WHITEHORSE, Yukon, July 3, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While Yukon’s school year has ended, negotiations on whether publicly-funded Catholic schools can educate students about the Church's teachings on homosexuality remain ongoing.
Yukon Bishop Gary Gordon told LifeSiteNews.com that he hopes there will not be a showdown between the Church and the government. But the Ministry of Education has confirmed that it is “not flexible” when it comes to schools complying with the territory’s newly-minted “Sexual orientation and gender identity” policy.
“We have an overarching policy to deal with gender identity and the like,” said Matthew Grant, Communications Director for the Government of Yukon, to LifeSiteNews. “What we’re looking for, and what is being done, is each individual school can come up with their own policy that falls under the umbrella policy.”
Asked by LifeSiteNews how he would respond to the government’s threat, Bishop Gordon initially said only that “it’s still in discussion.”
Asked whether he believes the government will maintain its inflexibility in the fall, Bishop Gordon said, “We’ll see. We’re not finished the negotiations.”
Asked whether he has a strategy to keep the Catholic schools Catholic, the bishop said, “the best I can say is the discussions are ongoing.”
When the reporter pointed out that the government has said it will not allow the faith taught in its fullness, the bishop replied, “Well, I don’t know, we’re in discussions. But you know I’m a Catholic bishop and I teach the Catholic faith.”
Asked if he will allow the government to “bully” the Church, he said, “Well we’re in discussions and everybody’s pretty clear that I’m a Catholic Bishop and I teach the Catholic faith. I mean what else can I say?”
Last March, Education Minister Scott Kent ordered Vanier Catholic Secondary School to delete its policy on counseling students with same-sex attraction from the school’s website.
The policy, titled Living with hope, ministering by love, teaching in truth, quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it states that “homosexual acts” are “acts of grave depravity” that “tradition has always declared” as “intrinsically disordered.”
While condemning homosexual acts, the policy made it clear that persons struggling with same-sex attraction must be treated with the same rights and given the same respect as everyone else.
Bishop Gordon complied with the Minister’s wishes to have the policy removed, stating at the time that the teaching would still be given to students. But this was insufficient for the ministry. It ordered the teaching to stop in a letter sent to Bishop Gordon on March 19th.
In comments to Yukon News at that time, Kent said that “religious instructional material and curriculum in the Catholic separate schools,” which are inconsistent with Canadian tolerance laws and policies, “cannot have application in any publicly supported schools in the Yukon.”
The ministry confirmed its position to LifeSiteNews. “The stand point of the Minister of Education is that any policy at any publicly funded school in Yukon, Catholic or otherwise, has to adhere to all applicable legislation,” said Grant.
The most pertinent piece of “applicable legislation” in this case is the Yukon’s newly-minted 2012 Sexual orientation and gender identity policy which states that the Department of Education “values diversity in its school communities.”
“The Department recognizes that students and school community members identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) face a unique set of challenges within schools and communities, including being targets for discriminatory behaviours,” the policy states.
To support LGBTQ students, the Department “will not permit or tolerate any homophobic behaviour or bullying, whether by commission or by failing to act to end such behaviour.”
School communities “must develop, promote and implement respectful, pro-active strategies (for example Gay/Straight Alliances) and school based policies to ensure that LGBTQ members of school communities and their families are welcomed and included in all aspects of education and school life,” it reads.
“Administrators will support teachers striving to include in their teaching positive images and accurate information about history and culture which reflects the accomplishments and contributions of LGBTQ people.”
“The Department supports the right of LGBTQ students to counseling that is supportive, affirming and free from efforts on the part of counselors to try to change their sexual orientation and/or identity through the use of or the referral to aversion, reparative, or conversion therapies.”
“The Administrator will make best efforts to facilitate the formation of Gay/Straight Alliance clubs (GSAs), where students or staff come forward requesting this support.”
In the face of such a policy that runs contrary to Catholic sexual morality being imposed on Catholic schools, Bishop Gordon said he is encouraging the parents of Catholic students “to be faithful.”
He would like to see the negotiations end with “faith and respect for the private Catholic schools’ identity.”
Scott Kent, Yukon Education Minister
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 867 667-8643
Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse
E-mail form here.