Follow-up on New Ontario Law Allowing GSAs in Catholic Schools

Last week, we reported that the Ontario Parliament passed Bill 13 into law which allows students at the state-funded Catholic schools there to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs).

Since that time, there has been some interesting response and commentary, which I would like to summarize here.

Perhaps most importantly, Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins released a statement calling on Catholic schools to respect the new law.  Such a statement is newsworthy because Collins and others in the Canadian hierarchy had strongly opposed the bill. U.S. Catholic quoted the statement, in part:

“The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario has expressed serious concerns regarding certain aspects of this legislation, as have numerous other individual citizens and groups.

“Recognizing that the Accepting Schools Act is now the law, Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities.

“Bullying, in any form, is unacceptable. At the core of our Catholic Christian beliefs is the command to welcome every person with love and respect.”

Collins’ statement surprised some because the week before the law was passed, he was referring to it as an infringement on religious freedom.

Commentator Michael McGough, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, noted how vastly different Collins’ approach is compared to how the U.S. bishops have been responding:

“At a time when U.S. Catholic bishops are crying foul — or crying wolf? — about intolerable intrusion on their religious liberty in the form of ‘Obamacare’ regulations, it’s interesting to speculate how they would react to a law like Ontario’s GSA requirement. . . .

“Canada and the U.S. have much in common, but I can’t imagine this country’s assertive Catholic hierarchy humbly acknowledging that an unwelcome enactment ‘is the law.’ ”

McGough’s argument is too complicated to be summarized here, but if you want to learn his reasoning for such a claim, I suggest you read the entire essay.

While the trustees who administer the schools have opposed the bill, great support for the new law has come from the Catholic teachers’ association. The Globe and Mail reports:

“Catholic teachers in Ontario are calling on school administrators to embrace the province’s new anti-bullying legislation allowing students to form gay-straight alliances, even as pro-life activists push for a constitutional challenge.

“Kevin O’Dwyer, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said his 43,000 members welcome the legislation, which passed third and final reading on Tuesday, because it allows schools to protect students from homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

“ ‘I think it’s going to be a positive experience for students to engage those clubs, whatever name they choose,’ Mr. O’Dwyer said in an interview.

“He is hoping that Catholic school trustees can overcome their objections to legislation that they argue contradicts church doctrine condemning homosexual activity.”

As an aside, I must interject that it defies logic to wonder how administrators can think that supporting GSA’s condones homosexual activity.  Would they say that any support group that includes heterosexual students condones heterosexual activity?

Not all Canadian Catholics, however, support the new law.  MetroNews.ca reports that the Campaign Life Coalition is calling for a court challenge.  A statement from the group said:

“ ‘This legislation now puts a radical homosexual agenda in every publicly-funded, Catholic and Public school across Ontario, under the guise of “bullying prevention,” ‘ said the pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition in a statement released after the bill passed third reading Tuesday. It urged all taxpayers and Catholic School Boards to fight the law in court.

But The Globe and Mail article quotes a political expert who says that such a challenge may end up ringing hollow since so many Catholics support the new policy:

“Frank Peters, a professor at the University of Alberta and an expert in education policy, said the Catholic educational community has not been well served by this kind of forceful opposition. ‘I think there’s a fairly strong segment within the Catholic church who wonder just exactly how this is in contravention of Catholic teaching.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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2 Responses to Follow-up on New Ontario Law Allowing GSAs in Catholic Schools

  1. [...] June 14, 2012:  Follow-up on New Ontario Law Allowing GSAs in Catholic Schools [...]

  2. […] Catholic school system has made some great strides in regard to LGBT issues over the past few years. Three recent developments provide hope that these schools will only become more and more inclusive […]

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