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The Ontario, Canada Catholic School Board LGBT controversy.

2011-APR/JUN: Bishops' new statement allows
some freedom of expression. Student pushback.

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"LGBT" refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"GSA" refers to Gay Straight Alliances, student-led groups found in many high schools.

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This is a continuation of a previous essay

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2011-APR: Catholic bishops reverse their position, permit some freedom of expression:

Louise Brown wrote in the Toronto Star:

"In a surprise change of heart, Ontario’s Catholic bishops and school trustees have bowed to pressure to allow clubs that help students who are bullied because they are gay."

"While still not allowing 'gay-straight alliances,' this marks the first time Ontario’s Catholic school system has given the go-ahead to clubs that focus solely on homophobia, not just broad 'equity' clubs that deal with all kinds of discrimination.

The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association recently issued the memo asking Ontario high schools to let students form groups that address 'bullying related to sexual orientation,' as early as this [2011] fall."

"The memo [titled 'Enhancement of caring for all students in the spirit of the gospel'] stops short of allowing the 'Gay-Straight Alliances' (GSAs) common at many public schools — and denied at Catholic schools — because those are 'associated with activist groups, and the purpose of our clubs will be to provide support, not activism,' said Nancy Kirby, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

"Catholic school boards have come under fire recently for forbidding students to start gay-straight alliances — even though they have been recommended by Queen’s Park to help promote equity — because of the Catholic church’s delicate stand on homosexuality which accepts homosexuals as children of God but condemns the homosexual act as unnatural." 9

While accepting LGBTs as fellow humans, the church teaches that homosexual orientation is intrinsically disordered, and that same-gender sexual activity is a grave depravity, and unnatural. However, it recognizes that sexual orientation is, with very few if any exceptions, unchangeable. Because of their beliefs, they regard certain forms of discrimination against LGBTs to be just and moral.

Still to be determined will be the name or names that students will be allowed to call their LGBT-positive groups. That will be decided by a meeting of clergy, teachers, parents and students at a meeting on 2011-MAY-05.

St. Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga, ON is part of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. A Grade 11 student at St. Joe's, Leanne Iskander, tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance earlier in 2011 but was refused permission. She said:

“It looks like we’re mainly getting the club we wanted; we just can’t call it a gay-straight alliance or anything with the word ‘rainbow’ in it, so we’re calling it Open Arms until we come up with something better."

Her group will be allowed to meet on school property and will even be permitted to hold a special anti-homophobia day on JUN-03. Iskander said:

"We’ve never been allowed to have an anti-homophobia day before and we’re hoping to get guest speakers. But they’ll have to be approved by the principal. They don’t want the political affiliation that comes with a GSA."

Michael Pautler, director of the Halton Catholic District School Board, which had banned GSAs in the fall of 2010, welcomed the new directive, saying:

"Students will have the opportunity to form student-led groups that specifically address issues of bullying related to sexual orientation."

Natalie Rizzo, a student trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said there is an:

"... overwhelming response from students ... who would really like there to be an emphasis on anti-homophobia and learning about anti-homophobia (measures) ... not learning about that lifestyle, but they would really like there to be more systems in place to combat homophobia." 9

Religious and social conservatives often prefer to use the term "lifestyle." One reason is that the term generally refers to a chosen item, like working for a company rather than being self employed, or living in the city rather than in the suburbs, or being single rather than being married. The implication is that the "homosexual lifestyle" is both chosen and changable.

Religious liberals, secularists, human sexuality researchers, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. generally prefer the term "orientation" One reason is that it implies that a "homosexual orientation" is discovered, not chosen, and fixed, not changeable.

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2011-JUN-11: St. Joseph Secondary School students create innovative, creative pushback to the administration's censorship:

Photo of cupcakes The Roman Catholic bishops in Ontario Canada have been suffering under a revised Golden Rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules." The Ontario Government funds the Catholic separate school system in the Province and has been leaning on the Catholic hierarchy to end discrimination against LGBT students and help fight homophobia in its schools. The hierarchy is also faced with the results of a student poll which indicates a desire to receive more education on the diversity of human sexual orientation. The strongest response came from students in the schools run by the Toronto Catholic school board. This is distasteful to the church leadership because the church considers gays and lesbians to be disordered, and same-gender sexual behavior to be a very grave sin, irrespective of the nature of the relationship. The church officially promotes certain forms of discrimination against LGBT persons as necessary and moral. But money talks and so they are reluctantly cooperating ... within strict limits.

Forced to allow student run anti-homophobia clubs in their schools, they don't allow them to be called "gay-straight alliances" or to have terms like gay or homosexual in their names, or to show the LGBT rainbow flag anywhere. They have to be called by obscure names, like "Open Arms" or "Equity" groups. But the school administration didn't expect how innovative and creative students would be. At an anti-homophobia event, since they couldn't show the rainbow flag, the students baked a gigantic tray of multi-colored cupcakes arranged to look like the rainbow flag.

An article on the Toronto Star newspaper's editorial page said:

"Had we known in time, we’d have bought a dozen. This latest pushback from students should be a lesson to all Catholic educators. Stop fighting your students and work with them to do what’s right. ... Catholic board officials routinely tie themselves into knots trying to sound like they want to be supportive of their gay students while actively restricting many student-driven attempts to actually increase understanding, tolerance and compassion. It’s time the Catholic education system caught up to its students " 5

Toronto Star readers posted comments on this article. They were about 80% negative. A sampling of their postings:

  • Religion has been the cause of many, many deaths since it's inception!

  • The bigotry and exclusionism often practiced by the Catholic system violate the basic principles which govern this country. If they will not reform and make tolerance and respect for others a part of their practice as well as their ostensible policies, then yank their funding and make them pay for their own schools.

  • From abortion [access] to same sex marriage, Catholics have been told to "Get with it" for decades. Well, the Catholic faith is not a fad or a political movement. It is a faith than hundreds of millions of people around the world believe in. It is profoundly insulting and offensive to devout Catholics that people of little faith demand that obey their politically correct dogma. Sorry, but fads have been coming and going for 2000 years. The Catholic system is guaranteed in our Constitution. By the way, perhaps the author would care to explain why Catholic schools must fly this flag when the 'public' system does not allow Nativity scenes on pubic property, ever.

  • Religion is stupid, period, end of story. If people want to be stupid that's okay with me, just stop using public money to fund stupidity.

  • ...public money funding one faith based school system must stop.....it's unfair to all in the Province, divisive, and obviously wayyyyy behind the times....

  • These school propagate a God myth. They think that a God decided your sexual behavior at birth. How could they ever accept reality when they don't even promote it?

  • if you don't like the school policy, just move to another school. It is the part of the faith principle. So, if you don't believe that, then you don't go to the church and you don't go to Catholic school. Simple!

  • To eliminate a service duplication that is very expensive and breeds intolerance. The catholic school board as well as their church is VERY politically incorrect. Stop the funding NOW!

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Discussion of this topic continues in another essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Louise Brown, "Halton Catholic board overturns ban on gay-straight clubs," Parent Central, 2011-JAN-18, at: http://www.parentcentral.ca/
  2. Perez Hilton, "Dear Canada: This Rocks!," 2011-JAN-19, at: http://perezhilton.com/
  3. Louise Brown, "Catholic school trustees permit clubs focusing on gay students. About turn stops short of allowing ‘gay-straight alliances’ ," The Toronto Star, 2011-APR-27, at: http://olympics.thestar.com/
  4. Quotation: Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, ... tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'." Catechism of the Catholic Church. §2357.
  5. "Catholic schools: Embrace the rainbow," The Toronto Star, 2011-JUN-11, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  6. Catholic Student Leadership Impact Team, "Voices that Challenge," 2011-JUN-16, at: http://www.tcdsb.org/
  7. Patrick Craine, "Ontario Premier: Catholic schools have no choice but to accept gay clubs," Life Site News, 2011-JUL-04, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
  8. Louise Brown, "Still no name for Catholic clubs against homophobia," Toronto Star, 2011-AUG-19, at: http://www.parentcentral.ca/
  9. Louise Brown, "Catholic school trustees permit clubs focusing on gay students. About turn stops short of allowing ‘gay-straight alliances’ ," The Toronto Star, 2011-APR-27, at: http://olympics.thestar.com/
Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JUL-08
Author: B.A. Robinson
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