Should governments decide your moral and religious beliefs? Should government compel people to agree with one moral standard for sex? These questions were raised by Alberta Education Minister David Eggen. On March 23, he ordered two Edmonton-area Christian schools to comply with a law that forces all schools in Alberta (public, Catholic, independent, charter, etc.) to set up and maintain a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) upon the request of one student, regardless of what parents, teachers and principals want for their school.
Section 16.1 of the School Act was sold to the public under false pretences as an anti-bullying measure. In 2015, it was rushed through the Legislature in a matter of hours, without public consultation and without input from the parents, teachers and schools who would be most affected by it. The anti-bullying rhetoric was condescending and deceitful because all schools in Alberta already had their own anti-bullying policies in place. There was no evidence that these policies were not effective.
Eggen chose to target two Christian schools whose anti-bullying policies are no different from those of many Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and other Alberta schools.
In March of 2016, every school in Alberta submitted its anti-bullying policies to the Education Minister. Catholic schools have submitted policies that do not allow GSAs to be set up in Catholic schools. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other religious schools have submitted similar policies, insisting that student clubs must be respectful of the school’s beliefs and values. A year later, the Minister still hasn’t clarified which policies meet his approval, yet he demands that schools much comply.
GSAs promote a belief system that is hostile to what most religions teach about human sexuality. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs believe that sex is sacred and reserved exclusively for marriage. They reject casual and recreational sex as morally wrong.
Anyone who spends more than five minutes on a GSA website will quickly see that GSAs promote radically different beliefs. One can argue about which view of sex is more enlightened, but there is no argument that the GSA ideology is hostile to traditional sexual morality.
A free society tolerates both ideologies: that of GSAs and that of religions. Tolerance means allowing other people to believe – and practice – things that you disagree with. Tolerance means allowing parents to educate their own children as parents deem best. Tolerance means that politicians and political activists can educate their own children as they like, but cannot force their moral views on other parents. Tolerance means respecting the freedom of parents to send their kids to a school that has a GSA, or to send their kids to a school that will not have a GSA. Tolerance does not consist of using “diversity” and “inclusion” as slogans to deny parental choice in education, or to censor disagreements about sex.
Eggen seems to assume that the only way to help children who struggle with same-sex attraction is to encourage them to be sexually active. This was demonstrated earlier this month, when Theresa Ng, author of the blog Informed Albertans, exposed government-funded websites which referred K-12 children to links with graphic sexual content. The government has since removed some of the pornographic links, but screenshots show how Eggen had been spending our tax dollars prior to getting caught.
Whether Eggen’s personal beliefs about human sexuality are right or wrong is not the issue.
The issue is whether the government of Alberta has the right to bully other people to accept those beliefs.
In Loyola v. Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed that governments cannot undermine the character of religious schools. Courts have made it clear that education is more than just curriculum, and includes the school’s learning environment, culture and community life. Parents, not the government, have the right to decide on the religious beliefs taught by a school.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. In 1976, Canada ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, agreeing to respect the liberty of parents “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.” This Covenant is legally binding on Canada and other party states.
In addition to international law, Canada’s Constitution also protects Albertans from their own Minister of Education, and from Section 16.1 of the School Act.