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Amidst media pressure after initially supporting a Catholic school principal who would not allow two grade six students to begin a social justice project on homosexual ‘rights,’ the Ottawa Catholic School Board has switched gears and has now said it can go forward.

“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has made it clear that our attitudes to gay and lesbian people should be addressed with love and dignity in an open and transparent way, when he said, ‘Who am I to judge?’” stated OCSB Chairman Ted Hurley, who also works for the Youth Office in the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

“The core message is that gay rights are a human right and that the underlying attitudes that have led to discrimination need to be addressed in school and in society as a whole,” he added.

The students, 11-year-old Quinn Maloney-Tavares and her friend Polly Hamilton of Ottawa’s St. George Catholic School, had decided that they wanted to research a project to be presented to the school in January about how “rude” it is to “make being gay a bad thing,” the Ottawa Citizen reported earlier this week.

Adding his voice to foray was the Ontario PC Party’s education critic, Garfield Dunlop, who said the principal’s decision to block the project may be a violation of Ontario’s Education Act, which states that boards must “promote a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils.”

“We want to make sure everyone feels included and that means everyone: transsexual, transgendered, gay couples and, of course, heterosexual rights,” said Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North, as reported by Ottawa Citizen.

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But school principal Ann Beauchamp said the topic was inappropriate for a presentation to younger students. The OCSB first defended Beauchamp, but changed its position after massive media coverage from the Ottawa Citizen, CBC, and the Ottawa Sun.

“I have had an opportunity to review the entire matter in the full context of promoting fairness, bullying prevention and Catholic teaching with regard to gay rights. All persons deserve love, respect and dignity, especially those that are discriminated against in society,” Hurley said in his statement today.

“The principal will be inviting the students and their parents in for a follow up discussion to resolve this matter and we support the students’ sense of fair play and respect for all persons,” he added.

“What has since become clear, however, is that the motives behind the planned presentation by the two young girls were simply to combat the kinds of behaviour and attitudes that can lead to bullying of gay people, and violations of human rights,” continued Hurley in his statement.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity” and the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered.” It teaches at the same time that persons who struggle with “homosexual tendencies” must be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

“Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” the Catechism adds.