HAMILTON, Ontario, March 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Hamilton’s Orthodox Christian community leaders have cried foul as a public school board superintendent responsible for safe and caring schools has told the faith group that their own concerns about Christian bullying “require no further attention”.
The Pan-Orthodox Association of Greater Hamilton, a group representing the city’s 20,000 Orthodox Christians, met on two occasions with Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board superintendent Pam Reinholdt to discuss their concerns over the board’s selective promotion of anti-gay bullying strategies which they say ignores the vast majority of bullying incidents in schools.
Leaders of the faith group say that at their last meeting, Reinholdt “repeatedly attacked” their concerns over the special status given by the board to anti-gay bullying strategies. The leaders had pointed out to Reinholdt the Board’s support for the anti-gay bullying initiative, including awareness weeks, guest speakers, pink t-shirt events, and a regular conference for secondary students on gay issues.
The faith group noted that a recent report from Statistics Canada showed that there were twice as many hate crimes motivated by religion than those based on sexual orientation. Topping the list was race or ethnicity as the most common motivation for a hate related crime.
Leaders of the faith group are now criticizing the board for repeatedly rejecting their offers to help provide assistance with staff training and student education to raise awareness of what they call “Christophobic bullying” while at the same time accepting such services from other groups, including the help of a self-described lesbian “youth worship leader” from a synagogue who recently tried to convince the audience at a gay-straight alliance assembly held at a Hamilton-area public school that biblical teaching on homosexuality was obsolete, archaic and “wrong”.
“Despite years of responsibility for preventing bullying in schools, Reinholdt explained that she did not know the definition of the word Christophobia, nor did she believe that students of faith were regular victims of bullying,” said Father Geoffrey Korz, general secretary of the Orthodox Association, in a press release.
The faith group leaders allege that Reinholdt added insult to injury by indicating that she and her administration view religious people as a contributing factor to the problem of gay bullying. “Superintendent Reinholdt made it quite clear to us that her office believes that people of faith are part of the problem,” said Korz.
“Clearly, the superintendent is eager to paint Christians as bigots,” said Korz. “This is completely unacceptable for someone who is supposed to be safeguarding every student against bullying in our schools.”
The faith group claims that Reinholdt’s treatment of their concerns only confirms to them their fears that the anti-gay bullying strategies are being used as a means to silence and even attack people with traditional Christian values. They say there is a “double standard” at work in the strategy.
In an e-mail to the Orthodox Christian Association sent last May, Superintendent Reinholdt dismissed the need to address anti-Christian and anti-religious bullying as part of the Board’s overall anti bullying initiative. In the e-mail Reinholdt reportedly refused to conduct further meetings with the faith group’s representatives, directing them to “address any remaining questions…(to) a future IFAC (Interfaith Advisory Committee) meeting”.
Representatives of the faith group believe that Reinholdt’s “lack of professionalism” raises “serious questions” about her competency for her position as superintendent.
“Her behavior is a definitive example of anti-Christian bullying,” said Korz