Catholic School That Banned Gay Rights Film Shoot on Campus Is Only Hurting Its Students

catholic school girls entranceApparently, people say no to Hollywood. People say no to Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. Even when a presumably ridiculous amount of money is on the table. Salesian High School in New Rochelle, New York, had initially allowed location scouts to take photos of the school for a movie shoot. That movie is Freeheld, starring Moore and Page, who play a lesbian couple. The Catholic school first said yes to the filming, but now they are refusing to allow Freeheld to film there. And it's believed to be because of the subject matter clashing with the views of the church.


The film focuses on the rights of Laurel Hester (played by Moore) who had lung cancer and was given a short time to live. Hester was a Lieutenant and a 23-year veteran with the New Jersey police. She wanted her partner, a woman named Stacie Andree (played by Page), to be able to receive her pension after her death. Andree and Hester lived and owned a home together.

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The production crew wanted Salesian High School to stand in as the town hall in the film where Hester applies for domestic partnership.

It is being questioned if the reason John Flaherty, the school's principal, changed his mind about allowing the film to shoot there was due to the fact that the film addresses gay rights. Michael Shamberg, Freeheld's producer, told The Hollywood Reporter that "they turned us down because of the subject matter" even though he stressed to Flaherty in a letter that the film was "not about gay marriage, nor are the women attempting to get married. It is about recognizing the dignity of a woman who was a brave civil servant." In the note to Flaherty, he added:

I believe the theme of the movie is what Pope Francis recognized just yesterday when he called for the Church to welcome and accept gay people.

Salesian High School has been featured for other big budget shoots, including the video for Fall Out Boy's "Dance, Dance." If Flaherty is denying Freeheld filming rights, is it because of the subject matter? Did he scrutinize the lyrics of Fall Out Boy's "Dance, Dance" before saying yes?

There hasn't been a response from the school directly to Shamberg since the letter, but he did comment to BuzzFeed:

All are welcomed at Salesian High School. Our school chooses to embrace the social issues such as hunger, homelessness, poverty, and helping the less fortunate.

The film's star, Ellen Page, tweeted words of support for LGBT students at Salesian school:

I truly hope this isn't a statement by the school noting their disapproval of same-sex couples having the same legal rights as everyone else. They certainly are allowed to deny a film from using their campus in a shoot, but I cannot help but question why considering the subject matter. Flaherty should make a statement to address this directly. Schools do have a responsibility to foster support and acceptance.

Meanwhile, the film did find a new location when May Paul Rosenberg of Rye Brook allowed Freeheld to film at his city hall building.

Do you think the school is making a statement against gay rights?


Image via SliceofNYC/Flickr

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