Archive for May 2012
Gay-straight alliances originate in the United States, as student organizations in high schools which provide safe spaces for non-heterosexuals and their straight allies. Gay-straight alliances have spread beyond the United States, as people have begun coming out at younger and younger ages around the world, Canada being one place where they’ve flourished. In the past couple of years, students at many of Ontario’s Roman Catholic schools, which receive public funding ultimately as a consequence of provisions in the early Canadian constitution allowing certain religiously-mixed provinces to subsidize schools belonging to denominational minorities, have wanted to form gay-straight alliances in their own schools. The Roman Catholic Church that runs the Ontario schools dissents on theological grounds, with prominent people like Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins denouncing legislation allowing for gay-straight alliances as oppressive; the Ontario provincial government, citing equity legislation and the school system’s receipt of public money, and drawing upon broad public support for gay rights, has introduced language into anti-bullying legislation that would prevent any schools receiving public money from banning gay-straight alliances by name or from lumping in organizations concerned with the experiences of gay students with anti-bullying and peer support groups generally.
There is also strong support for gay-straight alliances from students in both public and Catholic schools in Ontario.
In a 2011 survey of over 7,000 students for the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, 88 per cent agreed,”that a student wanting to establish a Gay Straight Alliance club in their school should be allowed to do so.”
What’s more, surveys in both Canada and the U.S. found bullying of sexual minority students is less common in schools that have an anti-homophobia policy and/or have a gay-straight alliance.
In a May 28 interview with CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten defended her new amendments.
“To many of our students, we know that the term gay-straight alliance has great meaning and that words matter and that if you can’t name something, you can’t address it,” she said.
Philip Squire, chair of the London District Catholic School Board, told CBC Radio’s Wei Chen that “no student has come forward and said they want a gay-straight alliance.”
The legislation actually accounts for that: If no student requests such a group, a school would not be required to establish a GSA.
I made a couple of posts back in 2011 about this but didn’t imagine this.
Is this fair. Let’s turn first to what the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality.
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition
What is “unjust” discrimination?
The 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”, authored by Joseph Ratzinger in his position as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, goes into more detail. The document is very hostile towards gay rights. Item 9, for instance, identifies homosexuality as a threat to public safety, indelibly marking the document as product of the great HIV/AIDS crisis.
There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups’ concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.
Item 10 even seems to explain away gaybashing as a predictable, if not quite defensible, consequence of the destabilization of traditional sexual moralty..
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.
More, the 1992 “Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination on Homosexual Persons”, a letter put out by the Congregation (still under Ratzinger), specifies ways in which the 1986 Letter should be interpreted. The 1992 note favours what would probably be termed “just” discrimination against non-heterosexuals, arguing that discrimination in employment (specific careers such as that of teacher or soldier) would be justifiable, as would be discrimination against gays in adoption and foster care, as would be active opposition to any legislation that might grant same-sex couples any recognition or rights, all in the defense of the traiditional family. Sexual orientation, indeed, is not a legitimate characteristic meriting protection: if people are quiet about their sexual orientation they’ve no grounds to fear discrimination.
The “sexual orientation” of a person is not comparable to race, sex, age, etc. also for another reason than that given above which warrants attention. An individual’s sexual orientation is generally not known to others unless he publicly identifies himself as having this orientation or unless some overt behavior manifests it. As a rule, the majority of homosexually oriented persons who seek to lead chaste lives do not publicize their sexual orientation. Hence the problem of discrimination in terms of employment, housing, etc., does not usually arise.
As the extensive Religious Tolerance site notes, this formulation seems to justify discrimination against people who are out, or people who are found out despite themselves.
One common theme in the language used by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Ontario regarding gay-straight alliances and anti-gay bullying is that this type of bullying doesn’t need any particular attention, or that highlighting this form of bullying must necessarily–somehow–lead to neglect of other forms of bullying. I don’t buy the thesis that attention paid to bullying is necessarily a zero-sum thing. More importantly, I don’t buy the thesis that the Roman Catholic Church has the best intentions towards the non-heterosexual children who find themselves in the schools that the Church runs, that by its enunciated doctrine the church sanctions discrimination and bullying against non-heterosexuals. It positively needs to be supervised to ensure that it doesn’t do terrible things to the children in its charge.