Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Catholic nation

I heard something on the radio this morning that really raised my ire.  The Catholic school board in Toronto has expelled two students because their parents were lesbians.  Their statement on the matter essentially said that they feel it is necessary to remove people from their school board who do not conform to the church's ideals of behaviour.  Specifically in this case they only condone sex when it is within a marriage and heterosexual in nature.  I was completely boggled by the fact that the Catholic school board was actually pretending that this was the ruleset they used:  How many times have children been removed from schools because their parents had sex with someone with whom they were not married?

This news had a strange effect on me.  On one hand it just enraged me that we have publicly funded schools in my city that base their policies on religion dogma, but on the other hand me getting worked up about that isn't going to change anything.  It is widely accepted that having a Catholic school board but no other school boards for any other religion is against much of what Canada stands for.  All religions are treated equally in this country in theory, but in practice one religion in particular is treated differently when it comes to education.

The problems with the Catholic school board are several:  First, that Catholic schools are publicly funded.  There are schools out there for other religions but they are private institutions.  I certainly don't like the idea of religious indoctrination in any form but having one particular group be supported by the government is wretched indeed.  Secondly the Catholic ideals are supported in ways that can only be explained by homophobia.  Respect of one's parents is far more centrally enshrined in the Bible and yet people who are rude to their parents are not expelled.  The Bible has many other rules laid down that are not enforced, such as a total lack of work on the Sabbath or cleansing rituals after menstruation. This is not a set of rules derived from the Bible at all, but rather simply desperate need to control how and when people use their genitals.

Catholic school boards in Canada should go.  Certainly the alternative of providing special school boards for every single religion in the country is often raised, but it is both completely infeasible and even less palatable.  Public services that the government supplies to everyone should not be based on religion and especially should not discriminate based on the lifestyle of people who aren't even directly involved.  Getting rid of them will be a exceedingly difficult task however since no politician is willing to take on the task of actually removing the Catholic from the school board.  Anyone who did this would risk the wrath of churches and Catholic voters and risks getting little in return.  It is a sad state of affairs indeed.


  1. I agree with you 100%. In America, it is illegal to use public funds to benefit a religious institution, especially schools. If anyone were to be caught funding a religious institution with public funds, the public outcry would be swift and extremely furious.

    I'm honestly quite surprised Canada doesn't have similar laws.

  2. Canada essentially does have similar laws, but the existence of Catholic school boards in enshrined in the constitution of our province. Basically in a clash of constitutions, the specific trumps the general, so the part that says there are catholic schools overwhelms the more general statement that you can't do things like having catholic schools.

    Of course the history of this is that at the time this clause was created the non-catholic schools were protestant schools. We're obviously way past that now, and it is interesting to me that the existence of catholic schools was largely there to appease French Canadians, but Quebec has already done away with separate schools.

    In reality, catholic schools are going to go away, but it will take a while. I think this case is one of the ones that will push it along. These people will likely take the school board to court and the school board will lose, eroding their ability to actually inflict catholicism on their students a little further. One day Catholic school boards will be Catholic in name only and then we will actually be able to get rid of them.

    Unfortunately education politics in Ontario is very heated and very far from anything that resembles reasonable thought.

  3. This situation could easily be compared to the situation with marijuana in the US. Marijuana is non addictive unlike alcohol/nicotine/caffeine and isn't more harmful than any of those others yet it is a 'drug' and thus illegal. If marijuana were legal in the US and someone were trying to build a case to outlaw marijuana it would be hopeless. There simply wouldn't be any support for outlawing a substance that is less addictive/harmful than a thousand substances you can purchase in your local drugstore.

    However, because marijuana is currently illegal actually getting that changed is a huge problem. Politicians won't take a stand for it because of the loss of votes so it remains unchanged. The situation with Catholic school boards is comparable in that although no one can justify the current situation no one in power is willing to step up and force the change.

    If Catholic school boards in Canada did not exist and someone tried to start them up it would be laughed at. Unfortunately that doesn't create the political will to remove them.

  4. Lucky kids, to be expelled from the Catholic School Board... oh, is it politically and socially incorrect to say that? Oops!

  5. Given that the Catholic School Board expels people for the behaviour of their relatives in private I think you are well justified in wanting to stay the hell away from them. I surely would not want my child involved in that mass of hypocrisy.

    It is perhaps socially unacceptable to bash religion in public, but I have taken to doing that more and more of late regardless. My feeling on the issue is that if religions stay out of public life completely then I will happily keep my opinions to myself. Until then, game on.

    (I'm planning on making this into a T-Shirt before the next provincial election)

    I think that the Catholic Boards should kick out all the students of divorced parents. That would show them. HA!

    The resounding defeat of John Tory in the last provincial election (didn't even win his OWN seat) after he brought in "publicly funded religious schools for everyone" platform shows that there is not public support for the idea of publicly funded religious education. Seems that most politicians feel that rocking the catholic board boat would be too much trouble though (The "I went to Catholic school and turned out just fine" mentality).

    In the next provincial election we need to MAKE politicians talk about this issue. Write to newspapers. Show up at debates and ask pointed questions. Volunteer in campaigns if they support your views. LET'S DO IT!!! NO MORE PUBLIC MONEY FOR RELIGIOUS EDUCATION.

    (FYI - I've decided that I'm fine with people paying for their own religious schools. I don't LOVE it, but if they want to pay for it themselves ... go for it.)

  7. Since people are allowed to home school their children I can't see any way to prevent religious indoctrination during childhood. When Canada finally does away with Catholic school boards that are publicly funded nearly all the students will go straight into regular public schools and a few will get sent to private religious schools. Nothing we can do about that, like it or not.

    I do like the chant though. Governments have no business being involved in religion whatsoever.

  8. Forget home schooling. Check this out from the Onion,17159/