by Fr. John Flynn
ONTARIO, June 1, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In the name of combating bullying and ensuring tolerance, the Canadian province of Ontario is obliging all schools, including Catholic schools, to permit “gay-straight alliances.” The new amendment was announced last Friday by Education Minister, Laurel Broten.
The Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association called the word gay “a distraction” and said anti-bullying legislation is supposed to protect all students, not just those who are picked on because of their sexual orientation, according to a report by the Globe and Mail newspaper.
“We don’t want to focus on the name,” said OCSTA president Marino Gazzola. “We want to focus on the content and what the groups are all about. These are externally developed groups that do not necessarily reflect the unique values of our students.”
The amendment, Bill 13, to the Accepting Schools Act, also provides for stricter penalties for those guilty of bullying and facilitates expulsions from school.
A letter issued on May 28 from the Assembly of the Catholic bishops of Ontario said that Catholic schools are committed to the priniciples of the Gospel that ensure love and respect for all people.
“We have a rich array of spiritual resources, and methods developed out of our faith tradition, which not only fight bullying, but shape a school environment that is welcoming to all,” the letter signed by Cardinal Thomas Collins explained.
The approach of a “Gay-Straight Alliance” to combat bullying was developed in the United States in the 1980s, the letter explained. “Because this model is so closely related to a movement with particular views concerning the human person and the issues of life, people who disagree with those views are understandably concerned that the model can serve as a means not only to address bullying, but to promote the views with which they disagree,” it continued.
Imposing the methodology of the “gay-straight alliance” on Catholic schools is troubling for parents who have sent their children to a Catholic school precisely because they expect an approach in harmony with their family and faith convictions, the letter explained.
“Why is a piece of provincial legislation being used to micromanage the naming of student clubs?,” the letter questioned.
The conflict over the legislation is being used by critics of the Catholic Church to question government funding of Church schools.
“The real question now is whether Ontario should be required to continue to support Catholic schools. The elephant in the room — public funding of Catholic schools — has become so destructive to fundamental rights and equality it’s impossible to ignore,” said Justin Trottier, spokesman for the Toronto-based Centre for Inquiry, an atheist group, according to a May 31 report by the National Post’s religion blog.
According to a May 28 article published in the Toronto Star newspaper, the provincial government provides annual funding of $7 billion to non-government schools.
As the bill continues to be debated by the legislature, protests by Catholics over the bill are continuing. “[I]t is simply intolerant to say that Catholic schools must in this regard teach something contrary to the Catholic faith, namely that there is no moral difference between homosexual acts and heterosexual acts,” declared Father Raymond J. de Souza in a column published in the May 31 edition of the National Post newspaper.
He also accused the government of being “unhinged” by the issue of homosexuality, given that research by the Toronto District School Board, “shows that bullying is primarily about body image and academic achievement, with gender, religion and income as other minor factors.”
What the government proposes, he stated, are both a violation of the constitution and an assault on religious liberty.
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On the NET:
Letter of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops of Ontario – http://www.archtoronto.org/pdf/statementantibullyingmay2812.pdf
Submission by the Catholic Bishops to the government of Ontario on bullying legislation – http://www.archtoronto.org/pdf/acbobill1314submissionmay12.pdf