The Roman Catholic Church and LGBT topics
2011/2012: Ontario, Canada: Catholic "separate
school" conflict over gay-straight alliances (GSAs)
In this section: "LGBT" refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"GSA" refers to Gay Straight Alliances, groups found in many high schools.
A five-way conflict surfaced in Ontario Canada over the desire of high school students in the Catholic school system to gain some protection from harassment, verbal violence and physical violence by fellow students through organizing Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). These student-run clubs have proven to be very successful elsewhere in North America.
The provincial government and the Roman Catholic Church find themselves in the middle of a five way conflict among:
- Students who are victims of abuse and who want a safe learning envirionment now. Many are not particularly impressed by assurances that "it gets better" sometime in the future.
- Teachers in the Catholic school system who are primarily concerned with their students.
- Trustees in the Catholic school system who actually run the schools. Some are very loyal to Church teachings and are committed to having school policies accurately reflect those values. Other trustees are heavily influenced by Church social teachings and are particularly concerned about maintaining a healthy non-abusive and non-discriminatory learning environment in their schools. They find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between:
- The Government of Ontario which funds the separate schools and has a policy of reducing the denigration of sexual minorities and lowering the level of hatred, violence, and discrimination of such minorities throughout the Province, and
- The Roman Catholic Church who are concerned with the preservation of the Church's teachings that:
Meanwhile, the majority of taxpayers in Ontario support equal rights for the LGBT community including same-sex marriage. Many are wondering why their income tax is going to pay for a school system that teaches beliefs about LGBTs that are so at variance from their own values and from statements by professional associations in the psychology, psychiatric and social work fields. Some are also wondering why the govenment practice such extreme religious intolerance. The Government of Ontario fully supports Roman Catholic separate schools financially, while schools run by other Christian denominations -- and by other religions -- receive no financial support.
It is very improbably that this conflict would develop in the U.S. because of the firmly established principle of separation of church and state in that country. That prevents federal, state and muncipal governments from funding parochial schools. Canada does not have such a principle entrenched in its constitutions and traditions.
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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-FEB-04
Author: B.A. Robinson