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Friday, May 05, 2006

"'Baby Killer' tells teacher's side in Loretto firing"

Here's an item of interest:

Anita Creamer: 'Baby Killer' tells teacher's side in Loretto firing
By Anita Creamer -- Bee Columnist

Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, May 5, 2006
Story appeared in Scene section, Page J1

Marie Bain insists she's a private woman, the kind of person who keeps her opinions to herself. But she's also an entertainer.

Which is why, she says, she developed "Baby Killer," a one-woman show based on her experiences last fall being fired from teaching drama at Loretto High School because of her previous tenure as a Planned Parenthood volunteer.

Nothing like a shocking title to jump-start the controversy again. So much for a quiet, private life.

"I come from show business," says Bain. "You need to get people's attention. The title comes from ... what they scream at us at the clinics. Extremists say horrible things to everybody. People don't get that.

"The play is about one year in my life. It's about when and why and how I started volunteering, through my hiring and firing at Loretto. In the play, I sing and dance. It's entertainment. I'm not giving a speech."

On a cool morning, we're sitting in the Sacramento home that belonged to her late parents. The house is filled with Bain's quirky, frog-themed collectibles. Her cat sits at our feet.

Bain, 51, is a dancer and actress who's appeared in "Gilmore Girls" and several low-budget movies. For now, she's teaching cardio kickboxing at American River College. But she'd like to take "Baby Killer" on the road after its brief run (starting Saturday, continuing May 13 and 20) at Sacramento's downtown YWCA.

"This play is about the First Amendment," she says. "It's about how someone has the right to stand on a sidewalk screaming hate speech, but I'm not allowed to express my beliefs before I was even hired.

"I said nothing to anybody at Loretto - not to the kids, not to anybody - about my beliefs. Nobody knew my beliefs on anything because I kept my personal beliefs private. But I was fired, and it became a media event."

Hired Aug. 24, Bain was dismissed seven weeks later, after a student's mother - an anti-abortion activist who'd seen Bain escorting clients at a family-planning clinic months earlier - raised objections, first with Loretto administrators, then with the local diocese.

Bishop William K. Weigand ordered Bain fired, and Loretto's president complied. Subsequently, school administrators expelled the student from Loretto, and her family was banned from campus.

All in all, a mess. A public relations disaster for Loretto, certainly, but also a very public nightmare for a self-proclaimed private person.

Imagine, if you will, how weird it is for a private citizen to find herself the subject of strangers' vitriol, expressed in letters to the editor, on radio call-in shows and all over the Internet.

"I've never dealt with anything like this," Bain says. "The level of hate out there is surprising and shocking and disturbing."

After she sued Loretto, she received an undisclosed settlement.

But for a while, the debate continued. For some reason, it came as a surprise to a vast number of local parishioners that non-Catholics teach at Catholic schools - and that a well-regarded private Catholic high school such as Loretto prides itself on the tolerance and open-mindedness it instills in its students.

Strangest of all, decades after the passage of federal employment legislation, people also seemed surprised to learn that employers are barred by law from asking job candidates about their personal lives and religious and political beliefs.

On the other side, many people - including Bain herself - were surprised to learn that many Catholics are progressive rather than conservative.

"Since I was fired, I've run into a couple of my students' parents," she says. "They come up and say, 'We're so sorry.' "

It's the strictly conservative strain of Catholicism, of course, that's helped fuel the unfortunate rise of knee-jerk Catholic-bashing, which seems rampant in American society.

"Baby Killer," the title of Bain's play, seems to pander to the Catholic bashers among us.

"You can't not court controversy on this topic," she says.

Granted. Writing about anything related to abortion is like walking through a minefield: Danger lies in every direction.

In a sense, the extremists have already won the debate: They've polarized the nation. And they've largely shut the rest of us up, because we know quite well the toxicity that will spew in our direction if we don't agree word for word with their views.

And so the fringe rules, despite the fact that for decades polls have shown that Americans support reasonable access to abortion rights.

If nothing else, then, let's give Bain an A-plus for bravery.

"My story is bizarre," she says. "That's why this is entertainment. I have a play to put on, because I have a very weird life."

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