In the past few days we have seen a great deal of attention paid to the Halton District Catholic School Board in regard to their decision to ban Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools. However, this sort of decision did not come as much of a surprise to me.
The Catholic School Boards of Ontario have released a large array of ‘inclusionary practice’ materials for teachers during the past few years and have been pushing for an accepting and ‘loving’ environment for all students, which is directly in line with Christian teachings. What they often fail to notice, or at least recognize publicly, is the inherent contradictions that occur within these documents and within the teachings themselves. They are preaching at once for love and acceptance of all peoples and yet continue to recognize same-sex erotic acts and same-sex marriage as unnatural or against Catholic teaching. They want students who may identify as LGBTQ to feel accepted and appreciate and yet are supposed to discourage any want those students may have in pursuing a loving and sexually active relationship with the same sex.
What never ceases to amaze me is how seemingly comfortable they are with these inherent contradictions. How are Catholic Schools able to be a space of acceptance and love when they are treating some students as second class citizens; as those that should not be able to participate in the same kinds of relationships and acts that their heterosexual counterparts are encouraged to participate? Why do they still feel secure in their reliance on a few Biblical verses and teachings on homosexuality that are passed on in a heteronomous system of abidance and conformity when they have had no issue in ‘throwing out’ other teachings?
Whether the board decides to rescind their ban or not, I think there are broader and more complicated questions that need to be asked around issues of sexuality and religion. I seek acceptance of LGBTQ students in all school environments but I also recognize that the Catholic Church is entitled to their beliefs and interpretations. Maybe we should be asking: Why are Catholic Schools (even amidst constitutional rights established in 1867) still publicly funded in the province of Ontario when our current societal state is not one (perhaps arguably) which should be privileging one form of Religious belief over another (which is being done symbolically in the public funding of Catholic Schools and not, say, Jewish or Muslim schools)?