of Hester Prynne …
In a May 22 “Statement from Principal Hobbs” posted on the front page of Heritage Academy’s website, David Hobbs wrote “Let me clarify some facts. Maddi is being disciplined, not because she’s pregnant, but because she was immoral. … A wise man told me that discipline is not the absence of love, but the application of love. We love Maddi Runkles. The best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her immorality that began this situation.” Shades of Roger Chillingworth …
According to a statement by Maddi, “We sign a student code at the beginning of each school year that we’ll refrain from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and pre-marital sex, stuff like that. And other kids at my school have been caught drunk, defacing public property, and other things like that, but they’ve never suffered a punishment as severe as mine…. I decided I wanted to confess what I did and ask for forgiveness from my school, but the other kids who had broken other rules – even when they were caught – they still lied about what they had done. It just seems unfair. I tried to make it right, but was still shot down.”
Maddi says she considered abortion at one point, but her moral opposition to abortion led to her decision to keep the baby. For the past year and a half, the right-wing, evangelical Christians have been protesting loudly against abortion, decrying a worship of the ‘right to life’. And yet, this so-called ‘Christian’ school condemns this young woman who is guilty of no crime. She engaged in sex at least once. Frankly, Roger Chillingworth … er, excuse me, David Hobbs … she did nothing that 95% of your student body over the age of 15 has not done. And let me ask you, Mr. Hobbs … what if a male student engages in sex … will you ridicule and punish him?
Is it 2017? Or is it 1642, the year in which Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair, is imprisoned and forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her clothing to remind the world that she is an adulteress?
Maddi Runkles has worked hard … you do not achieve a perfect 4.0 by slacking. In all my years of college, I never went above a 3.82. We are no longer such a backward society that we believe sex should take place only after marriage vows have been spoken. The far-right Christian evangelicals cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot abandon Roe v Wade, de-fund Planned Parenthood, claim that abortion is a crime, but then fail to support the young women who get pregnant without being married. The evangelical Christians who voted for Trump on the single issue of abortion should be incensed by young Maddi’s story, should be storming the Heritage Academy with angry protests against the shoddy treatment she has received. But the masses are silent. Just as Hester Prynne wore the scarlet A, so will Maddi Runkles wear the scarlet I for immoral, and the world will remain silent.