Can the Edmonton Public School Board be all things to all people? Can it still make accommodation for faith-based schools within its “big tent” — while still respecting and protecting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students?
That’s the subject of my column today - inspired by this recent story by my colleague Andrea Sands.
As I’m writing this blog, it’s only 10:15, but the column is already getting a strong reaction – though not quite the one I’d expected.
I confess, I thought I’d get a wash of homophobic hate mail. Instead, I’m hearing from some who feel I pulled my punches, that I didn’t speak out strongly enough in favour of gay rights.
“I was so disappointed by your column this morning. I very much appreciate your intent and your longstanding support for the GLBTQ community, however I think you have completely missed a fundamental point in your column today,” wrote one reader.
“It is time to say out loud that people who espouse discrimination based on a human trait do NOT have a right to have their “traditional values” respected. Do you respect the Taliban’s right not to educate women? Were the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland okay seeing as they were run by the Church? If you subscribe to a belief system that is in any way racist, homophobic or misogynist, why are you entitled to respect?”
I think that’s a legitimate response to my column. So let me be clear – clearer perhaps than I was the first time around.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of thought and freedom of religion. It also protects people from any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
For some people, those rights are in absolute conflict – and no compromise can bridge that fact.
Do I agree with people who believe that homosexuality is immoral? I do not. I personally think those views are discriminatory and narrow-minded, and I don’t want my public school board endorsing or supporting that kind of outdated prejudice.
But here’s the rub. Our system guarantees to all Canadians freedom of thought and freedom of religion. And I have to respect the rights of my fellow Canadians to believe things that I think are nonsensical, outmoded, or even hateful. People are entitled to believe what they believe, and to teach their children accordingly. But they are NOT entitled to have state sanction for those beliefs. The school board’s fundamental duty in this circumstance is to the protect the physical and emotional health of its queer students – including those who happen to attend faith-based schools...
http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2011/0 ... s-collide/
for some background: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/life/Chr ... story.html