Christian dad fights for right to remove children from LGBT classes at appeals court
TORONTO, June 29, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A Christian father’s seven-year battle with his public school board over his right to advance notice when and how his children will be taught about controversial topics, particularly LGBTTIQ issues, landed in Ontario’s appeal court this week.
But at this point, Hamilton father of two Steve Tourloukis and his lawyer, Albertos Polizogopoulos, are fighting not only the school board but the elementary teachers’ union and openly lesbian Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.
“This appeal is about protecting the rights of parents to direct their children’s education, and to protect the religious freedom of parents and their children,” states Tourloukis’ appeal factum.
And whether LGBTTIQ issues are or are even meant to be taught in public schools in a “values-neutral” way, given Liberal policies and laws to eliminate “homophobia” in schools, was a question that occupied much of Monday’s hearing.
Indeed, lawyers opposing Tourloukis referred to the Equity and Inclusivity Education Strategy that Wynne implemented in 2009 when she was minister of education and Ben Levin her deputy minister.
Levin, who noted in a memo when the EIES was introduced that the “province-wide strategy has been a priority for our Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne and me,” was convicted in March 2015 of three child pornography related charges, including counseling another person to rape a minor, and sentenced in May to 3 1/2 years in prison.
Tourloukis’ initial 2010 request for religious accommodation — and the board refusal — were both based on the board’s equity policy, mandated by the Wynne-Levin EIES.
He asked to be alerted beforehand when and how his children, then four and six, would be taught not only about homosexuality but other contentious issues such as abortion, the occult, and cultural relativism so he could decide whether to withdraw them from class.
Tourloukis made it clear in his 2012 legal challenge he did not object to his children being taught facts, or to discussions and opinions by classmates on these subjects.
But he did object to teachers, who are authority figures, making “value judgments” in class, such as presenting homosexuality as natural, or abortion as morally acceptable.
Polizogopoulos argued in the initial hearing and on appeal that the board’s refusal to grant Tourloukis’ request violates his Charter right to religious freedom, because he believes his Christian faith obliges him to protect his children from “false teachings” and “not lead his children into sin.”
Tourloukis also believes “same-sex sexual relations are not God’s intention of sex,” that “there are but two genders: male and female,” that “marriage is a sacred institution,” and “he must raise his children according to this Christian faith and God’s holy law,” his appeal factum notes.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Reid ruled in November the board did violate Tourloukis’ Charter rights, but the violation was “reasonable” given the competing Charter “values” of “inclusivity, equality and multiculturalism,” and public school boards’ statutory obligations.
Reid also suggested Tourloukis could pull his children from public schools.
Polizogopoulos asked Appeal Court Justices Peter Lauwers, Bradley Miller, and Robert Sharpe to reverse Reid’s decision.
As in the original June 2016 hearing, Polizogopoulos was up against three publicly funded legal teams: for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, the Liberal government, and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
The board’s lawyer argued a public school is not allowed to “indoctrinate” students, but that Ontario’s public schools have statutory obligation to create safe schools, including the EIES, Policy Memorandum 119, and the 2012 Accepting Schools Act, or Bill 13.
Accommodating Tourloukis would “directly impact the ability of Ontario public schools to provide students with a positive, inclusive, and supportive educational environment.”
Liberal government lawyer Josh Hunter said allowing the Tourloukis children to leave class would “undermine the board’s message that it is important to accept, welcome, and celebrate diversity” and would be “harmful to the rights of other students to feel accepted and welcomed.”
And ETFO lawyer Kate Hughes argued teachers are mandated by law to embed positive examples of homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism, and queerness throughout the curriculum, and to teach children not just to “tolerate” LGBTQ lifestyle, which has a negative connotation, but to “honour and respect” and “celebrate” it.
Reid essentially ruled the same in November, writing that allowing Tourloukis to pull his children from certain classes would be “antithetical to the competing legislative mandate and Charter values favoring inclusivity equality and multiculturalism.”
Lauwers questioned Polizogopoulos on Monday why he had no affidavit evidence of teachers giving “value judgments” in class.
Polizogopoulos responded that Reid’s ruling didn’t question that aspect of the case but accepted that Tourloukis’ Charter rights were being infringed in this regard, and that such an infringement was reasonable.
Jack Fonseca, Campaign Life Coalition’s senior political strategist, was present at the hearing and contends that the ETFO lawyer’s submission was “a brazen, unashamed admission that indoctrination was the goal.”
Hughes “explained that ‘teachers have a statutory obligation to honour and respect diversity’ which includes same-sex relationships and transgender identities,” he told LifeSiteNews.
She conflated “honouring and respecting” with “celebrating” and argued that “teachers have a statutory obligation to celebrate LGBT identities and same-sex relationships, and that if teachers aren’t embedding that celebration into every subject every day, then they’re not meeting the ‘statutory objectives,’” he told LifeSiteNews.
At least one teacher has openly admitted to embedding LGBTQ propaganda throughout the curriculum. Alice Gunn, a Mississauga elementary school teacher who is “married” to a woman, told a pro-gay conference she uses math class to push the homosexual agenda, as LifeSiteNews reported in April 2015.
But as Hughes told the appeal court, that’s considered exemplary conduct and would not be an exception.
“While this radical and brazen agenda of the teachers’ union is shocking and disturbing,” Fonseca said, “we hope it serves to give the judges the evidence they claimed was lacking in Tourloukis’ submission.”
“This is an important court case,” says Lou Iacobelli, president of the Parental Rights In Education Defense Fund, which is helping to bankroll Tourloukis’ legal odyssey.
“Because if the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution are used to legitimize beyond question ‘inclusive and diversity’ education, then Canadians have little protection from the power of the state,” Iacobelli wrote in his blog.
“We must reject ‘a blueprint for moral conformity’ decided by the state.”
The three justices reserved their judgment.
Those who wish to donate to the legal costs of the Tourloukis case, go here.
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