Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Rare Frown at a Cardinal

There is a bill before the Ontario Legislature today called the "Accepting Schools Act". While it isn't a national issue and I try to stay within my own province, the bill came to my attention today when a buddy of mine sent me a link about protests of the bill on the Legislature grounds. Among the leaders of the protests are Thomas Cardinal Collins, Cardinal Archbishop for Toronto. His grievance? The bill would allow students at all schools receiving funds from the Province of Ontario to form clubs similar to what is known as the Gay Straight Alliance - a group built on finding common ground between heterosexuals and their homosexual friends.

The main problem is that public schools are governmental entities. Not allowing groups such as the GSA to form chapters in their schools would be a violation of their Section Two rights. There's a concern that this would also affect catholic private schools, since many do in fact receive provincial funding.

Here's my take: your religious freedoms (under Section Two) as an institution don't trump the rights of your students. If you want to take provincial funding, you must be willing to accept that there is an extent to which the government has to cover their liability. Charter Rights only apply to protecting you from government action. If His Eminence would prefer not to allow his students to form these groups, he is more than welcome to refuse the provincial funding.

What's more, the Gay Straight Alliance is being misrepresented as an organization that promotes homosexuality. While there's a way to make that argument, it's intellectually dishonest. The state goals of the GSA is to promote tolerance of all sexualities. That is to say, as an anti-bullying group, their aim is to prevent harassment. It is an exercise in politeness, a value I rarely get to harp about given how rough-around-the-edges I usually am. We can ask the students to change the name if you like, but there's nothing any thinking catholic (or any other Christian, for that matter) should find objectionable in their aims.

I admit that I stand well to the left of the Church on just about everything. Let's take as read that homosexuality is immoral... so is bullying. We can't pick and choose our favourite evils. If a group wants to cut down bullying, let them cut down ALL of it.

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