NEWS NOTES: April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014

NewsHere are some follow-up news items to previous posts:

1)  The Tablet reported that Conor Burns, a Catholic member of the British Parliament, said he does not feel welcome to receive communion in his diocese because his bishop  had suggested that Catholic Members of Parliament who voted for last year’s marriage equality law should not be allowed to receive communion.  Though Bishop Philip Egan had suggested banning these Catholic politicians from communion, the Catholic Conference of England said they have no plans to follow such a policy, according to Gay Star News.

2)  Following a heated meeting of parents who were upset that a nun with an anti-gay message was allowed to speak at an assembly at Charlotte Catholic High School, North Carolina, Bishop Peter Jugis of the Charlotte Diocese has written a letter “to express my support and encouragement for all the parents, students, staff and faculty at the high school.”   A copy of his letter is available on the WSOC-TV website, which reported this development. 

2)  The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that Ken Bencomo, who was fired from his teaching position at St. Lucy’s Priory H.S. in Glendora, California, for marrying his husband, is suing the school for ” wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the state Labor Code and breach of contract.”

3) Though publicly-identified LGBT groups were not allowed to march in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade last month, the central Massachusetts city of Holyoke welcomed Mass Equality, the state’s LGBT rights organization to march in its parade in honor of the Irish saint, reported WGGB-TV.  The Holyoke High School Gay/Straight Alliance, also marched.  Mayor Alex Morse said it was the first time in memory that LGBT groups participated in the parade.

4) TheSpec.com reported that Christopher Karas, a Catholic high school student in Mississauga, Canada, who had been told earlier this year that he could not use a quotation from Harvey Milk on a school poster advertising the students’ gay/straight alliance,  has now filed a complaint with Ontario’s human rights tribunal, accusing the school of systemic homophobia.  His complaint extends beyond the incident with the poster, and includes a history of incidents that Karas said he has experienced at the school.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

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Fired Transgender Educator Will Have His Day in Court

January 16, 2014

Jan Buterman

A Canadian judge has ruled that a transgender educator fired from a Catholic school should have his case heard in court before the Alberta province’s human rights tribunal.

In 2008, Jan Buterman was fired from teaching in the Greater St. Albert School district [a publicly funded Catholic school district] after transitioning from female to male, which Catholic administrators claimed was a violation of Church teaching.  That same letter terminating his employment also praised Buterman as a teacher. Since the firing, Buterman has pursued a complaint against the district in a lengthy legal battle. The Calgary Herald details the recent ruling by Justice Sheila Greckol, who hopes to resolve the matter:

“Justice Sheila Greckol of Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed the district’s request [to dismiss the complaint] in a written ruling obtained Friday by The Canadian Press. She said it is time for a commission tribunal to hear Buterman’s complaint.

” ‘Five years have passed since the school board terminated Mr. Buterman. The voluminous and continual retreading of arguments at the commission, as well as this application for early judicial intervention on thin grounds, has served only to delay the hearing on the merits,’ Greckol wrote.

” ‘Human rights process is not only for the lion-hearted and well-heeled conversant with litigation, but also for the timorous and impecunious — for all Albertans.’

” ‘The expeditious resolution of complaints becomes an issue of access to justice; justice delayed is justice denied.’ “

Initially, the school district offered Buterman $78,000 to drop the human rights complaint and remain silent about his firing. This offer was refused, and the teacher remains committed to the legal process even if there is no guarantee of victory. A hearing will be set in the coming weeks.

An outcome in this case could set Canadian legal precedents, as the St. Albert Gazette reports:

“This is one of the first cases of its kind to go before a human rights board in Canada, said Kris Wells, director of program services for the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, and it deals with a long-simmering issue: does a publicly funded Catholic school have the right to discriminate against someone based on their gender identity? …

“Buterman’s complaint said that his dismissal was discrimination based on his gender and disability (he had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a recognized biological phenomenon)…

“The Catholic school board is going to have to prove that Buterman’s transgender identity precludes him from being a good teacher, Wells said.”

Finally, The Edmonton Journal’s recent editorial highlights an important point Catholic schools should be taking note of: that even when legally correct, morally, these firings are wrong. The editors write:

“District officials also should do some soul-searching. Perhaps the human rights tribunal will eventually find such discrimination was technically within the district’s rights as a Catholic organization under Canadian law. But on the simple moral test of right and wrong, the school district was wrong to fire Buterman. The quality of his teaching, the only thing that should matter in a publicly funded school district, was never at issue…

“Anyone who thinks that violates the principles of Catholicism should take a page from Pope Francis, who has talked about the need for compassion, not judgment, and the importance of love.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Canadian Catholic Schools Update LGBT Policy, But Not All Are Satisfied

September 16, 2013

Vanier Catholic High School

A Catholic school district in Canada has released a new draft policy on homosexuality, after controversy erupted in April at a high school there. The policy has pleased Church officials in the area and is acceptable to government officials, while others remain ambiguous on this latest action to make Catholic schools in that nation more LGBT-friendly.

In April, a gay teenager who was a student at Vanier Catholic Secondary School complained to the provincial government that the school’s document on LGBT issues was homophobic and violated civil law. Giving the state funding that Catholic schools in Canada receive, they must adhere to laws about non-discrimination and LGBT rights. Officially, the education minister in Yukon stated the document violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yukon News reporters further:

“The new document, released for public review on Wednesday, would serve as a replacement for a former policy that called homosexuality a ‘disorder’ and an ‘intrinsic moral evil’ – words that echo the church’s official views on the matter…

“The controversial language found in the old policy is gone, although the new document still cites the same church documents that describe homosexual acts as sinful – the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a 1986 letter from the Church to its bishops are both listed as footnotes on the new policy.”

However, the new policy also speaks about the Church’s commitment to respecting the dignity of every person and implements a plan to ensure discrimination and hate crimes are dealt with in a timely manner.  This change comes after another gay student at Vanier Catholic was forced to use a locker with an anti-LGBT slur carved in it for two weeks in 2012. Anti-bullying measures are elucidated for staff, and students will now be allowed to form gay-straight alliances, which henceforth have been barred.

Not all find the policy a step forward, including Professor Kristopher Wells of the University of Alberta, who studies sexual minorities. CBC News reports:

“Wells says the Yukon Government already has a sexual identity and gender identity policy in place. He says a second policy creates two classes of personal rights.

” ‘So the question to ask is, would we do that to any other group of students? … For example, would we have a completely separate policy for Aboriginal students that limits their abilities and freedoms within schools? Really there can be no separate but equal. What this policy does is it creates an educational apartheid in our schools.’

“Wells says Vanier school adopting its own sexual orientation policy is a step in the wrong direction. He says policy must apply equally to all students in publicly funded schools, adding anything less is discriminatory.”

The policy will now go before the Whitehorse council for Catholic schools to be approved or reworked. In the meantime, it is likely that LGBT advocates will continuemaking Catholic schools in Canada more LGBT-friendly.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Another Canadian Catholic Teen Speaks Out for Equality

April 18, 2013

In Canada it seems that Catholic school teenagers are leading the struggle for LGBT equality in church institutions.

Last week, we reported the case of an 11th-grader in Yukon province who successfully lobbied to have a bishops’ document removed from his Catholic high school’s website because it contained pastorally harmful terms to describe lesbian and gay people.

Halla Scott

This week, we have the case of a Saskatchewan 11th-grader who is trying to form a gay-straight alliance in her Catholic high school, but meeting with roadblocks from the administration.  Halla Scott, a student at LeBoldus High School, Regina, said that when she proposed the idea, she met with resistance.  The CBC.ca reports:

“She said a guidance counsellor suggested her idea might go against Catholic values.

” ‘It’s funny … the main Catholic value is to treat your neighbour as you want to be treated,’ she said. ‘If that’s true, wouldn’t you want to treat your LBGTQ [lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer] neighbour the same way as you’d like to be treated?’ “

“She said if the group got the green light to proceed, students would support it.

” ‘It would provide support to LGBTQ students in the school and also, you know, help squash some stereotypes that some people hold about students that identify that way,’ she said.”

If Scott succeeds, it will be the first gay-straight alliance in a Saskatchewan Catholic school.

One lesson to be learned from these stories is that the next generation of Catholics seem willing to continue to the struggle for LGBT equality in church institutions.  They have a lot more support in that struggle than previous generations have had, and may meet with much greater success.  The future looks bright.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Gay Teenager on Catholic Policy: ‘Somebody Had to Say Something”

April 11, 2013

Liam Finnegan

A gay teenager in Canada’s Yukon province has successfully lobbied to have a document which describes homosexual orientation as “intrinsically disordered” and homosexual acts as “acts of grave depravity” to be removed from his Catholic high school’s website.

Liam Finnegan’s complaint arose when he read the document “Living with Hope, Ministering by Love, Teaching in Truth,” on the website of Vanier Catholic Secondary School, in the city of Whitehorse.  According to The National Post Finnegan, 16, observed:

“There were a few things in the document that were not homophobic and that made me think that maybe this isn’t such a terrible thing, since it said homosexuals shouldn’t be discriminated against, and I liked that part of it. But then as I continued reading the policy it veered into the ridiculous, describing homosexuality as an ‘intrinsically moral evil’ and saying that I was a ‘sinner’ and that I needed to be ‘healed.’ ”

“Somebody had to say something.”

So Finnegan, supported by his fellow students, started speaking out about the document, and his complaint eventually rose to the highest level of provincial government.  Xtra.com reports that Scott Kent, the provincial education minister eventually met with Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse, and the bishop agreed to remove the document:

“ ‘Both [Kent] and the bishop could agree immediately that the most important thing was that students felt safe, welcome and protected in school,’ cabinet communications director Matthew Grant says. ‘The minister requested that an actual policy be developed around the particular issue in question, something developed on the grassroots level with students, parents and members of the school council.’ ”

Catholic schools in Canada receive government funding, and so are answerable to government policies concerning education. Xtra.com explains the church-state relationship and why the Catholic document needs to be re-thought to conform with government standards:

“[Grant] says that work needs to be done to bridge the gap between the religious document and the Department of Education’s policy on gender identity and sexual orientation. That policy, which was adopted in September 2012, requires schools to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer and questioning people.

“Grant confirms that the policy applies to all publicly funded schools, including the Catholic schools. With the exception of the French secondary school, Yukon does not have school boards. Instead, Yukon’s 28 public schools, which include three separate Catholic schools, are administered by the territorial government with the assistance of elected school councils, which advise the minister. Both public and Catholic schools in Yukon receive all their funding from the government.”

Congratulations to Mr. Finnegan for his successful campaign!  May we all follow his example of speaking up against injustice!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Catholic Activists Helped Bring Marriage Equality Case to the Supreme Court

March 28, 2013
Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor

Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor

Yesterday, Bondings 2.o highlighted the role that Catholics played at the prayer service and public demonstration as the Supreme Court heard two cases involving marriage equality this week.   Today, Jamie Manson, award-winning columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, highlights an important behind-the-scenes story about Catholic involvement in one of those cases–the challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).   The plaintiff in that case is Edie Windsor, who was  married to Thea Spyer,  Toronto, Canada, in 2007.  Their marriage was recognized since 2008 by New York State, where they lived.  Yet, when Spyer passed away, Windsor received  a$363,053 estate tax bill  from the federal government which would not have been sent if the married couple were heterosexual.

What Manson highlights is the work that three Catholic gay activists, who are members of Dignity/New York, did to bring this case to the Supreme Court.  The first is Brendan Fay, who arranged for Windsor and Spyer’s wedding in Toronto.  Manson explains:

Brendan Fay

Brendan Fay

” ‘Edie called for help. It was urgent,’ Fay says. Windsor’s partner of almost four decades, Thea Spyer, had been battling multiple sclerosis since 1975, and doctors had given her only months to live. Fay reached out to Canadian Judge Harvey Brownstone of the Ontario Court of Justice, who gladly performed the ceremony.

“Fay was part of a small contingent of friends that shepherded Edie and Thea, who was confined to a motorized wheelchair, to a Toronto hotel, where they were married May 22, 2007.

” ‘There was hardly a dry eye as they exchanged words, “With this ring I thee wed … in sickness and in health, till death do us part,’” Fay remembers.”

When Fay learned of Windsor’s estate tax problem, he sought aid from two friends:

Vincent Maniscalco and Edward DeBonis

Vincent Maniscalco and Edward DeBonis

“After Mass one evening, he enlisted the help of fellow Dignity members Edward DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco, who have been married since 2002. (Theirs was the first Catholic same-sex wedding announced in The New York Times.) DeBonis, an attorney, immediately thought of [Roberta] Kaplan [the attorney who argued Windsor's case at the Supreme Court yesterday], whom they had watched argue the 2004 marriage suit filed by 13 couples before the New York State Court of Appeals.”Robbie was compelling,” DeBonis recalls, “and she and her partner, Rachel Lavine, have been passionate about the marriage equality issue for many years.”

And Windsor attributes all her celebrity status to Fay:

” ‘Everything that has happened to make me so famous at this moment is caused by Brendan Fay,’ Windsor told the crowd a few weeks ago at a benefit concert for the St. Pat’s For All parade, an event Fay spearheaded in 2000. ‘When I first saw the brief that said Edie Windsor vs. the United States of America, I said, “No, no, blame him, not me!” she laughed.’ “

Bondings 2.o already noted the role Catholics have played in the prayer service and demonstration at the Supreme Court, as well as the fact that six of the nine justices on the Court are Catholic.  Manson’s story highlights yet another important role that Catholics have played in this story.  Fay, DeBonis, and Maniscalco are to be lauded for living their faith so boldly and generously.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Ontario Catholic School Controversy Could Easily Have Been Avoided

March 3, 2013

A recent story from Ontario highlights institutional Catholic intransigence over LGBT issues is trumping reasonable solutions to simple problems.

Xtra.ca, a Canadian LGBT news source reports on the case of an 18-year old secondary school student named Brooke who has experienced repeated harassment at a Catholic school in Windsor, Ontario:

Brooke with her girlfriend

Brooke with her girlfriend

“Administrators at a Catholic school in Windsor, Ontario, are allegedly threatening to launch a lawsuit in an attempt to silence a gay student who is speaking out against homophobic discrimination at the school.

“Brooke, 18, a Grade 12 student at St Thomas of Villanova Catholic Secondary School, who asked that her last name be withheld, has had a rough school year so far. It began with the death of her father on Oct 1. On top of that, Brooke says a teacher has been bullying her because she is gay and in a relationship with a fellow student.
“And ever since the teacher outed their relationship to her girlfriend’s parents, Brooke says, the school has become the only place the pair can see one another, so she has no choice but to stay.”
Brooke claims that harassment from her religion teacher, Jolene Coste, has been occurring all year, with the teacher making remarks in class about the girl’s relationship with her girlfriend and with negative remarks about homosexuality.  Things came to a head when Brooke alluded to an obscenity when answering  a question about “real” marriage on an exam.  Her response resulted in a ten-day suspension from school.
The arguing and accusations have been going on for most of the past school year.  School administrators have brought up the possibility of suing Brooke for defamation.
Clearly, this situation has gotten out of hand.  What is sad here is not just the possibility that a religion teacher would be bullying a student or that a student would resort to near-obscenity on an exam, but the fact that school administrators have not explored some way to mediate the situation by having the student, her parents, and the teacher discuss the situation together and come to some ground rules for behavior.
As Bondings 2.0 has reported, Ontario Catholic schools are state-funded, and are also subject to the province’s recent Accepting Schools Act, which was designed to eliminate bullying.  Though Catholic schools originally balked at such a law, this situation clearly shows the need for it.  One member of the Ontario parliament, Cheri DeNovo spoke to Xtra about the need for student safety:
“ ‘That’s not just physical safety, but also psychological and emotional safety as well,’ she says. ‘I call on every adult that surrounds her in that school system to stand up for her safety.
“ ‘Here we have a student in a publicly funded school that is not getting the support from her administration. She does not feel safe. Her concerns are not being addressed. Frankly, I think it’s disgusting that no [administrator] is standing up for her.’
 ‘DiNovo says it’s now the province’s job to ensure the act is enforced. Students shouldn’t have to face a legal battle to get the protection they deserve, she says. ‘[Education Minister] Liz Sandals herself should intervene. It’s sad we have to ask this of our students.’ ”
It is terribly sad that the government might have to become involved here.  Last week, Bondings 2.0 reported on a dispute in New York City between a Catholic pastor and a nearby drag show.  The dispute was easily resolved by the parties sitting down and speaking with one another.
In this school case, good Catholic pastoral care and simple human contact and dialogue could have defused this problem before it escalated to such proportions.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Formation of Gay-Straight Alliances Should Be Top Priority at Catholic Schools

February 6, 2013

National Gay-Straight Alliance DayToday is National Gay-Straight Alliance Day.  February 6th has been marked by a coalition of youth advocacy organizations to raise awareness for the need of such organizations in our schools. Catholic schools are no exception.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network highlights the challenges posed to gay, lesbian, and transgender students:

  • “More than 85 percent of LGBT students have been verbally harassed;
  • Nearly 20 percent of LGBT students were physically assaulted by their peers at school;
  • Almost 40 percent of LGBT students reported that faculty and staff never intervene when homophobic language is used in their presence;
  • Nearly 30 percent of LGBT students reported missing at least one entire school day because they felt unsafe.”

Those behind National Gay-Straight Alliance Day propose expanding the presence of GSAs at schools to combat negative experiences and provide greater safety:

“Violence and discrimination against LGBT students is the rule, not the exception, in American schools. It is a national disgrace that students feel threatened in school simply because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  While Americans need to know that thousands of students each day go to school or college and endure LGBT violence and harassment, they must also know that GSAs are a tool in helping end violence and that these student groups save lives.”

Nearly half of Catholic colleges in the United States offer gay-friendly resources (here is a full listing by New Ways Ministry) and there are many GSA-style groups in Catholic high schools,  but the establishment of support groups remains a conflict for many schools.

In Canada, the province of Ontario passed legislation in mid-2012 mandating that all schools allow student clubs focused upon sexual orientation or gender identity. Catholic schools, which are funded by the government, were included in the law, but critics claim they have failed to provide anti-bullying or school spirit groups with an explicit LGBT focus. The Hamilton Spectator reports on this criticism and the government’s firm enforcement of the law:

“But according to local activist Deirdre Pike, [not naming the support clubs "gay-straight alliances"] could leave students feeling excluded and without the support they need…

“‘Until they get intentional about naming these groups, the silence will continue.’

“The education minister’s office, meanwhile, says the legislation is “clear” about the government’s commitment to safe, inclusive and accepting schools for all students, including those who are LGBT.”

In Australia, Daniel Torcasio is speaking about his troubling experiences teaching at an all-male Catholic high school where homophobic speech, bullying, and discriminatory employment practices were commonplace. The former teacher details one incident in 2009 for The Star Observer:

“‘A 13-year old kid came to me and told me he was gay. He’d only told his family and a few close friends, and told me so that if he was ever bullied at school someone would understand the situation and be able to help,’ Torcasio said.

“‘Naturally I took it to the school leadership, who then went to the Catholic Education Office…’

“‘The reply back from them was that we were never to mention matters like this again. That kid could’ve come to me as a cry for help – if he’d said he was suicidal or that he was being bullied, we would’ve been told to help him in any way we could, but because he was gay, we weren’t ever to discuss it,’ he said.”

Torcasio also left that position because of policies against gay staff that created a culture of silence for fear of termination:

“‘I was fairly open about my sexuality in the staff room, but I couldn’t let one detail of my private life slip to my students. If I’d mentioned my sexuality to someone or a parent had complained, I would have lost my job,’ he said.

“Torcasio claimed the ‘Catholic ethos’ stipulation in teacher’s contracts was only enforced on gay teachers.”

Torcasio, an alumnus of the high school, had returned to teach at the school after fifteen years expecting students would be more accepting than when he was a student and experienced severe bullying. He was disturbed by a continued culture of homophobia. The Catholic school district officially has no policy on LGBT students other than bland language regarding Catholic values.

Clearly, the common thread in these stories is the desperate need for students, educators, and parents to speak up. In Catholic schools, the establishment of gay-straight alliances that provide safe spaces for LGBT and questioning students, allow peer support to emerge, and create respectful atmospheres should be a top priority.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related recent post

February 1: Raising LGBT Standards in Catholic Schools


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Parishioners Protest Courage at Toronto Newman Center

January 5, 2013

University of TorontoThe establishment of a Courage program at the Newman Center near the University of Toronto has created something of a firestorm in the parish community, and has even prompted the university to issue an official statement distancing the campus from the program.

Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper reports that the establishment of the Courage program

” . . . has caused a rift at the Newman Centre, which at least a dozen parishioners have stopped attending because they oppose the program and its principles, while the U of T has urged the centre’s leaders to discontinue it.”

Courage is an international of network of chapters which promote chastity, and some times have encouraged reparative therapy. It was founded in 1980 by Father John Harvey, OSFS.

The program’s content is seen as potentially psychologically harmful by some, including

“. . . one outraged Newman parishioner who has helped lead opposition to the program, and who requested anonymity over fears of discipline from his employer, decried ‘the harm and the damage it does, primarily to vulnerable younger people who are struggling with their sexual identity.’ ”

Although the Newman Center is independent of the University of Toronto, the campus administration has become involved in the situation:

“. . . four parishioners launched a formal complaint with the U of T – one of several the school received and solicited in recent months, a spokesman said. The university said in a statement that its vice-president of human resources and equity, Angela Hildyard, labelled the Courage program ‘inconsistent with the university’s values’ and has urged the Newman Centre to cease offering or promoting it, and to make clear in all its publications that U of T does not endorse it.

“The Newman Centre’s website now states, ‘This program is not offered by or connected to the University of Toronto.’ ”

New Ways Ministry has critiqued the Courage program because it treats a homosexual orientation as a psychological defect.  Though we have reported the establishment of such programs in various U.S. dioceses, this is the first report we have heard of where parishioners have protested the group operating within their community.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic School Board in Canada Allows Gay-Straight Alliances

August 21, 2012

The Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board, Ontario, Canada, has relented and agreed to allow gay-straight alliances use the name “gay-straight alliance”  in state-supported Catholic schools.  The decision comes after over a year of wrangling with government officials about the use of the name.  The provincial government passed Bill 13 in the spring requiring that a gay-straight alliance be established if a student requests one.

The Windsor Star reports:

“The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board has backed off its hardline stance against allowing gay-straight alliances now that the province has made accepting them law as part of Bill 13, passed in June.

“Secondary school principals and vice-principals will be undergoing training later this month on how to implement and structure such clubs, which will only be formed when a student asks for one.

” ‘We fully understand what the law says and we’ll be compliant with the law,’ said superintendent of education Mike Seguin.

” ‘So we’re prepared to do everything we can to make sure we have a safe and inclusive environment in that context.’

“In May the board said it would not heed the wishes of Premier Dalton McGuinty and allow the clubs to be called gay-straight alliances. Instead, board chairwoman Barbara Holland maintained the clubs would be called social justice equity clubs unless a law deemed otherwise.

“But with the passage of Bill 13, ‘An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters,’ on June 5, the province made law the allowance of clubs to call themselves gay-straight alliances in all school boards.”

The Catholic school board will also continue with its social justice equity clubs, according to Seguin:

“We decided to make social justice equity clubs mandatory in all of our secondary schools. And we did that by policy over a year ago. Those will continue because it’s our view that it’s better to address the needs of all people who are marginalized in different ways. Whether it’s people based on body type or special needs and so forth because we see bullying takes on a face that is very complex.”

Dallas Mahaney

The decision was met with excitement and enthusiasm from students eager to form gay -straight alliances.  CBC.ca reports:

” ‘There’s a lot of homophobia at our school and I think it would benefit our school a lot to have a safe environment for everyone,’ said Dallas Mahaney.

“The 16-year-old Saint Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School said he’s comfortable with being gay. He hopes the alliance will help destroy homophobia.”

According to a separate Windsor Star article, one student hailed the move as a way to end the interminable bullying she has received:

For several months almost daily at school, Adriana Unis endured bullying for who she is.

“I was in one class where they told me to kill myself,” the 15-year-old St. Joseph’s high school student said Wednesday about the taunts of a couple of boys last semester. “It was because I was gay. They were saying because I was a lesbian my parents should have killed me.”

Adriana Unis and Jouvon Evans

Unis said she had heard insults before, but those words hurt.

“I’m kind of used to it, I guess, but it was still upsetting,” she said.

Unis did not know what to do. She vaguely told a teacher about it, saying only that she was having some problems with kids, but nothing much was done.

That’s why she’s thrilled the provincial government has passed Bill 13, Ontario’s antibullying legislation, which requires schools to create gaystraight alliance clubs if a student requests one.

And one person with great experience with gay-straight alliances is looking forward to the establishment of these clubs:

“Jouvon Evans, who facilitates Windsor Pride’s School’s Out program, mentoring about 15 high school students on how best to run gay-straight alliances, said interest is increasing with such clubs.

“She said Bill 13 will go a long way to helping reduce bullying and promoting self-confidence.

” ‘People know there’s a comfortable space where they can turn to,” Evans said. “And they can rely on the teachers and the administration.’

“Though Evans said there can sometimes be a temporary spike in bullying when gay-straight alliances are created, she said homophobia soon drops after such clubs are launched with the backing of the school.”

Knowing the benefits that such a club can provide, one has to wonder why all Catholic schools, in all of Canada and the U.S., too, don’t establish such clubs.  Their presence in a school environment, where both homophobia and sexual identity questions run high, is a perfect way to enact Catholic teaching about the dignity of sexual minorities and about the need to eradicate prejudicial attitudes and behaviors.  Let’s hope and pray that Ontario’s example will lead the way!

–Francis DeBernardo–New Ways Ministry

Most recent  Bondings 2.0 posts on this topic:

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

June 6, 2012:  Ontario Legislature Passes Gay-Straight Alliance Law Despite Catholic Pressure

May 26, 2012:  Majority Favors Gay-Straight Alliances in Ontario’s Catholic Schools

April 28, 2012:  Catholic Support for Gay-Straight Alliances: ‘It’s what our faith calls us to do.’

For additional articles on the topic, search the category “Canada” .


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