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Xtra story on Halton Catholic GSA ban sparks outrage

Xtra story on Halton Catholic GSA ban sparks outrage

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Catholic board backpedals after Nazi comparison
When Chelsey Worth attended a Halton Catholic school in 2009, the principal of her school barred her from planning a day of silence to honour bullied gay students.

Worth, now 19, and her girlfriend were both in Grade 12 at Assumption Catholic Secondary School in Burlington, a school that wasn’t very welcoming for gay, lesbian and trans students, she says.

The principal quickly put a stop to Worth's idea, fearing the wrath of anti-gay trustees and teachers at the school, she says.

“It was supposed to be a day to commemorate gay students that suffered from bullying,” Worth says. “He didn’t let us say anything. He just talked at us and it was over.”

And not much has changed, it seems, at Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB).

The HCDSB is facing a storm of outrage following an Xtra story Jan 6 that quoted the board chair comparing gay-straight alliances (GSAs) to Nazi groups.

The comments were made when Xtra asked board chair Alice Anne LeMay to explain the decision to ban GSAs when the HCDSB passed its equity and inclusion policy Nov 2.

“We don’t have Nazi groups either,” LeMay said. “Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The story lit up Twitter all weekend and made the rounds on Facebook, attracting the highest number of visitors ever on Xtra’s website. It was even picked up by media powerhouses Perez Hilton, Dan Savage and Rick Mercer, who helped push the staggering number of hits to more than 100,000 and counting.

“[LeMay’s] comments don’t surprise me too much,” Worth says. “She’s definitely still in the dark ages.”


Sarah Kelly is a masters of education student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. For her teaching placements she works with two GSA groups, so when she heard about the ban, she says, she had to fight it.

After starting the Facebook group “Fight the Halton Catholic School Board’s Ban on Gay Straight Alliances,” she began to actively promote a petition that has collected more than 700 names, and she made a YouTube video to rally support to force the board to overturn its decision.

She’s also helping to organize a protest at the next HCDSB meeting on Jan 18 in Burlington.

“I’m also getting my students in the GSA groups involved,” she says. “This is very important. This is shocking. This blatantly violates the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

On Jan 7 the HCDSB posted a statement on its website, claiming LeMay's comments were taken out of context.

"It was not my intent to make any type of comparison between gay-straight alliances and Nazi groups. Rather, I was providing a number of examples of groups that are not endorsed and permitted in Halton Catholic schools. For example, groups in favour of abortion or hate groups of any nature. I did not make a direct comparison between gay-straight alliances and any of these groups, nor was that my intent,” states LeMay.

Halton trustee Ed Viana didn’t seem to understand the question when Xtra called for comment on the ban.

“As long as they don’t bring private matters to the board, we’re okay,” he says. “As soon as they step out of that it’s a different story.”

When pressed about whether he supports LeMay’s comparison of GSAs to Nazi groups, he says, “I do support [LeMay’s] comments. She was very clear. We have policies we go by. People have private lives. Nobody ever asked me about this during the election.”

Another trustee, Anthony Danko, told Xtra he had no idea so many people were upset over LeMay’s comments. “I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. So I don’t know what outrage you’re talking about.”

But HCDSB’s newly elected openly gay trustee, Paul Marai, says the board has been inundated with emails and phone calls from people demanding the ban be scrapped.

“That ban is unacceptable,” he says. “This is a waste of time. We can actually be talking about things that improve the lives of students.”

Marai says his constituents in Oakville are “overwhelmingly” encouraging him to challenge the ban at the next board meeting.

But he may not have to wait that long. Marai says the board will discuss the ban during a planned policy meeting on Jan 11.

“Thanks for bringing attention to this,” he told Xtra. “I don’t know if I would have brought it up with the board because I have other issues I want to deal with, but I see people are upset about this. Bullying in schools is an important issue anyway.

“I hope things change because of this. The community has spoken.”

Comments

Catholics will provide for their students in their
The debate surrounding Homosexual/Straight Alliances (GSAs) in Catholic high schools is being complicated by the fact that people are not distinguishing between an objective and a strategy. GSAs are a strategy that some people propose to achieve an objective with which the Bishops of Ontario are in agreement: that all students in schools feel safe and respected. The Catholic objective is that each student be treated with dignity, for each is a child of God. It is not right or fair to suggest that one particular strategy is the only way to achieve a given goal. Catholics seek to achieve the goal of a safe and loving environment for all students in a way that is in harmony with their Christian faith.
Wow!
Prime Minister Harper has anything to do with this? Also if this is a catholic issue then most Catholic's I know do vote for the NDP with this is going to go on party lines.
fyi
http://www.dignitycanada.org/
shut down the rc school boards
Faxed to: Pope Benedict XVI; Prime Minister Harper; Attorney General Nicholson; Premier McGuinty; Ontario Minister of Education, Hon. Leona Dombrowsky. Shut down the catholic school boards.
Theocracies are dictatorships
The primary laws of Canada, and Supreme Court decisions, should trump all other laws in the land. Nazi Pope Ratzinger's laws have no legal basis in Canada. (FYI: There are currently other Christian Popes who contest the Bishop or Rome's reign, such as the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III, etc.) Catholic Doctrine is acceptable as opinions guaranteed under “Freedom of Speech--no matter how heinous,” as was awarded to Keegstra and Zundel by the Supreme Court, but not as binding laws which affect people's lives. I refuse to accept Sharia Law in Canada, as much as I refuse to accept Catholic laws or any other religious dogma. Religion is not law in any free country. Theocracies are dictatorships. The Catholic School board can ignore Canadian law, only if they pay their own way as a private club. I refuse to contribute my tax dollars to superstitious brainwashing of children, the proselytizing of Heterosexuality, and the preaching of hate dressed up as religion.
Petition
@Brandon Thanks for creating the petition. I've added the link to the story. Justin.
Leviticus bs
The evil writings in Leviticus 18:22 … against gays – depicts: “P” … “priestly rules” & expanded by the pope; homophobes and religious frauds … to attack the gay community and never meant to apply to the public -- but to priests. Leviticus exists in the old testament & torah … & was written long after Moses -- 600BC. How would you like it … if hate speech was directed to your brother or sister as you sat in the pew; spewed by some better than thou religious lunatic with a hateful black book about Leviticus -- under his arm? The pope and churches fully aware that Leviticus 18:22 applies only to priests refuse to remove this stigma maliciously persecuting gays. Kids bullied into suicide …! Being black or left-handed or being gay is just as natural. If the black community or women had it written that they should be put to death; how would they like that? Churches are committing hate crimes and more succinctly a violent criminal offence against a federally protected minority namely the gay community. It is actually a bigger moment in history … gays standing up for equality … soldiers being discharged are indeed exposing something far greater ... the realization that there is something far more evil at work -- hateful religion which should be discharged from society -- period. It’s now time to shut down the churches & synagogues with bibles with leviticus 18:22. Religion and the churches should now be exposed as a bigoted structure that gets away with hate mongering. It is a criminal offence to cause harm onto others physically or with written items … bibles have been getting away with this for ages. Tony Perkins and his The Family Research Council's opposition to gay rights have landed the outfit onto a list of "hate groups,” like the KKK. Christian colleges should be classified as hate groups and shut down.
Petition
The petition mentioned is house at change.org. You can sign it here: http://gayrights.change.org/petitions/view/tell_the_halton_catholic_district_school_board_to_lift_ban_on_gay-straight_alliances
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