The very reason why Catholic schools in Alberta have constitutional protection was made clear this past October, when Alberta Premier Rachel Notley falsely accused the Catholic Church of approving of marital rape.
It’s hard to imagine that the holder of the highest office in Alberta could be so profoundly ignorant about one of the world’s major religions. This raises the possibility that her false assertion was deliberate. But whether she spoke from ignorance or from malice, Premier Notley’s ongoing refusal to apologize for her anti-Catholic remarks is disturbing.
Sadly, Notley’s anti-Catholic bigotry is not merely a personal sentiment. Education Minister David Eggen takes the position that Catholic teachings about marriage, gender and sexuality are “inaccurate” and will not be permitted in Catholic schools. The Minister has every right to believe in, and practice, his own religion. But he is obviously confused about the difference between science and morality. Science can tell you how to execute a convicted murderer, and how long various methods take, and which are likely to be less painful. However, whether it’s right or wrong to kill a convicted murderer requires one to turn to philosophy, religion or metaphysics for answers.
Science can tell you the correct amount of jet fuel required for a ten-hour flight. But not where to fly, or why to go there, or what to do when you arrive. Decisions about how to live your life, how to treat other people and how much of your money to give to charity are governed by morality, not science. Morality, in turn, has a religious, philosophical or metaphysical basis. Unlike science, morality does not lend itself to demonstrably “correct” and verifiably “accurate” answers.
The same applies to sexuality. Science can tell us about diseases caused by sexual promiscuity, and how these diseases harm the body. But the choice between chastity and promiscuity is a moral one. Whether it’s right or wrong to have consensual sex with someone you just met an hour ago is rooted in metaphysics, not science.
Premier Notley and Minister Eggen have clearly expressed their views about sexual morality. They believe that all sexual activity is OK, as long as consent is provided. They believe sex can be divorced from procreation, marriage, commitment and self-sacrifice. Scientifically, these views are neither correct nor incorrect. Rather, these views come from the philosophies of hedonism and materialism.
The hedonist believes that life’s purpose is to maximize physical pleasure. The materialist believes that physical reality is the only thing that really matters: what we can see, hear, touch and measure. Hedonists and materialists aim to have as much sex as possible, provided the risk of pain from disease is minimal. The follower of Islam, Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism will make a different choice, even when the risk of sexually transmitted disease is low or non-existent. To dismiss the latter choice as “inaccurate” or “unscientific” reveals a profound ignorance of what science is. Such assertion further reveals a profound arrogance about hedonism and materialism being the best philosophies. But worse than being arrogant, Premier Notley and Minister Eggen want to impose their personal beliefs on every Alberta child, and all Alberta families and taxpayers, through a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
This is why constitutional guarantees exist: to preserve fundamental rights and freedoms in the face of populist or totalitarian impulses, like those of Ms. Notley and Mr. Eggen. The Constitution’s purpose is to protect minorities from being subjugated by the majority. For example, the Charter protects freedom of speech so that all people have the right to say what the majority views as false, offensive, hurtful or extreme. Likewise, the Constitution protects the right of Catholic parents to educate their children as they, the minority of parents, deem best. Originally, the Constitution protected Catholic education from a hostile Protestant majority. Today’s hostile majority is not Protestant, but instead seeks to impose hedonism and materialism on Catholic schools. But past or present, the unpopularity of Catholic moral teachings is irrelevant.
Nobody forces Ms. Notley or Mr. Eggen to agree with Catholicism, or to have Catholicism taught to their children. They should extend that same tolerance to Catholics, and to the many other Albertans who reject materialism and hedonism.
Calgary lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (www.jccf.ca).