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‘Time to talk about defunding Catholic schools’

Here is an article from Xtra magazine on Catholic School funding, Gay-Straight Alliances, and Freedom of Religion conflicts with Human Rights, brought to our attention by a member. The article mentions that only the Green Party has been willing to make a statement or talk to Xtra about the issue.

…But while politicians are staying silent, the issue has got the public and mainstream media talking. Even some religious leaders are speaking out against funding for Catholic schools. Metropolitan Community Church pastor Brent Hawkes told Xtra that it’s time to seriously talk about defunding Catholic schools.

Hawkes admits the constitutional right to freedom of religion is continuously coming in conflict with human rights laws. “…The addition of freedom of religion into the human right’s code was intended as a way to ensure there was ‘freedom of worship’ … It was a means to protect groups from having the state interfere with their right to worship. It was never intended to move beyond that… It was never intended to be used as a way to deny rights to others or to demand things from others.”

Hawkes says Catholic schools are twisting the constitutional guarantee for a different purpose. “Some folks feel the whole ‘freedom of religion thing’ has gradually expanded way beyond it’s original intent. It was not meant to be used as a tool to go out into society and demand all these other accommodations.  Now we see the religious right trying to use freedom of religion to deny equality rights to gays and lesbians. We have to be very vigilant to be back in the courts, in ways that we haven’t been for a while, to ensure our rights we have are protected because they can be so easily undermined under the guise of freedom of religion.”

Hawkes says that publicly funded agencies, such as Ontario Catholic school boards, must obey public policy.  “If you receive public funds, you must abide by public policy. The public gets this. I think this issue of Catholic school boards and GSAs is raising an important point.  It’s really time that this province looked at [the problems with] having a religious-based school system.  It’s really time to rethink that.  New Brunswick has changed it, Newfoundland has changed it, even Quebec.”

Hawkes notes the United Nations has already found Canada in violation of human rights laws by allowing Catholic faith-based schools, but not other faiths.  “It’s a very dangerous precedent for the gay and lesbian community, and particularly women, to allow faith-based schools. When people are raised in the public system they are exposed to other views and sexual orientations. The Catholic system in general does a good job teaching tolerance, but I’m not sure other faith-based schools would do that. As a society we need to decide what the boundaries on freedom of religion are,” Hawkes adds.

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