TORONTO, May 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a public statement yesterday on behalf of the Bishops of Ontario, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins has warned that religious freedom is under threat in the province. The statement came in response to what the National Post reported as the Ontario government having “ignored months of behind-the-scenes negotiations” by announcing Friday that Bill 13 would require its mandated homosexual anti-bullying clubs for all schools be called ‘gay straight alliance clubs’ if students so desire, including in Catholic schools.

The cardinal called not only on Catholics, but also non-Catholics to “please consider the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community in our province, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience.”  He warned, “If it happens to us, it can happen to you, on this and other issues. When religious freedom becomes a second class right, you also will eventually be affected.”

Campaign Life Coalition, one of the principal advocacy groups fighting the legislation, praised the Ontario bishops’ stand. “We stand behind the Catholic Bishops and Cardinal Collins, in the principled stand which he has taken to protect Catholic doctrine and Catholic Schools,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, CLC National Organizer and a former separate school trustee.  “Catholics and people of all faiths must stand up now and oppose the heavy-handed machinations of this dictatorial government.”

Campaign Life Coalition has called upon every parent to lobby, write, and visit their MPP, urging them to vote against Bill 13.

In the statement, Cardinal Collins indicated that GSAs are closely related to the gay activist movement and as such could, while addressing bullying, promote values counter to Catholic teaching.  “I question, however, why provincial legislation should make this particular method normative in a Catholic school, which has its own different but effective methods of attaining the goal of addressing bullying and providing personal support for all students, ones which, unlike GSAs, arise out of its own fundamental principles and are in harmony with them,” he said.

Cardinal Collins openly questioned the motives of the Liberal Government saying: “If the point is that there is something unacceptable about those Catholic principles, then I find that troubling.”

Catholic parent groups and advocacy groups have long accused the McGuinty Government of aiming to curtail Catholic teaching on the subject of homosexuality with Bill 13. 

To justify the imposition of the clubs, Education Minister Laurel Broten quoted a survey from EGALE, the country’s leading homosexual activist group, identifying homosexuality as the main cause of bullying in schools. However the Toronto District School Board found in their 2006 study that body image, grades or language are the leading causes of bullying.

“It appears that the Minister of Education is an apologist for the homosexual activists and their drive to insert their agenda into all schools,” said Jim Hughes, CLC National President. “Under the guise of preventing bullying based on orientation they propose to open the doors to an agenda opposed to Catholic teaching. We remind the Government that schools and hospitals in Ontario were primarily established by the Catholic Church at the time of the BNA Act, which guarantees their denominational rights,” he continued.

The bishops urged Catholics to “reflect on the implications for Catholic education” of the legislation, noting that “Catholic educators should be free to make sure that Catholic schools are loving learning environments in which every person is treated with love and respect, and to do so in a way that arises out of our faith tradition and is in harmony with it.”

In media interviews following the issuing of the statement Cardinal Collins was asked if he thought the new announcement by the Liberal Government was an attack on religious freedom. “Well, I think it is in a very real sense,” Collins told the Sun’s Christina Blizzard.

However, the cardinal said it’s “very premature” to talk about a court challenge prior to viewing the final legislation.

Contact information for provincial members of parliament are available here.