Ontario Catholic Schools Balk at Gay-Straight Alliances

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com May 29 2012 11:28 AM ET

 

A plan by the Ontario government that requires Catholic schools to allow antibullying clubs to use the term “gay-straight alliance” has sparked a clash between religious freedom and public funding of Catholic schools.

The Globe and Mail reports on the dispute fueled by legislation that would require Catholic schools to allow the antibullying clubs to be called gay-straight alliances if the students want to use that name. According to the newspaper, the Catholic school system receives about 33% of Ontario’s annual education budget, and Catholics are the only religious group to receive such public funding for their schools. 

Thomas Cardinal Collins, the archbishop of Toronto and president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, issued a warning Monday about “the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of consciences.” The archbishop argued that trustees and principals should make the decision about what to call the clubs, not students. 

Education Minister Laurel Broten introduced an amendment Friday to the Liberal government’s antibullying bill that would strip school officials of their power to veto the club name “gay-straight alliance.” She arrived at the position after hearing from students who wanted to name their own clubs as they choose. 

Marino Gazzola, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, told the Toronto Sun that the legislation privileges antigay bullying over other forms of intimidation, and that the word gay is a “distraction.”

Broten argued that gay-straight alliance has become a generic term for all antibullying clubs. She said that cutting funding for schools that do not obey the law could be an option, according to the Globe and Mail. 

The Tories said they would attempt to block the amendment.