Gay-Straight Alliances: the clash of religions

Law Matters John Carpay

Law Matters John Carpay

Alberta’s education minister has launched a formal inquiry into two Edmonton-area Baptist schools, ostensibly to ensure a “welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) students.”

This inquiry has its origins in Bill 10, passed in a matter of hours, without public consultation. This new law requires every school to set up and host a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) if one student asks for this club. Parents, teachers, and principals lost their right to determine what clubs are allowed, or not, in schools. Henceforth, this power to establish sexuality-themed student clubs would be exercised by children, who are not considered mature enough to smoke, drink alcohol, drive a car, or vote. The new law was promoted as an anti-bullying measure, even though every Alberta school already had comprehensive anti-bullying policies. Before Bill 10, many public schools already had GSAs. The sole purpose of Bill 10 is to force religious schools to host GSAs as well.

Always anxious to avoid conflict, and ever-ready to give up even more freedom for a temporary and false peace, Alberta’s Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Evangelicals have thus far raised little fuss.

GSA websites makes it abundantly clear that these ideological clubs are hostile to the traditional understanding of marriage, sexuality, and gender.

GSAs represent a clash of very different religions or worldviews.

Some people believe that the only reality that truly matters is the physical realm. Some believe that right and wrong do not actually exist, because science cannot measure them. If a person is merely a body and lacks a soul, then people are merely one species of animal, more intelligent than other kinds. Our purpose in life, should we choose to have one, is to experience as much pleasure as possible before we die. If pleasure is our primary or highest purpose, then sex need not be – and should not be – limited to marriage. All sexual behaviour (gay, straight, whatever) deserves unconditional approval. A person’s beliefs about the origin and purpose of life are assumptions that cannot be proven or disproven. Nevertheless, these religious beliefs form and shape how one views life, and what one considers to be just or unjust.

Whether categorized as atheism, relativism, hedonism, materialism or some other “ism,” these worldviews are just as “religious” as traditional morality. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and other religions have been teaching for thousands of years that sex is part of a unified package that includes not only pleasure and fulfillment, but also commitment, sacrifice, self-denial, marriage, fidelity, and children.

Both the NDP and the schools’ leadership are in full agreement on the goal of creating a “welcoming, caring, respectful, and safe learning environment” for students. Both sides care passionately about children and their well-being.

The real – and only – disagreement is about the best way to love children.

Those who support mandatory GSAs in all schools see no point in denying sexual pleasure to teenagers. In fact, they believe that discouraging children from exploring and experiencing their sexuality is harmful. Why should single people be celibate, when condoms open the door to immediate gratification of the senses? Why risk the possibility of feeling guilty about physical intimacy, when we have no soul to worry about? Why not affirm all sexual behaviour?

But Christians, Muslims, Jews, members of other faiths, and many secular people believe and advocate for the unity of sex, marriage, procreation, and family as an indivisible whole, that exists for the benefit of children. They believe that children and teenagers (whether same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted) should delay sex until marriage.

How should government treat these competing and contradictory worldviews?

The answer is parental choice in education, which Canada has committed to through the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This Covenant obligates Canada to respect the liberty of parents “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.” This Covenant builds on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

By imposing a progressive secular religion on all schools, Rachel Notley’s NDP government – with the support of some Wildrose and Progressive Conservative opposition MLAs – is intolerant. Tolerance would entail respecting the freedom of all parents to educate their children as parents (not the government, or majority opinion) deem best.

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