(Photo: Courtesy the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association)
Christian groups have voiced concern that a recently proposed anti-bullying bill in Canada could force religious schools to adopt a pro-gay curriculum.
Nancy Kirby, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that her organization was looking into the details of Bill 13 and hoped to provide “any input necessary to the government regarding the bill.”
“We are now drafting guidelines and policies for our Catholic schools that will further underscore our long-standing commitment to eradicate bullying within our schools and to do so within a distinctly Catholic understanding,” said Kirby.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday that he hopes Bill 13, or the “Accepting Schools Act, 2011,” will create new policies to combat bullying.
Kirby also clarified that while the Roman Catholic Church does not condone homosexuality, they do not condone bullying of homosexuals either.
“The church teaches that homosexual acts can never be approved, however, the church never condemns persons with same-sex attraction,” said Kirby.
“Our curriculum teaches that every person is a child of God to be treated with dignity, love and respect. The Catholic school curriculum does not support bullying of any person regardless of their sexual orientation, race or gender.”
Don Hutchinson, vice president and general legal counsel of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, wrote an opinion column for the Ontario publication the National Post denouncing Bill 13.
“The campaign against bullying is a worthy one. But Mr. McGuinty’s approach stands in violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” wrote Hutchinson.
“The remedy for bullying in our schools is not gay/straight alliance clubs, but rather proper character formation.”
As Bill 13 is being considered, many social conservatives believe that in the debate between gay rights and religious freedom, Canada has decidedly chosen the former.
In 2002, a Saskatchewan man put an ad in a local paper that cited verses in the Bible that said homosexuality was wrong. The man was convicted by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission of inciting hatred and was forced to pay a fine to three Saskatchewan homosexuals who had filed suit.
In 2004, the Canadian government passed Bill C-250, which expanded pre-existing hate speech laws to include sexual orientation. Although the bill provided an exemption for religious speech, some Canadian citizens have nevertheless found themselves brought before court over openly condemning homosexuality.
This included a former Alberta Pastor who was ordered by his city’s Human Rights Commission in 2008 to pay $5,000 to a plaintiff for having a letter published in a paper titled “Homosexual Agenda Wicked.”
Although both cases would eventually be overturned in the courts, religious conservatives in Canada are still wary of any new legislation involving gay rights.
“Our concern is that this anti-bullying legislation is meant to bring a change in the Catholic curriculum,” said Teresa Pierre, director of Ontario Catholic Parent Advocates, to the National Post.
“The province’s goal is to change Catholic social teaching in our schools under the cause of ending homophobia.”
The Office of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did not return a request for comments by press time.