04/11/2018 12:55 EDT | Updated 04/11/2018 12:58 EDT

On Alberta Gay-Straight Alliance Bill, Youth Rights Should Remain 1st Priority

Religious groups have launched a constitutional challenge against Bill 24, a law that facilitates gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools.

A group of 24 private religious schools and other groups have launched a constitutional challenge against a law that facilitates gay-straight alliances (GSA) across all schools in Alberta. This law is based on Bill 24 that was passed last year. It upholds the privacy of youth who wish to join a GSA and also mandates the creation of a GSA should a student request one.

The groups challenging the law predominately comprise of Christian schools, with a minority Sikh and Jewish presence. Their concerns revolve around parental right to provide education based on the beliefs that gender is binary and that marriage is between a man and a woman. Thankfully, no Muslim group was part of this unholy alliance, as they face real issues like Islamophobia.

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The Law Courts in downtown Edmonton, Alta.

Reminiscent of the "eat da poo poo" video that surfaced from Uganda, the application challenging the law indicates that GSAs promote unhealthy sexual activity to youth. It engages in graphic description of extreme sexual practices.

To borrow imagery from the Iraq war, the application uses "shock and awe" tactics to further its agenda. It is clear that despite emphasizing family and religious values, the groups have spent too much time researching and meticulously defining kinky sexual practices.

These groups seem to comprise of fringe actors, who do not speak for all of Christianity and Judaism. Many Christian churches and both the reform and conservative synagogues affirm their LGBTQ congregants. In Islam, children are viewed as amanah (trust) from Allah. This means parents do not own their children and therefore cannot dictate their choices in life, including careers and partners.

GSAs are about forging human ties where straight, gay and the non-binary come together to stand by one another.

Parents have the right to provide their children fact-based education, but there is no right to indoctrination. Indeed, the government intervenes when the parents' decisions harm children.

Instances of such intervention include compulsory education that protects youth from myopic parents who would otherwise under-invest in the education of their children. It also includes weaning students away from fringe madrassas and schools that indoctrinate instead of enlighten.

The state can and has intervened to protect children against religious and personal beliefs that interfere with their well-being, as in the case of blood transfusion and access to proper diet and medicine instead of compulsory veganism and ineffectual "holistic cures."

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Likewise, most medical facilities in Canada do not share medical information with parents without the consent of a youth who undergoes abortion, which is funded by the government. All of this clearly indicates that youth rights trump parental beliefs and control.

GSAs save lives and the research is clear. They have benefits that are not restricted to LGBTQ2S+ youth, for some straight youth also face bullying for their perceived sexuality. More often than not, GSAs are initiated by straight youth who, unlike bigoted parents, unconditionally affirm the humanity of their LGBTQ2S+ peers.

Far from the sex-obsessed groups who are challenging the law, GSAs are about forging human ties where straight, gay and the non-binary come together to stand by one another. Nothing could be more Christian.

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This year, two movies came out that touched on the concerns of LGBTQ2S+ youth, the more popular "Love Simon," and the South Indian movie "My Son is Gay." Neither of them is about extreme sexual practices.

The basic concern is simple: to live with intimacy, affection and companionship without having to pay a heavy price through severed relationships with family and friends. Indeed, as the South Indian movie points out, the issue is attitude, ego and ignorance — the same ignorance that engulfs the groups challenging the Alberta law.

In essence, the welfare of a baby, child or youth trumps any parental religious right to indoctrinate and control.

*This viewpoint reflects the consensus position of Michael Phair, Murray Billett, John McDougall, Rob Wells, Frank Testin (Dignity Canada), Junaid Jahangir, Rev. Mark Chiang and Larry Derkach (Executive Director, Jewish Family Services; Chair, McDougall United Church Council).

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