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Alberta gov’t: ‘Unacceptable’ for Catholic schools to uphold Biblical sexuality

Lisa Bourne Lisa Bourne Follow Lisa

EDMONTON, Alberta, October 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Alberta government says it is “unacceptable” for Catholic schools to uphold Church teaching on sexuality in school curriculum.

Media in Alberta reported this week that the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta had said curriculum promoting the homosexual “lifestyle,” masturbation, anal and oral sex, or transgenderism would be problematic if required by the impending K-12 health and wellness curriculum.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has criticized the Catholic schools and insisted their proposed program will never be taught if its final form is as it has been advertised.

“Under no circumstances will we enforce or condone a sexual health curriculum that normalizes an absence of consent, refuses to talk about contraception and other things that protect the health of sexually active young people, or in any way marginalizes sexual minorities. That's not on,” she told the Canadian Press.

Jason Kenney, a Catholic pro-life candidate for the United Conservative Party’s leadership, says Notley has no right to tell Catholic educators how to teach Catholic values. 

"It's not for me or the premier to dictate to the Catholic education system how it teaches Catholic values," said Kenney, whose leadership bid has been endorsed by the national pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition.

"The whole point of the Catholic education system is to be Catholic," he said.

Pushback from government leaders Alberta’s education minister says a curriculum proposal by the province’s Catholic superintendents, which is in line with Catholic teaching, is “unacceptable.” The curriculum approach is also catching pushback from academics, politicians, and others.

“I’m deeply concerned to see it suggested that providing Alberta students with accurate information on these important topics is ‘problematic,’ or that there’s something wrong with being gay,” David Eggen said in a statement last week. “I can assure Albertans that, under our government, any curriculum changes will be inclusive of all students — no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.” 

Premier Notley said, "Nowhere do the rights of religious freedom extend to that person's right to somehow attack or hurt others — and that's what's happening here. We will not use public dollars to have sexual health programs that deny science, that deny evidence, and that deny human rights.

"They can continue to work on (the proposal) all they want, but we ultimately approve the curriculum that goes into schools — and this kind of curriculum will not happen."

Notley sad further that there is no debating the issue of consent.

"Consent is the law in Alberta and under no circumstances will any child in Alberta be taught that they have to somehow accept illegal behaviour in a sexual relationship,” stated Notley. “The end."

Eggen echoed Notley’s statements

"There's no (room for) negotiation for that, I can tell you," he said Tuesday. "Teaching consent is a basic health and safety issue for students in regards to sexuality, and it needs to be strengthened if anything."

Infringing on religious freedom? Kenney, who attended Catholic school, agreed there should be a basic common curriculum in the school system. However, Catholic, independent and charter schools will have different approaches to developing their curriculum, and that's what makes them special.

"That's what we celebrate in a diverse society, particularly in one that believes in parental choice," he said.

The Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta released a statement Wednesday in response to the controversy.

"For the past year, representatives from Catholic school districts have been working alongside the government with curriculum development, including the new wellness curriculum," it said.

"From what the CCSSA knows, the proposed wellness curriculum is designed to include a variety of perspectives which respects all," the statement continued. "All potential human sexuality topics can be taught in Catholic schools, and authentically framed from the Catholic perspective. The CCSSA resource is intended to complement the prescribed the Alberta Education wellness curriculum; it is not intended to replace the provincially mandated outcomes."

The Council also said its Catholic schools are committed to building inclusive communities to promote welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments where all are respected and belong.

"This is a foundational belief in our faith and is reflected in the climate and culture as well as resources within our schools," the CCSSA statement said. "Our priority is to ensure that all of our students excel as healthy and productive learners."

Special protections The controversy comes as Notley's government plans to introduce legislation in the fall session requiring all schools that receive public money to establish anti-discrimination codes of conduct, adopt policies protecting LGBTQ students, and affirm that students have a legal right to set up gay-straight alliance clubs.

Eggen has said the bill also aims to block Kenney’s proposal that school officials tell parents when their children join a gay-straight alliance. The Education minister had said that many schools have been working with the government on the LGBT rules, but 20 of them, mainly private schools, have been resisting.

Private schools get 70 percent of their funding from the government, The Canadian Press report said.

Previous controversial sex-ed curriculum

The Catholic superintendents’ concern with the new Alberta sex ed curriculum is that it will resemble Ontario’s controversial sex-education curriculum. 

The Ontario curriculum is “very prescriptive,” said Karl Germann, president of the Council of Superintendents.

Ontario’s curriculum, introduced in 2015, presents gender identity discussions in third grade, and brings up consent and sexual orientation in Grade 6. It gives teachers scripts to start classroom discussions.

Germann said Alberta Catholic schools are mandated to teach what’s in the Alberta curriculum, but they also want to teach students the Church’s beliefs.

The Catholic superintendents’ association applied for a $66,005 grant in January to develop “a parallel human sexuality curriculum that reflects many common outcomes embedded in our Catholic faith.” 

This came to light after a freedom of information request was filed following suspicions arising among a group of Edmonton sexual health educators that Catholic school trustees were pushing for a “diluted” adaptation of human sexuality education in the new curriculum.

The superintendents had wanted a group of 10 educators to write a new sex-ed curriculum, to then have it evaluated by religious educators, a teacher focus group and Alberta bishops and clergy.    

“We wanted to make sure that our Catholic views and beliefs were represented in the curriculum,” said Germann. 

Education Department Deputy Minister Curtis Clark denied the project in March, with the reason that the government doesn’t pay for religious curriculum or resources.

The curriculum project is still moving forward, Germann said, with personnel and resources from Alberta Catholic school districts across. Germann said a draft curriculum should be submitted to the education ministry for approval in the next few weeks.

After rejection of the grant proposal in April, the Catholic superintendents communicated to the ministry about the Catholic districts’ needs with the new curriculum in terms avoiding conflict with Church teaching.

Specific concerns The CCSSA lists possible contrary curricular outcomes, including the requirement to discuss consent, reproductive aid technologies for other “family types,” contraception, same-sex relationships, anal and oral sex, masturbation, “modern gender theory,” pornography and “sexualization of girls (and boys).”

The superintendents say Catholic schools are “unable to teach any outcome requiring promotion of homosexual relationships,” and would promote a life of chastity and virtue as a “positive choice” for those who experience same-sex attraction.

Consent can’t be taught as the threshold to have sex, they said, and that sexual relations should happen in “an authentic life-giving relationship embedded within the sacrament of marriage.”

It would be a problem to teach Catholic students that gender identity is different from a person’s biological sex, they said as well.

“We cannot promote modern gender theory or anything that is ideologically opposed to Catholic teaching,” the superintendents stated. “It is best to keep outcomes (curriculum goals) in this area general enough to be authentically framed for each way of knowing so a conflicting ideology is not imposed.”

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