Ontario’s Gay-Straight Alliances Vs. the Catholic Church

Ontario politicians are drawing a line in the sand with publicly funded Catholic schools. On one side is Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act. The anti-bullying legislation will allow students to form “organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.” On the other side is the Catholic church, which insists non-specific names such as “respecting differences” are adequate. They say LGBTQ students can form groups to counter bullying, but they cannot use a name the church finds offensive.

Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and President of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, issued a statement that says, in part:

To our friends and neighbours of other faiths, or of no faith, including those who disagree with any or all of the beliefs of the Catholic Church, and those who personally support the beliefs that form the context for GSAs: please consider the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community in our province, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience. If it happens to us, it can happen to you, on this and other issues. When religious freedom becomes a second class right, you also will eventually be affected.

The Archbishop’s response reminds me of a quote from Zechariah Chafee. In “Freedom of Speech in Wartime” in the 1919 “Harvard Law Review,” he wrote: “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” No one has an inherent right, whatever their “deeply held beliefs,” to bully another human being because of their sexual orientation.

Catholic and other religious organizations that exclude LGBTQ people from full acceptance are swinging their arms and hitting a lot of noses. Calling it “religious freedom” does not lessen the encouragement it gives to those who excuse their bullying by citing religious precepts.

Egale Canada’s 2011 study puts numbers to the severity of the issue. “Every Class in Every School: Final Report on the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools” is an embarrassment for a country that prides itself on being open and accepting. For example, among the key findings are:

  • 70% of all participating students, LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ, reported hearing expressions such as “that’s so gay” every day in school and almost half (48%) reported hearing remarks such as “faggot,” “lezbo,” and “dyke” every day in school.
  • 74% of trans students, 55% of sexual minority students, and 26% of non-LGBTQ students reported having been verbally harassed about their gender expression.
  • Over a quarter (27%) of youth with LGBTQ parents reported being physically harassed about the sexual orientation of their parents.
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of LGBTQ students and 61% of students with LGBTQ parents reported that they feel unsafe at school.

With numbers like those, the need for the Accepting Schools Act is clear. Excusing intolerance on the basis of “hate the sin, love the sinner” does nothing to dismantle prejudice based on profound misunderstanding of the nature of sexual identity.

An editorial in the Globe and Mail explained it this way:

Let’s put this in perspective. All that’s being asked is that a vulnerable group of youths be able to meet under the name that makes them vulnerable. The province is trying to live up to the spirit of its anti-bullying law, which in its first version, introduced last fall, would have permitted schools to bar the name gay-straight alliance – a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of non-acceptance.

This is no mere abstract debate. It’s about helping gay teenagers, or the children of gay parents, build protective bridges for themselves in a world from which they have often felt cast out. Leaving out one group of victims defeats the law’s purpose. And Ontario has an overriding interest in protecting all young people.

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Photo from jglsongs via Flickr Creative Commons


Citizen C.
Citizen Citizen4 years ago

perhaps, you should send your kids to homosexual school, not at the expense of tax-payers, afterall people were thinking before having sex, how else would they have thought to have sex. it's about freedom of thought and not the catholic church.

Lauren B.

Hey, send your kids to Catholic schools if you want, but forget funding them with public money.

Lauren B.

I continue to be puzzled as to why anyone remains loyal to the Catholic church. Just don't get it.
Of course any school with public funding must abide by the same rules as public schools. No debate!

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin4 years ago

I made a video about why Homosexuals should have equal rights. It’s at my YouTube channel Zarrakan, and here’s the link:


Watch it, share it, and join the fight against the evil Homophobes.

Citizen C.
Citizen Citizen4 years ago

julie c, that would be the standard we were after; where parents and teachers really come together knowing that the teaching of the romantic side of, say ''world wars'' is not inconsequential. verily we were thought those without questioning by our parents, hence the high level of apathy in our generation, and accepting of popular concepts without questioning. in fact a good friend of mind withdrew her child for a week during a period of another romantic war lesson at the primary school his daughter attends. it was the standard we were after; but the media (social and applied) appears on the strong tide. p/s you mentioned ''public and funded'', I think this undermines your argument; values cannot be priced within one life-time, and public? yes the public tide appears to be redirecting. at least over here. but we are confident that those at the core are those not afraid to question or answer, or ask and understand.

Julie Cook
Past Member 4 years ago

It's obvious by the majority of commenters here that I am preaching to the already converted. By contrast, I read a lot of comments in the Toronto Star from the Catholic parents who maintain that it is their right to send their kids to a publicly funded school and still have complete control over what is taught there and also whether their children should be allowed to form gay-straight clubs in order to curb homophobic bullying. I am very grateful to the respondents here and wish to confer a star on them, just like Anne D.

Heather Marvin
Heather Marv4 years ago

Any form of violence and attack is wrong however it is also wrong to attack a persons faith/beliefs..

Serena M.
Serena M.4 years ago

The new religion is Science and look what it has and is doing contrary to nature. Insanity.

Serena M.
Serena M.4 years ago

Always attacking the approved target whilst ignoring Interfaith and Protestant abuse every bit as rampant. Balance please. We are being bullied into accepting non self generating sex through scientific and perceptual manipulation. True, all evil stems from The Vatican who direct all other religious control mechanisms.

Serena M.
Serena M.4 years ago

The term 'faggot' comes from Fascist at root and was a nickname for Hitlers Brownshirts and SS Officers who raped little boys. Historical Fact. By eliminating the term, we eliminate history whilst the phenomena of child abuse escalates.