TORONTO (CNS) — Catholic schools in Ontario must allow gay-straight alliance clubs if requested by students, under a new law.
The controversial Bill 13 passed 65-36 June 5 in the Ontario provincial legislature.
Immediately following its passage, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins issued a brief statement in which he said Catholic schools should respect the law.
“The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario has expressed serious concerns regarding certain aspects of this legislation, as have numerous other individual citizens and groups,” said the statement.
“Recognizing that the Accepting Schools Act is now the law, Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities.
“Bullying, in any form, is unacceptable. At the core of our Catholic Christian beliefs is the command to welcome every person with love and respect,” the archbishop said.
A week earlier, Archbishop Collins criticized an amendment to the bill that makes gay-straight alliance clubs mandatory if they are requested by even one student. He suggested the law was an infringement on religious freedom and said he found it odd that students would be given the right to override the wishes of school trustees and principals.
He called for anti-bullying legislation that recognized the concerns of all students and allowed for solutions to bullying that respected the rights of Catholic education.
“Why is an act of the legislature being used to, in a sense, micromanage the naming of school clubs?” he asked at the time.
Despite some calls for a court challenge based on the constitutional legitimacy of the new law, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he is confident the law will be accepted in Catholic schools.
In a memo leaked to the press, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association expressed concern that its opposition to gay-straight alliances has caused an erosion in public support for Catholic education. However, the association said it had no intent to launch a court challenge.
According to the Toronto Star, the memo was written by association Executive Director Kevin Kobus and encouraged a “unified response to the key issues.” Student-led gay-straight alliances would be allowed but that would not “remove the right of a principal to ensure the appropriateness of materials used in the school.”