Catholic Schools, public funding and bigoty

Anyone who reads the news, in Ontario, has probably at least heard in passing about the Catholic school boards and their treatment of LGBT students. The Church’s’ views on homosexuality are common knowledge, and is something they are adamant about. Though they have progressed to the point that being gay in and of itself isn’t a sin only intercourse is. It really goes without saying that this view is abhorrent, and I have no qualms with calling any educated, read not completely brainwashed, person who holds such views a bigot and not worthy of any, outside that which all people are entitled to, respect. So I guess that could be said to be my bias in this issue, an extreme hate of bigotry in any form.

But the recent issue between Ontario Catholic School Boards (OCS), not actually an organization each city or area has it’s own Board, and the LGBT community goes beyond this simple implicit bigotry. The OCS have of late been coming into conflict with student created gay straight alliances (GSA) and other similarly named groups. It would seem that the years it took the boards to actually accept the fact that they have gay students and can’t overtly discriminate against them, the discrimination from the institution itself is obviously still there, doesn’t translate to these students actually coming together in any way. As should be clear from how I’m framing all of this in simple terms what has been happening recently is certain OCS’ have been banning these GSAs and even going so far as to suspend students who organize them.

While by itself this is something than any rational person should condemn, it ties into another equally important issue; the public funding of Catholic school. A relic from confederation needed to appease the overwhelming catholic majority of lower Canada (Quebec), it is still in existence today and was even one of the major issues in Ontario’s last provincial election. It seems absurd that Catholicism holds such a special place in Ontario, with only around 35% of Ontario professing to be Catholic, and frankly it is. The concept of separation of church and state is an old one, and is one of the cornerstones of a proper democracy. This issue of GSAs highlights this fact extremely well.

One would think that being state funded discrimination such as this would violate students Charter rights. However there is a wonderful clause in section 15 (the section on equality) exempting religious schools. Sounds eerily similar to the lack of laws against discrimination in the Jim Crow era southern US.

Momentarily putting aside the state funding issue, which can’t really be divorced from this, there are other issues with discrimination like this in schools. Many say that since catholic schools are optional the church should be allowed to do what they see fit with the student body. However we are dealing with children, who have little power over their own school placement for much of their life. Many parents send their kids to Catholic school, leaving them little choice if they do turn out to be LGBT. There are also parents who wish their children to have a French language schooling, which in many cases is only available in Catholic schools. But here again we run into the state funded issue, since without removing public Catholic schools there will almost certainly never be secular French language schools.

There is nothing wrong with private religious schools, as long as there is some over site and insurances that children’s rights are not violated. Catholic schools would become no different than the many Jewish private schools in Ontario. So this isn’t so much an issue of Catholics being bigots, which they are, but of the state support of such bigotry.

It is also important to note that the cutting of such funding would lead to improvements of the secular school system. Without having to fund duplicate administrative structures there would be more money to actually spend on schools and education. This seems like a win-win situation to me, ending of a historical relic which promotes, and subjects helpless kids to, bigotry and more funds to improve education overall.

So this is something that people should care about, since not only do we have publicly funded religious schools, we allow these publicly funded schools to discriminate against students who don’t fit into their bigoted definition of what is moral.


~ by Chris Stevens on May 7, 2011.

One Response to “Catholic Schools, public funding and bigoty”

  1. A very good article! Keep it up!

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