Ontario Catholics should not be intimidated by education minister’s warnings
Special to National Post | Oct 15, 2012
By Teresa Pierre
In the United States there is the HHS mandate that forces hospitals and schools among other Catholic institutions to provide insurance that covers free contraception to their employees — despite the obvious insult to Catholic teaching.
In Ontario, there was the controversial anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, enacted into law in June that requires Catholic schools to allow the formation of activist clubs called Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) when requested by students.
In both situations supporters of freedom of speech and conscience are refusing to stand by while government dictates what their institutions and employees must do. Instead of violating Catholic teaching many have chosen to fight back.
The bishops tried to resolve the Church-state controversy over the contraception mandate with a request to allow Catholic institutions to be able to opt out of providing insurance plans that offer contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs. When this failed, over 40 Catholic institutions launched lawsuits against the government.
In Ontario, thousands of letters have gone out to Catholic parents from the advocacy group Parents As First Educators (PAFE), which opposed Bill 13.
Bill 13 demands that Catholic schools allow the formation of gay-activist clubs in their schools. Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto Cardinal, has said these clubs have demonstrated hostility to the teaching of Catholic doctrine and therefore should not be forced on Catholic schools.
PAFE commissioned a legal brief that shows Bill 13 forces schools to violate their religious principles. The British North America Act guarantees Catholic schools the right to govern themselves in a Catholic way. Bill 13 violates this constitutional guarantee by forcing GSAs into Catholic schools.
PAFE is therefore asking concerned parents to call their school trustees and request that boards adopt a model of anti-bullying clubs that does not violate Church teaching.
PAFE is asking trustees to set up “Respecting Difference” clubs, which were proposed by the Catholic Bishops of Ontario to deal with bullying but respect Catholic teaching on homosexuality. These clubs are the constitutional and responsible solution to bullying in Ontario Catholic schools.
Meantime, Ontario education minister Laurel Broten sent shockwaves internationally when she advocated restricting the expression of Catholic beliefs in publicly funded Catholic schools. She made the remarks at a press conference on a pro-life campaign to end abortion funding in Ontario. The New American blog reports that she said that the schools should not teach Church teachings on homosexuality or abortion because they contradict the recently passed Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13):
Bill 13 has in it a clear indication of ensuring that our schools are safe, accepting places for all our students. That includes LGBTQ students. … Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny, taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take.
We do not allow and we’re very clear with the passage of Bill 13 that Catholic teachings cannot be taught in our schools that violates human rights and which brings a lack of acceptance to participation in schools.
It appears that the Minister may be trying to privilege the rights of gay students as well as the “right” to choose an abortion over the denominational rights of the schools.
If Ms. Broten tries to undermine the schools’ denominational rights Catholic taxpayers will have every right to challenge the government in court. To prevent Catholic schools from teaching their beliefs on sexuality would obstruct schools’ constitutional rights negotiated at the time of Confederation.
As long as Ms. Broten threatens to eliminate Catholicism from the Catholic schools, she betrays the trust of our forbearers. This is very ironic coming from the party of multiculturalism and tolerance.
All of this begs the question: are the McGuinty and Obama administrations really ready to try to silence religious traditions for political gain? This does not just impact Catholics — but any religious group that holds beliefs not necessarily in sync with the fashion of the times.
I don’t believe Canadians or Americans are ready to go quietly into the night.
Teresa Pierre is the president of Parents As First Educators