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Ideological Coercion Is Nothing To Be Proud About

Gay rainbow flags waving over blue sky background
Gay rainbow flags waving over blue sky background

Duncan Kinney of Progress Alberta argues that "Alberta Should Be Proud of Gay-Straight Alliances in its Schools" (Huffington Post, 6 January 2017). He states that progressives need to celebrate the "victory" of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) being set up at Strathcona Christian Academy, a school east of Edmonton.

However, the Sexual and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) student club at this school will be led and guided by Evangelical Christian leaders. The school will ensure, as stated in its November 22 letter to parents, that the club does not promote beliefs which challenge church teaching that sex is reserved for the marriage of a man and a woman.

This means that the SAGA club believes that sexual expression outside of a male-female marriage (of which gay sex is only one example) is sinful.

The difference between SAGA and GSA is not mere nit-picking over words.

A GSA, as defined by GSA websites, seeks to fight "homophobia."

The clinical and scientific definition of a "phobia" is "extreme or irrational fear." But GSAs see "homophobia" as including Christian, Islamic, Orthodox Jewish and other religious teachings about marriage and sexuality. For example, the Fight Against Homophobia Award was given to the Members of Parliament who voted in favour of same-sex marriage in 2006.

One does not need to be a philosopher or logician to understand that one is "homophobic" for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Fight Against Homophobia Award is one of thousands of examples where the word "homophobic" is used to describe any opinion (or person) in disagreement with the idea that homosexuality is normal, natural, healthy and worthy of full moral and cultural acceptance.

Alberta's former Progressive Conservative government passed Bill 10 (now section 16.1 of the School Act) because Alberta's Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Protestant/Evangelical schools were never going to allow student clubs that promote beliefs that are hostile to the school's purpose, beliefs, culture and character. The whole point of Bill 10 is to force religious schools to establish and host anti-religious clubs known as GSAs. r. Kinney explains this concept of coercion accurately: "Strathcona Christian Academy is only allowing a GSA at their school because they have to by law." [Emphasis added] Still, Strathcona Christian Academy is not hosting the kind of "GSA" envisioned by those who passed Bill 10 into law, namely a GSA that fights "homophobic" religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality.

The ideological coercion favoured by Mr. Kinney is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Article 26(3) states that "parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." The Universal Declaration was signed in the wake of World War II, after Canada and other democracies had defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. These countries - like all dictatorships past and present - used the education system to indoctrinate children, and to separate children from their parents.

In the Universal Declaration, parental rights in education are as important as other rights which the Axis powers had viciously suppressed: free speech, religious freedom, freedom of association, the right to a fair trial, voting rights, and the rule of law.

In 1976, Canada ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Article 18.4 commits Canada to respect the liberty of parents "to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions." In harmony with parental rights in education, the Declaration and the Covenant also state that "the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

Bill 10 attacks the right of parents, principals and teachers to determine what clubs and activities are permitted at their children's school. This law's supporters have yet to answer basic questions about its merits. Why should children, who can't legally drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, join the military or vote in elections, decide what kinds of clubs and activities are allowed at school?

Why is it good to strip local schools (principals, teachers and parents) of their former right to create and enforce their own anti-bullying policies?

Why should a top-down solution be imposed on the whole province from Edmonton? Why should Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Catholic and Evangelical/Protestant schools be forced by law to host clubs and activities which preach and promote an ideology that is openly hostile to these schools' beliefs and traditions? How can it be good for the law to impose one belief system about sexuality and marriage on every school in Alberta?

These questions are ignored by Mr. Kinney and other supporters of Bill 10. In Alberta, debate about Bill 10 is squelched by calling its opponents "homophobes," "bigots," and "hateful."

The "victory" which Mr. Kinney seeks to celebrate comes at the price of stripping parents of their prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children, and the right of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions - not Mr. Kinney's convictions.

In the long run, progressives like Mr. Kinney are better off with a truly free education system, which fully respects the right of progressive parents to educate their children in progressive beliefs and values. Such schools already exist, as we are reminded by the recent case of a private school teacher who was fired because his pro-life views made students at this progressive school feel "triggered".

When one weakens the fundamental freedoms of parents and other citizens through measures like Bill 10, progressives (as well as religious conservatives) all suffer a loss of freedom in the long run, by giving more power to government. The power to violate parental rights can be used by anyone and everyone. The resulting loss of freedom cuts in all directions, to the ultimate detriment of everyone.

Calgary lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (

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