A K-12 academy run by a traditionalist Catholic breakaway group is attracting attention for an apparent policy that forbids female referees from its basketball games, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
On February 2, two referees were to officiate at a basketball game at St. Mary’s Academy, run by the Society of St. Pius X. Ten minutes before the game started, the school administrator approached referee David Putthoff and asked that the female referee, Michelle Campbell, not officiate.
"He told us women were not allowed to referee there," said Putthoff, who spoke to the Capital-Journal. Putthoff, who is also director of basketball operations for the Topeka Officials Association (TOA), was asked to work with two male officials who had just finished working at a junior varsity game.
"I was shocked, immediately caught off guard. I said, 'If Michelle has to leave, I'm leaving with her,' and we all walked. As far as I'm concerned, I'm never coming back," he said.
Campbell said if she knew of the school policy, she would not have accepted the officiating assignment.
"This probably would have come up sooner or later, but I just happened to be the one who got involved," she said. "I was dumbfounded when I learned of it.”
"But I've gotten overwhelming support from other officials, and that's helped. Right now I'm trusting that the association will handle it in an appropriate manner. All the facts have yet to be gathered," she said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Putthoff said he plans to ask his TOA board whether to continue to provide officials for St. Mary’s Academy games. He said he was inclined to ask the TOA to suspend its association with the school.
"I'd be shocked if they remain an approved school," he said.
Father Vincent Griego, principal of St. Mary’s Academy, did not respond to interview requests.
The school generated another sports controversy in 2004, when its eight-man football team refused to play against a team that had a girl on its roster. They forfeited the game.
St. Mary’s Academy, according to its website, is owned and operated by the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic group. Generally opposing the liturgical reforms and doctrinal teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the society’s founder and its four present bishops are excommunicated.