01/15/2016 11:59 EST

Bishop Fred Henry Says Alberta's New LGBTQ School Guidelines Are 'Anti-Catholic'

Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary/Facebook

EDMONTON — A Catholic clergyman is both condemning and calling for the outright rejection of Alberta's plan to draw up rules to assist LGBTQ students, particularly transgender ones, in schools.

"Totalitarianism is alive and well in Alberta,'' Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary wrote in a public letter issued Thursday to his faithful.

"This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular, narrow-minded, anti-Catholic ideology ... and must be rejected.''

Henry's remarks come as the province moves forward with creating individually tailored policies in 61 school districts, including Catholic ones, to ensure that LGBTQ students are respected and can thrive.

"Totalitarianism is alive and well in Alberta."

Education Minister David Eggen delivered guidelines to the boards on Wednesday and they must deliver draft versions of their policies to the province by March 31 for review.

The 12 guidelines specify that transgender students be allowed to use their washroom of choice depending on their sex or on whether they perceive themselves to be a girl or a boy.

It also states students be allowed to dress based on the same principle and play on sports teams they feel align with their gender identity.

The students should be addressed by the name and pronoun that makes them comfortable, and can say how they want to be named and be recognized in official school records.

"In (God's) plan, men and women should respect and accept their sexual identity.''

Henry assails the province's stated goal of changing the rules to make everyone feel comfortable as a disguise for imposing rules that some must find intolerable.

He suggested that approach "does not allow for any differing opinion. In no way does it differ from an attitude of 'Shut up' or 'Don't get involved.'''

As for transgender individuals, Henry said: "In (God's) plan, men and women should respect and accept their sexual identity.''

'Important things are never necessarily easy'

Eggen said discussions with school boards will continue and there will soon be meetings with Catholic church leaders as well.

"Certainly I knew this wasn't going to be easy, but important things are never necessarily easy to achieve,'' Eggen said in a phone interview from Winnipeg.

"We'll receive different opinions on this, but I always take it back to first principles, which is to protect and to focus on children, especially young vulnerable children in regards to gender identities.

"Once we do remind ourselves of those things, then it becomes clearer what has to be done.''

Human rights complaint

Last fall, the Edmonton Catholic School District struggled with a seven-year-old student who self-identified as a girl and wanted to use the girls washroom.

The student balked at the school's suggestion to use a gender-neutral washroom and her family filed a human rights complaint.

Last fall, the district's board members held emotional meetings as they tried to craft a larger policy on LGBTQ rights. One trustee told the media he believed transgender students "have a mental disorder.''

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