Sam Singer urinated on the carpet of his partner in a public relations firm because of an argument, or so people say. Singer denies it and says he poured beer onto the carpet to trick his partner. He explains: “This goes to my belief that a good mind f*** is as good as the real thing.”
Singer has now been hired to oppose San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone over his initiative to add clauses to union contracts to clarify that the schools “exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as held and taught by the Catholic Church.” The archbishop also wants to insert a “detailed statement of Catholic teaching on sexual morality and religious practice—taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church—into the faculty and staff handbooks.”
At the beginning of February it appeared that there would be an agreement between the archbishop and the teachers union on language that expressed the archbishop's goals. On February 5 the Associated Press quoted a union statement saying: “We are pleased that the document acknowledges that the teachers in out high schools are not all the same, like many Catholics around the world who struggle with their adherence to some teachings of the Church.” The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board observed that, “No one can quarrel with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone's determination to ensure that his rigid interpretation of church doctrine is taught at four Catholic high schools.” Since then Sam Singer has entered the dispute, and recognition that the archbishop has the right to control how the Catholic faith is taught in the schools of the archdiocese is much harder to find.
On February 25 SF Weekly reported:
Singer's campaign has already begun. LGBT supporters clad in black recently held an Ash Wednesday vigil, a somber fittingly dramatic affair. The protest bore the signature slickness of a Singer campaign, drawing news coverage across San Francisco, and all the way down to Santa Cruz.
The black-clad supporters also turned up on International Women's Day and March 13. Someone has rented the McLaren Center at the Jesuit University of San Francisco for an evening of “shared wisdom and discernment” on March 16.
One part of the campaign that makes this different from most disputes about Catholic teaching is the government involvement. Eight state legislators wrote a public letter saying the archbishop's plan will be in “conflict with settled areas of law and foment a discriminatory environment.” Two of them have demanded investigations by the California Assembly's Labor and Employment Committee and the Judiciary Committee. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted against the archbishop and the San Francisco City Attorney said the archbishop issued a “chilling directive.”
Singer is also currently defending Chevron from claims that its Richmond, California refinery is unsafe and attacking PG&E, over charges that its facilities are unsafe. His firm runs a pro-Chevron Richmond community news site and there’s a Twitter account from a pro-Chevron group, @4RichmondCA. There’s also a Twitter account attacking the archbishop, @4OurTeachers.
The website associated with the @4OurTeachers Twitter account says under “Who we are”: “We are concerned students and parents from the San Francisco Archdiocesan high schools.” No individuals are identified, there’s no indication of how many students and parents are involved and they never ask for money.
Mr. Singer's reputation is not only that of a hired gun. It's that of a hired gun who charges top dollar. Who is paying Mr. Singer? SF Weekly said: “As to how a ragtag bunch of teachers could afford Singer's services, he answered, ‘Concerned parents are footing the bill.'”
One magazine profile of Singer says: “You hire Sam Singer to have a fight.” Whoever hired him has gotten a fight. Articles on the subject no longer say that the archbishop is a reasonable man whose reasonable goals can be met by reasonable people coming together and reaching agreement. Instead they say that the archbishop is an affront to Pope Francis, who should be fired because he still believes the unpopular teachings of Catholicism.
Somebody paid for a fight. Somebody got a fight. It doesn't seem to be in the teachers' interests, but it is being fought in their name.
E. Michael Hamill is a writer in Philadelphia.