Alex Blaze

Publicly-Funded Schools Should Be Forced Away from Homophobia

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 30, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: britain, Canada, Catholic church, ontario, religion, schools, us

Another Ontario Catholic school district is fighting to keep GSA's out of their schools. This was their solution:

do-not-enter-catholic-school.jpgA Mississauga high school principal faces the ire of students after she drew an umbrella on a blackboard at the launch of their first gay-straight alliance group meeting.

Leanne Iskander, one of the founders of the St. Joseph's Secondary School group, said she was shocked the principal drew an umbrella to symbolize their GSA would have to be a part of an all-encompassing equity group.

"I know so many of the students were mad, but they didn't say anything because it was intimidating have the principal there," Ms. Iskander said Tuesday. "I think the meeting would have gone better if she hadn't been there."

The principal says that the GSA has to be about diversity and inclusion of everyone, from a Catholic perspective. Their right, a lot of Americans would say.

The thing is, Catholic schools in Ontario are publicly funded, a remnant of the tense relationship between Catholics and Protestants a few decades ago. In that light, though, one wonders what the hold-up is, why haven't Mississauga and Halton school districts just been forced to let GSA's meet on campus?

The thing is, the problem isn't even that simple in the US. I've blogged before about how conservative Christian universities that receive public funding (all colleges and universities in the US do except for Grove City College in Pennsylvania) but still ban queer students from meeting on campus and force students to sign oaths where they promise not to be gay. While federal law prohibits any school that receives public funding from discriminating along the lines of race and gender, sexual orientation and gender identity aren't held to the same standard. So colleges are free to go about psychologically torturing queer students who were are there either because of parental pressure or they made a decision at 18 that didn't take into account what they'd know about themselves by 22.

At the high school level, the Supreme Court has allowed public funds to go to private, religious schools in cases involving school voucher programs and AmeriCorps grants. Not that there's any tension there when it comes to queer students; as with universities, there is no law prohibiting LGBT discrimination when it comes to high schools that receive public funding.

Even if Ontario's Catholic schools were 100% funded by private donors, tuition, and the Church, I'd be hesitant to say that they can do what they want when it comes to queer students. Just as we have laws that prevent parents from being too terrible to their children because it isn't a child's fault she was born to abusive parents, a school shouldn't be allowed free reign in treating queer students differently from other students because most students there didn't choose the school themselves.

More importantly, private schools are replacing, not supplementing, a public function, and therefore should be held to some basic standards. It's not like Catholic schools provide an hour-long after school program; they become the center of their students' lives. With that power comes responsibility, and trying to get students to change their sexual orientation (through ex-gay propaganda, oaths, punishments, or even preventing them from discussing queer issues) is irresponsible. Neither the US nor Canada would fall into ruin if religious schools didn't exist, and the burden should be on them to prove why they should have control over students' lives, not on the students to prove why they should be allowed to live their lives.

And, of course, the heart of this debate is jingoism. While conservative Christians cheer every time more money is sent to their schools and Catholics in Ontario have made the two-tier schools system an untouchable issue for politicians, if vouchers go to Islamic schools... whoa nelly!

But that's just it when it comes to this debate. I've blogged about how obvious the British are in their hemming and hawing about Christian homophobia while they're very quick to denounce Muslim and secular homophobia. When it's a Christian who hates gays, suddenly it's a moral stance, it's because of their beliefs, it's a deeply held conviction, all of which are non-arguments that basically say that accommodations are to be made for Christians because people don't really believe queer people deserve a fair shot.

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*stands up and starts to applaud*

It's posts like this one, alex, that made me realize I wanted to share blog-space with you. This was pitch perfect.