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Seelix's avatar

Ontario Catholic schools changing the names of gay-straight alliances... What's your take?

Asked by Seelix (14738 points ) January 27th, 2012

Here is an article from today’s Toronto Star.

A little info for those who don’t know: Ontario has two school boards, the public and the Catholic. Both are public, meaning that they’re open to everyone, but religion classes are taught in Catholic schools, and the kids participate in occasional masses and are taken through the sacraments as they come along (i.e. first communion, first confession, confirmation).
So in this case, public means non-Catholic, and Catholic means Catholic.

Now the Catholic board (which encompasses both elementary and high schools) has decided to change the term for “gay-straight alliances” to “Respecting Differences clubs” as per the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association. A representative for the OCST is quoted in the article as saying:
“We have nothing against homosexuals, but it’s the (homosexual) act that is in contradiction of the teachings of the church.”

I’m assuming that the “homosexual act” being alluded to here is that of sodomy, because that’s what’s forbidden by the bible (at least that’s my understanding; if I’m wrong, kindly clarify the situation for me). So… does that mean lesbians are cool?

I just don’t quite get this. What’s your opinion?

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12 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

My guess is that Catholics don’t want to be associated with anything with “gay” in the name of it. It sounds like condoning the activity.

I have to say this is fascinating. I didn’t know there was state-sponsored religion in Canada. Does that ever bother anyone there?

Seelix's avatar

It’s not technically a state-sponsored religion; you can see an interpretation here.

Here is a Wiki article on “separate” (i.e. religious) schools in Canada. In Ontario, separate schools are primarily Catholic, but there is one Protestant school. Alberta and Saskatchewan have fewer religious schools than Ontario, but more of them are Protestant.

Personally, it doesn’t really bother me that there exists a Catholic school board. No one’s forced to go there. It doesn’t bother me any more than the fact that Jewish schools or Muslim schools exist. I don’t think it’s really necessary, because I believe that if a family chooses to practice a religion, they should do it at home and at their place of worship, but I don’t really oppose the separate boards. That’s probably at least in part due to the fact that I’ve always lived with two school boards, though.

wundayatta's avatar

If the separate Catholic schools are funded by public funds, then to my mind, that is state-sponsored religion. In my country, I’m opposed to it. We have efforts to get vouchers that are public funds that can be used at any school, including parochial schools. I think this may even be legal in some jurisdictions. I don’t think it should be legal.

But Canada has a different history and perhaps the separation of church and state isn’t such a big deal as it is here. I’m sure your system must have all kinds of complexities—like what happens when there is a Catholic set of schools and no one wants to go to them any more? Does the Provincial or Federal Authority force them to shut down, or do they get to keep the schools open without students? Who do the Catholic school boards answer to? Are there any restrictions on the public funds and how are they determined? Is it like a per capita amount? Wherever you choose to go to school, that’s where your Provincial education dollars go?

Is the Canadian school system a good one?

Seelix's avatar

I have no idea about the legal or political systems involved with the school boards, or how taxation works.

But I can speak for the schools that I went to – I went to two different Catholic schools in my elementary years, and to a public high school. I can’t say how good the Canadian system (specifically, the Ontario system) is in comparison with others, but I feel confident in the level of education that I’ve received. Canadian universities are funded by the provincial/territorial and federal governments, so our tuition rates are much lower than in the US. I’m currently paying $8000 per year for my PhD studies, and I get a funding fellowship of roughly three times that.

wundayatta's avatar

@Seelix Are there any Americans in your program? Do you know if they pay a different rate?

geeky_mama's avatar

I think @wundayatta has hit the nail on the head – it’s just a way to try to disassociate themselves from the word “gay”. They’re probably trying to please church leadership.

I don’t envy the Catholic School Boards trying to walk that fine line between pleasing parishioners and Catholic leadership who are vehemently against gays (they aren’t even allowed to take communion – in my area a protest is staged against this each year) and trying to be tolerant because they are a public school system. That’s a tough one.

This reminds me a bit of Germany – where school can also be religious affiliated or not – but it doesn’t matter so much. Also in Germany your income is automatically donated to the church (like a 10% automatic tax/tithe) denomination of your selection—but you don’t have to be a member of a church or anything. Unless you go to the extra work of proving you’re an atheist (and it’s apparently a rare—but increasingly popular thing to do) most people just end up giving their money (like a tax – they never even see that income) to the Protestant or Catholic church in their region.

jaytkay's avatar

So… does that mean lesbians are cool?

Sodomy laws have defined the term many different ways, including oral sex, so lesbians aren’t always left out (how generous and inclusive!) Though I don’t know how the Catholic Church defines it.

I don’t have a strong opinion on this, except that “Respecting Differences Club” is a weak name. Which may be the point

janbb's avatar

meh, meh – I don’t like it. It is namdy-pamdy and takes away the meaning – which I’m sure is the intent.

JLeslie's avatar

Respecting Differences. So, is the club for all students who feel different in any way? If so, I might be ok with it. If it is just renaming the gay club, then I find it unfortunate.

I think one of the best things we can teach our kids is to not hate, to be open, to feel connected to all people, even those who we perceive as different than ourselves. The child who never met a black person, but then when he is off to college does, if he was raised to be accepting and know people come in a large variety of shapes, colors, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, etc., then he can handle meeting people he has never encountered before.

The message of respecting differences is a good overall message.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Sounds like they might have some trouble actually respecting those differences…

fundevogel's avatar

I agree with @janbb & @JLeslie. When you’re a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance there’s no denying what that means and it just sounds badass. “Respecting Differences Club” sounds awkward and wishy-washy.

JLeslie's avatar

Here’s the thing, Catholicism does not accept being gay, and it is a Catholic school. I don’t think they should have to have a gay club. The irony is so many priests are gay; celibate supposedly, but gay. That line, ok to be gay in your mind, but gay sex not ok, is perfect for recruiting priests. Not that I think the Catholic church is purposely using the line to recruit priests, I don’t.

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