‘No opt-out’ policy at Toronto school board invites court challenge: Evangelical leader
TORONTO, Ontario, June 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Evangelical leader is warning the Toronto District School Board that they are opening themselves up to a court challenge for violating families’ freedom of religion and conscience with their policy forbidding parents from opting their kids out of classes treating homosexuality.
“This is an incredibly problematic policy for Christian parents, and students, and teachers, for that matter,” said Faye Sonier, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. “Parents can teach [respect and acceptance] without having to have their consciences compromised, without having to affirm sexual orientations or lifestyles that violate their conscience rights.”
“I’d be very, very surprised if there’s not some kind of challenge,” she added.
The school board’s curriculum on “equity” for homosexuals, called ‘Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism’, says parents cannot have their children removed from “human rights education” or discussions of “LGBTQ family issues” because of religious reasons. The policy violates the stated position of the Ontario Ministry of Education, which has guaranteed parents the right to opt out of controversial classes.
Nevertheless, the school board defended the policy on Wednesday.
“We cannot accommodate discrimination,” Ken Jeffers, the board’s coordinator of gender-based violence prevention, told the Toronto Sun. “If a parent says ‘We don’t like gays and lesbians and we don’t want our child to learn anything about them,’ that would be, under our policies, and under Ontario Human Rights legislation, discriminatory.”
“As a blunt example, if we had parents who were members of the Church of the Creator, which is a white supremacist church, wishing to be exempted from anti-racism education, we wouldn’t allow that either,” he added.
The board’s “anti-homophobia” curriculum goes far beyond promoting respect for persons with same-sex attractions, however, aiming instead to prepare students to engage in “social action” in favor of homosexuality.
Beginning in kindergarten, children are expected to have an initial grasp of homosexual family structures, and are familiarized with terms such as “gay” and “lesbian.” The junior kindergarten to grade 3 curriculum includes activities to convince the children of the need to join Toronto’s radical Pride parade, including reading “Gloria Goes to Gay Pride,” and making posters for the school board’s float.
In grade 7, students will engage in an activity designed to question the notion that homosexuality is a “choice,” while another activity has students running surveys to assess the “heterosexist/homophobia temperature” of their school and then formulating an action plan to challenge identified “inequities.” In the end, students are encouraged to organize school-wide activities to raise awareness of “homophobia.”
“Our country, with some very few legal exceptions, has entrusted parents with the ability to make the right choices for their children,” said Sonier. “In this case, obviously the school board thinks it’s in a better position to do so than the parents themselves.”
She said that while the board is emphasizing non-discrimination based on “sexual orientation” to the exclusion of freedom of religion and conscience, “our courts have been very clear that there’s no hierarchy of rights, that accommodation should take place where possible.”
Even if the school board allowed parents the right to opt their kids out of controversial classes, parents would likely find this difficult to carry out in practice, however. The board’s “anti-homophobia” curriculum is deliberately designed, in the board’s words, as a long-term “process” that “permeates the curriculum in all subject areas” and so is not restricted to individual classes.
Sonier said that approach “puts the parents in an extremely difficult situation.” “What options are they left with if they feel like their sincerely held religious and conscience beliefs are being violated by the school board?” she asked.
“One identifiable sub-group of the student population will feel excluded or not reflected in this curriculum,” she added. “The Supreme Court has said that school boards have a duty to ensure that the public education system is welcoming and positive school environment for all students, and that includes students with religious beliefs.”
See the Toronto District School Board’s “anti-homophobia” curriculum here.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Education
Mowat Block, 22nd Flr
900 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2
Tel: 1-800-387-5514 (TTY 1-800-263-2892)
Email: [email protected]
Elizabeth Witmer, Education Critic
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Rm 422, Main Legislative Building
Toronto ON M7A 1A8
E-mail: Use this form.
Chris Spence, Director of Education
Toronto District School Board
5050 Yonge Street - 5th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M2N5N8
Email: [email protected]
Find contact information for all Toronto District School Board trustees here.