Recently a life celebration was held for Kathleen Clementson, B.D.A.E., C.S.B., a pioneering feminist artist of the stature of Judy Chicago, who went on to become a Christian Science healing practitioner, teacher and lecturer, speaking to university medical audiences between 1994 and 2001. Kathleen met her soulmate while taking primary class instruction in 1985 and ultimately wed Suzanne Nightingale in Brewster, Massachusetts, when the Commonwealth legalized same-gender marriage in May 2004.
Several years earlier, Kathleen had been ambushed by the Board of Education in response to an accusation that she was “leading a lesbian lifestyle.” A year after the trauma of the ambush, a member of the Christian Science board of directors expressed support for Kathleen: “We’re behind you 100 percent.“ And she was next called to a meeting with the Board of Education and informed that she could teach homosexual students to be Christian Science healers.
This turn of events led Kathleen to reason that, since the Church was no longer condemning homosexuality, and since the church was governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, when same-gender marriage became legal in Massachusetts, a legal marriage would not be an issue for the church.
Kathleen and Suzanne traveled to Cape Cod to be among the first applicants for marriage licenses. They attended the Sunday service at First Church, Brewster, where Kathleen was recognized and approached afterward by the two readers. She freely shared the glad news of her impending nuptials, but both women expressed shock and outrage. Kathleen tried to assuage their concerns by stating, “The Board said they’re behind me 100 percent.”
As a result of this innocent statement, Kathleen was deemed, without a trial, to have committed a serious offense against the church. She was summarily placed on three years’ probation and commanded to repent. In response to this harsh, unjust treatment, Kathleen submitted her resignation from church membership, returned her Normal Class certificate by registered mail, and liquidated the Pupils’ Association funds by check to the Treasurer of the Mother Church. Her card, advertising her healing practice, was also withdrawn from the Christian Science Journal.
Only one colleague from the Board of Lectureship ever reached out to her after these events and nearly all of the scores of her regular patients shunned her. She received cards of congratulations from perfect strangers and also calls from Christian Scientists questioning her judgment.
Despite these travails, Kathleen faithfully and persistently continued her practice of spiritual healing. She expressed no hard feelings toward those who disfellowshipped her. Over the next decade and a half, a small core of clients continued to call upon her, and occasionally someone new in the LGBTQ community would reach out for help. But for the most part no one seemed to give any thought to the steep price she had paid in marrying her soulmate. Kathleen never regretted any of her actions.
Those desiring to honor Kathleen’s sacrifice are invited to make a gift in her memory to the American Civil Liberties Union, whose ceaseless efforts toward social justice for LTBTQ people brought such blessings upon her life.