By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2012
Once again, Ontario Catholic school boards are pushing back against the government's efforts to reduce bullying on the basis of sexual orientation.
In response to a bill that would guarantee the right of students to create an anti-bullying club and call it a "gay-straight alliance", the chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board says, "We're extremely disappointed and we're going to strongly oppose it."
Pat Daly, HWCDSB Chair, is also quoted saying, "Clearly there should be flexibility and respect for the denominational rights of Catholic boards." Apparently the so-called "denominational rights" of Catholic boards includes the right to prohibit students from starting clubs that uphold the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students.
The Catholic boards are asking for a compromise: students would be allowed to establish "respecting differences" clubs, but not "gay-straight alliance" clubs.
This seems at first blush to be reasonable: a creative compromise between two conflicting but equally legitimate interests can break an impasse and unlock peaceful engagement and innovation.
However, a compromise between right and wrong is still wrong.
Catholic boards opposing this legislation are not only on the wrong side of history, but also on the wrong side of decency.
The Christian doctrinal cop-out, expressed informally as "love the sinner, hate the sin", resembles nothing so much as the old "separate but equal" gambit to preserve the essence of racial discrimination against the march of civil rights.
Worst of all, these decisions are being made by educators who operate with full public funding!
Sooner or later, the Catholic boards' policies will change, as Ontarians run out of patience to continue supporting chauvinism with public money.
The choice for Catholic trustees is: change now and embrace the social justice the Church claims to uphold while they still have a choice, or change later when they are dragged, kicking and screaming.
If the latter, these trustees will be remembered, if at all, as the last cowardly rearguard of a morally repugnant policy of discrimination whose time has long past.