National Catholic Register


Canadian Catholics Stand Up

Parents Assert Rights to Be First Teachers of Their Children

BY Steve Weatherbe

August 28-September 10, 2011 Issue | Posted 8/19/11 at 6:49 PM


BURNABY, British Columbia — A Catholic civil-rights group in Canada has published a parental-rights declaration as a way to assist parents in their struggles with school bureaucracies intent on normalizing homosexuality.

Canada legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2005.

Sean Murphy, British Columbia director of the Canadian Catholic Civil Rights League, published the “Declaration on the Authority of Parents and Guardians in the Education of their Children” on July 6 and distributed it to parents’ groups around the world, several of whom have published it.

Murphy’s move was triggered when parents failed to stop a British Columbia public-school district policy promoting homosexuality as a behavior that is as acceptable to heterosexuality. The school board condemned what it called “heterosexism.”

“Our specific concern is public schools will force children to learn morally objectionable material,” Murphy said. And while public schools pay lip service to the notion that parents are the primary educators of their children, “they increasingly behave as if they can overrule parental authority whenever they see fit.”

The declaration argues that procreation itself places on parents an obligation under natural law to rear and educate their children in their best spiritual, moral and physical interests, and with this “natural obligation comes a primordial and inalienable authority to educate their own children that is neither dependent upon nor derived from the broader community or the state.”

Public schools have long delivered accepted values, including religious ones, on behalf of society, but lately, said Murphy, they have become ostensibly secular and actually teaching a new morality that is in conflict with the morality and spirituality of many religious people.

Gordon World, spokesman for Parents’ Voice in Burnaby, B.C., welcomed the Canadian Catholic Civil Rights League declaration as he planned his campaign to get on the Burnaby school board and reverse the newly passed Policy 5.45.

World said Policy 5.45 is disguised as an anti-bullying measure but is actually an expression of the homosexual-rights lobby in British Columbia.

In the past, British Columbia’s homosexual-rights activists have gone to the Canadian Supreme Court to force a neighboring school district in Burnaby to put homosexual readers in school libraries (such as Priscilla Galloway’s Jennifer Has Two Daddies, aimed at 7- to 10-year-olds), to make the federal government pay spousal pension benefits to homosexual partners, and have the provincial Human Rights Tribunal make the provincial government put positive homosexual material in the public-school curriculum, as well as a social-justice course promoting diversity and tolerance. In the last case, the government did not wait for a ruling but agreed to these demands in a settlement.

‘Sit Down and Shut Up’

It was this “Corren settlement” (named after the plaintiffs, an activist homosexual couple) — followed up by homosexual-pressure groups — that led to Burnaby’s Policy 5.45. World says the policy is itself hostile to an identifiable group, namely religious believers.

“5.45 is not neutral,” said World. “It basically favors a certain segment of society; it places them on a pedestal and forces the rest of society to sit down and shut up.”

According to World, the program content accompanying Policy 5.45 extols the homosexual lifestyle as normal. It also ignores the downside of the lifestyle, such as the shorter life expectancy and other health risks.

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, recently affirmed that a majority of all new HIV infections are among homosexual men, even though they make up a small part of the population. “Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for just 2% of the U.S. population but represent more than half of all new infections in the United States,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, during a June 2 ceremony commemorating 30 years since the discovery of the AIDS disease.

In Burnaby, however, any student who raises moral objections to the teaching that homosexuality is normal will be sanctioned by the school, says World. And children will be sent home with values opposed to those of their parents.

Parents’ Voice has urged parents to write formal requests to their children’s principals requesting “accommodation” — leave to miss classes when objectionable lessons are taught.

But Burnaby assistant superintendent Kevin Kaardal states that parents with concerns about content have been invited to speak to school principals. But World is skeptical of the outcome, since Kaardal has also stated that any accommodation cannot stand in the way of “curricular outcomes” set by the provincial Ministry of Education.

For example, says Kaardal, students can be absent from a biology class where animals are dissected, but they still must perform the dissection by computer or using a model.

Kaardal added: “The board does not ask parents or families to abandon or change their religious or moral commitments. Rather, it respects the rights of families to their own beliefs. The board’s focus is on ensuring that all of its communities are respected and valued.”

The policy, at one point, defines “heterosexism” as “the mistaken assumption that all people are heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior and the norm by which all other sexual orientation and gender identities are measured.”

But World already has received a reply to his request from the district saying that “the curricular outcomes” desired by the provincial Ministry of Education must still be achieved by the students, even if they miss a particular lesson.

World said Parents’ Voice is considering taking the school district to the Human Rights Council, asserting their children’s religious and free-speech rights are being violated.

World is also contesting a seat on the school board in the fall elections and hopes other Parents’ Voice parents will join him.

Elsewhere in Canada, the issue has also arisen in Catholic schools. In Ontario, Canada’s largest province, and one whose Catholic school system is fully taxpayer-supported, the Halton board ran into public disapproval in January when it banned “gay-straight alliance clubs,” which the province’s public boards had adopted to meet government requirements for diversity. A storm of criticism from homosexual-rights groups led the board to reconsider its ban, but this sparked another storm of protest, this time from Catholic parents, who complained such clubs would flout Catholic doctrine. The board resolved the dilemma by creating clubs to bring students from many different backgrounds together. The dispute led to many pundits questioning the existence of the tax-supported Catholic system, but Catholics, many of whom are bloc-voting, recently arrived immigrants, have daunting political clout.

In Alberta, where Catholic schools are also fully funded by taxpayers, the Catholic system has also incurred public displeasure for modifying ministry of education teaching goals to fit Church teachings.

Quebec Catholic parents have also resisted the provincial government’s ethics curriculum, which they claim teaches a relativistic worldview. But Catholic observance in Quebec is the lowest in Canada, giving Catholic parents less political clout than in other provinces against a more aggressively secular government.

Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.