February 29, 2016 (CardinalNewmanSociety) — A Catholic high school dropped apparel company Land’s End as the supplier of its student uniforms this week after the company publicly supported abortion advocate Gloria Steinem, an action which the school could not support given its Catholic identity and its primary duty to “teach and uphold” the Catholic faith in all areas.
“It was an easy decision,” Kristie Wolfe, president and principal of Fr. Tolton Catholic High School in Columbia, Mo., told The Cardinal Newman Society. “We are charged with teaching and upholding the faith. If that’s my job, then I had to act decisively and quickly in the face of such a promotion. I couldn’t, in good conscience, send our families to a company who endorsed and promoted someone whose life work is so contrary to our values.”
Land’s End, which supplied the school’s uniforms for the last five years, recently featured an interview in its spring catalog highlighting Steinem, and promised to donate $3 to the Fund for Women’s Equality, Inc., “in honor of Gloria’s work” in return for purchasing an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Coalition tote bag.
But when the clothing company’s praise of Steinem’s advocacy became known to the school, Wolfe acted quickly to notify parents, and promptly cut ties with the company due to its conflict with the values and Catholic identity of the high school. Wolfe then sent a letter to Tolton families explaining her decision, which read in part:
While Land's End has been one of Tolton’s official uniform providers since our opening in 2011, we cannot in good conscience continue that relationship. We believe unequivocally that all life is sacred, from conception until natural death. It would be contrary to our school’s very identity to support a company who celebrates the work of someone so opposed to our beliefs, a company who is conducting a campaign ‘in honor of her work.’ For this reason, Land’s End is no longer an official uniform provider for Fr. Tolton Catholic High School.
“Unfortunately, Gloria Steinem has been a vocal and consistent advocate for abortion rights for several decades,” Wolfe told the Newman Society, speaking about her decision to uphold the school’s Catholic identity at all costs.
Wolfe could not recommend Land’s End in good conscience, knowing that the company’s new campaign referred to Steinem as “a legend” for her abortion advocacy work, especially when Steinem herself “has spoken of women’s ‘need’ for abortion, and has referred to it as a ‘sacrament,’” she told the Newman Society.
“Of course, any clothes that your students have purchased from Land’s End in the past are still suitable for wear in our school,” Wolfe assured parents. But in light of the campaign, which was first reported by LifeNews.com, parents were directed by Wolfe to purchase future uniforms from a local provider that supports causes “consistent with our Catholic beliefs,” she said. Snow Creek Apparel, a company owned by a local family that sends its children to Our Lady of Lourdes and to Fr. Tolton Catholic, was suggested as an appropriate alternative.
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Hoping to quell the situation, Land’s End issued an apology on Wednesday stating, “We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women's equality. We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize.”
However, after the company scrubbed its website and online catalog of references to Steinem and her campaign, it remained unclear if donations would be discontinued or what would happen to the money already raised.
Tolton was not alone in its outrage. In addition to the many parents and families that complained, the College of the Ozarks, a Christian college located three hours south of Tolton, joined the high school in its opposition to the Land’s End campaign.
Vice President of Cultural Affairs Sue Head wrote to the company on Wednesday, expressing the College’s dissatisfaction, the News-Leader reported. “I find it ironic that your cover features young children and their families having an Easter egg hunt when Ms. Steinem stands for ending life in the womb,” Head stated. “We will not be part of advancing your agenda or hers.”
The College had previously provided scholarships to the 300 students who attend the K-12 school on its campus to purchase uniforms from Land’s End. Now it is seeking out a new uniform company that it can conscionably recommend to its students and their families.
“At College of the Ozarks, we believe we are called to stand up against those who seek to destroy the Judeo-Christian values upon which our country was founded,” said Head.
Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.