Despite uproar over Trinity Western, many B.C. Christian school policies bar LGBTQ teachers | National Post

Open question whether this form of discrimination in religious schools is compatible with continuing to receive public funding:

While the debate over Trinity Western University’s community covenant rages on through the courts and the media, many Christian elementary and high schools that receive B.C. government funding are quietly operating with similar policies that essentially bar gay and lesbian teachers from employment.

The independent schools all belong to the Society of Christian Schools in B.C. (SCSBC), which requires each of its 31 member schools to draft “community standards policies” for employees to follow. The suggested language includes refraining from all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage.

Several members of the society have posted policies that include these restrictions online, including schools in Abbotsford, Surrey, Langley, Nanaimo, and Houston. These policies also tend to include prohibitions on things like public drunkenness and watching porn.

“What a terrible message,” said former Vancouver school trustee Patti Bacchus. “Something like that, it just goes backwards. It’s flat-out discrimination and a violation of someone’s human rights.”

Ed Noot, the executive director of the SCSBC, is overseas and declined to answer questions by email.

Canadian legal precedent largely falls on the side of protecting the rights of religious schools to set their own policies, as long as they’re made in good faith and based on honestly-held religious beliefs. The defining Supreme Court of Canada case dates back to 1984, when the justices ruled in favour of a Vancouver Catholic school that fired a teacher after she married a divorced man.

The B.C. Court of Appeal followed that line of thinking when its panel of five judges ruled in favour of TWU establishing a law school, calling the B.C. Law Society’s attempt to deny the school accreditation on the basis of its discriminatory covenant a well-intentioned act carried out in an “intolerant and illiberal” manner.

That case will likely end up in the country’s highest court, and there are those who say it’s time for a change in direction.

Vancouver lawyer and queer activist Barbara Findlay believes that freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination are both essential rights, but she has strong feelings about how these rights should be balanced.

“I say that your right to freedom of religion ends where you want me to do something. My right to be free from discrimination can only exist if your right to freedom of religion is not allowed to trump it,” findlay said.

“I’m hoping that this question will be definitively settled in the Trinity Western case when it heads to the Supreme Court.”

This fall, Education Minister Mike Bernier announced that all public and private schools in B.C. would have to include protections for LGBTQ students in their anti-bullying policies, and choked up as he remembered the difficulties his lesbian daughter faced in school. Meanwhile, the province’s new curriculum asks teachers to ensure their lessons support inclusion and diversity, including “diversity in family compositions and gender orientation.”

In an emailed statement, the education ministry stressed that “We believe in safe, respecting and inclusive schools.” But the statement also pointed out that Canada’s Human Rights Act allows certain schools to discriminate if their primary purpose is promoting the interest of a religious group. Most independent school authorities in B.C. meet the requirements for that, according to the ministry.

Source: Despite uproar over Trinity Western, many B.C. Christian school policies bar LGBTQ teachers | National Post

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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