Religious leaders, politicians, principals unite against Manitoba’s ‘anti-bullying’ Bill 18
MANITOBA, March 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A growing number of Manitoba politicians and religious leaders have added their voice to the escalating clamor against the NDP’s proposed Bill 18, saying that it would force faith-based schools to hand over their cherished freedoms to agenda-driven government bureaucrats.
Winnipeg Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South) came out in opposition to the bill last week after drawing attention to a number of letters written to NDP Premier Greg Selinger by concerned religious groups from around the province.
"I think they have valid concerns and I support them," said Bruinooge to reporters.
Rabbi Avrohom Altein, director of Winnipeg’s Jewish Learning Centre, wrote to Selinger that the bill’s requirement that gay-straight alliances be accommodated in every school “is based on a mistaken premise that will only serve to undermine the very principles of equality that it seeks to uphold.”
The Rabbi wrote that the bill fails to make the “important distinction” between the "respect that must be given to every human being” and the “notion that we must somehow embrace every opinion and every behavior.”
The Rabbi pointed out that Orthodox Judaism, like most of the world’s great religions, rejects homosexuality, not because of “intolerance of people that have a natural inclination towards such lifestyles,” but because of “impositions that religion places on us, including limitations on the ability to marry.” He wrote that it would be “wrong, hurtful and the height of disrespect, for students to form an official group that advocates for gay rights within the framework of a religious school.”
Amarjeet Warraich, president of the Manitoba Sikh Cultural & Seniors Centre, wrote that Bill 18 would infringe upon “our constitutionally protected right of freedom of religion and conscience by removing the discretion faith based schools have regarding the activities that happen with their schools.”
“We do not believe that faith based independent schools should be forced to accommodate and promote groups and speakers whose views may be in direct contradiction to our faith principles,” he wrote.
Ismael Mukhtar, president of the Manitoba Islamic Association, wrote that parents choose faith-based schools “with the expectation of a certain faith based environment. This reduces that choice.”
Bruinooge said out that based on the tone of the letters, religious leaders “would suggest a government shouldn’t be in the business of explaining to them how their holy books are interpreted,” adding that “there could be an exemption for theological schools working in a religious context.”
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Bruinooge added his voice to that of MP Vic Toews, Regional Minister for Manitoba, who recently called the bill “unconstitutional.”
Toews said earlier this month that the application of some of the bill’s provisions would “involve an unconstitutional infringement upon the freedom of religion.” He said that if the bill were not amended to “address concerns of faith-based organizations, schools and communities,” then "the only remedy may be an application to the courts to decide if the legislation is compliant with Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
But Manitoba Minister of Education Nancy Allen has stated on numerous occasions that the bill will not be amended to accommodate faith-based groups.
"We are not in the process of making any exceptions for faith-based groups,” she told reporters March 9.
"At the end of the day, we’re going to provide a safe and caring learning environment for all of our students in all of our schools in the province of Manitoba," she said.
Scott Wiebe, principal at Steinbach Christian High School, said that forcing public and faith-based independent schools to “act against their beliefs and their community values is not the way to combat bullying”.
Robert Charach, principal of Winnipeg’s Linden Christian School, said schools must have the power to approve school clubs that “respect the values of the school.”
“We’re all on the same page–stop bullying,” he said. “But the communities of faith feel that they’re being bullied by this process.”
One pro-family group from Ontario has issued a warning to Manitobans, saying, “Don’t let yourselves go the way of Ontario’s tyranny.”
Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) argued that former Premier McGuinty’s very similar Bill 13, which passed in Ontario last June, was more about pushing the homosexual political agenda on students than fighting bullying.
“McGuinty’s bill really had nothing at all to do with protecting children from bullying,” said Jack Fonseca, CLC’s project manager, in a recent interview with LifeSiteNews.com.
“It was a convenient covering, a ruse, to promote homosexuality to the next generation and to brainwash them into rejecting their parents’ values. Bill 18 is simply another bill 13,” he said.
Fonseca drew attention to the “horrible consequences” of Bill 13’s passage to Catholic education in Ontario. “The Catholic Church was forced to violate its religious beliefs by accepting openly homosexual student clubs in Catholic schools, despite opposition from Ontario’s bishops and concerned parents.”
Manitoba’s Conservatives have created a webpage to obtain public comment on the bill. A legislature committee is expected to hold public hearings on the bill this spring.