National Affairs Rory Leishman

With freedom of religion under attack as never before in Canada, what are our church leaders doing to defend the faithful? Precious little. With rare exceptions, they have mounted only the most feeble and ineffectual protests against encroachments by the state on the inalienable right of Canadians to uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality.

Consider, for example, the supine reaction of leaders of the Christian Church in Ontario to Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act – a purported anti-bullying measure imposed by the McGuinty Liberal government. In essence, this legislation has nothing to do with bullying. In the apt words of Cecilia Forsyth, president of REAL Women of Canada, it is about “pushing on our children a radical revision of sex-education that is built on the full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.”

That intention is implicit in the language of Bill 13, which states in its preamble: “The people of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly believe that students need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitude and values … to take action on making their schools and communities more equitable and inclusive for all people, including LGBTTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning) people.”

Imagine that a Christian student were to express his belief in the sinfulness of any form of sexual intercourse outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Could a teacher in an Ontario public school be counted upon to protect such a student from expressions of ridicule and contempt by fellow students? Not at all. To the contrary, under the provisions of Bill 13, the teacher would be far more likely to try to bully the Christian student into silence.

Nonetheless, with the exception of a few stalwart Evangelicals, hardly any Protestant leaders in Ontario have spoken out vigorously and publicly against Bill 13. Few have shown any willingness to uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality even from their own pulpits.

Much the same can be said about the Catholic Bishops of Ontario. Time and again, they have underlined that bullying homosexuals is contrary to Catholic teaching and will not be tolerated in the Catholic schools. Yet these same bishops have been all too reluctant to reaffirm in public that in addition to opposing bullying, the Catholic schools have a moral obligation to uphold the clear teaching of the Catholic Church on the sinfulness of homosexual sexual behaviour.

In a sudden reversal on May 25, the McGuinty government introduced an amendment to Bill 13 which stipulates that the principal in a public or Catholic school must not refuse to allow a student to form an anti-bullying club with the name gay-straight alliance or  similar name which clearly implies that there is nothing inherently wrong with homosexual sexual behaviour. What, though, was the reaction of the Catholic bishops to the final passage of this bill on June 5?

In a brief statement on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, said: “Recognizing that the Accepting School Act is now the law, Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities.”

Meanwhile, Kevin O’Dwyer, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, welcomed the passage of Bill 13, saying: “I think it’s going to be a positive experience for students to engage those clubs, whatever name they choose.”

Already, many Liberals and New Democrats in the Ontario Legislature have expressed support for following the lead of Quebec in abolishing all publicly funded Catholic schools. That would be regrettable. But it would be far worse to have Ontario’s Catholic schools emulate the province’s public schools in surviving by utterly betraying and abandoning the Christian faith. Clearly, Cardinal Collins and his colleagues in the Assembly of Catholic Bishops now face an exceedingly tough challenge: Quiet diplomacy with the McGuinty government has not worked. If these bishops intend to assure that Ontario Catholic schools operate in accord with the Catholic faith, they will have to rally the faithful in the pews, rein in dissident teachers like O’Dwyer in the Catholic schools, and battle the McGuinty government in the courts.