There is absolutely nothing to like about the Ontario government's funding of Catholic schools. Not one thing. It is, quite frankly, a stupid and wholly unfair policy, a relic so far out of touch with the present day the fact that it has lasted this long is preposterous.
In the latest example of why this farcical legislation must be changed, Catholic school boards are condemning the McGuinty government's anti-bullying bill because it would allow for the founding of "gay clubs" at publicly funded school boards. The Liberals introduced the legislation last week, in part as a response to the suicide of an Ottawa student who was gay.
The Catholic School Board and its supporters argue that the anti-bullying bill infringes on their freedom of religion. That is, if Catholics want to keep gay students closeted at school then they should be free to do so without government intervention. It's total hypocrisy -- using the Charter, designed specifically to afford everyone equal rights, to effectively deny young Canadians the freedom to be who they want to be. And in the context of gay students, who are particularly exposed to bullying, it's downright cruel.
According to the Evangelical Association, the anti-bullying legislation "violates the common law of separation of church and state." Fine then. If separation is what they want, so be it. Let's stop government funds from supporting Catholic schools -- then we'll have a solid boundary between church and state.
McGuinty's anti-bullying legislation is more than sensible, it's vital. While bullying is unavoidable to a certain extent (kids will be kids and so forth), keeping it to a limit in our schools is of paramount importance. If they are to gain any knowledge at all, kids need to feel safe at school, and the best way for kids to feel safe is to be a part of a group of like-minded peers. Bullies prey on the weak -- student groups, which offer strength in numbers, are the bully's kryptonite.
Of course, Catholic schools are free to be wrong on this issue, just as soon as they stop taking money from the government. But as long as Ontarians -- among them many gay people, and even more people who don't think it's right that kids are being tormented for their sexuality by their peers -- are footing the bill, Catholic school boards must allow gay students to organize against bullying.
At its core, funding for Catholic schools is unfair. The policy favours one religious brand at the expense of all others, a practice that is rightly considered unacceptable in just about every other aspect of public policy. And since funding all religious schools isn't an appealing option -- both because of cost and because doing so would inevitably lead to a massive increase in archaic and crazy demands based on various religious grounds -- the best course of action is to strip funding from Catholic schools. At least that way the rest of us won't be left paying for a willfully blind educational system out of touch with the values of the majority of Ontarians.
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