In Manitoba, Christians Are Opposing Legislation That Would Protect LGBT Students from Getting Bullied

In Manitoba, Canada, the New Democratic Party introduced anti-bullying legislation in December so that schools would become safer and more inclusive of all students. The legislation (“Bill 18″) also made explicitly clear that bullying of LGBT students would not be tolerated and groups that support them must be allowed:

A respect from human diversity policy must accommodate pupils who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that… use the name “gay-straight alliance” or any other name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils.

That shouldn’t be a big deal. But a group of Christians in the area are trying to put a stop to it:

Bill 18 requires schools to accommodate and promote student groups that have values and beliefs in direct contradiction to many faith based independent schools and in contradiction to the communities many public schools are located. The Bill also specifically grants legal protection to certain groups while excluding others from that same protection.

In particular, when parents and students choose an independent faith based school they do so specifically because it offers a certain school environment and set of values. Bill 18 erodes that choice by requiring these schools to accommodate and promote groups whose beliefs are in direct contradiction to the teachings of many independent faith based schools.

Who knew being a kind, decent human being went against the teachings of Christ?

Because anyone who reads that legislation would understand it’s not “promoting” homosexuality (whatever that means) nor would it discriminate against Christians at all. It doesn’t force every school to being their own GSA. It doesn’t force every student to become a member of such a group either.

Keep in mind that Canadian law isn’t the same as American law, so reader Dorothy helpfully points out what the implications of this law could be:

[The Christians] claim it would infringe on the rights of private “faith-based” schools. They are screaming “Freedom of Religion.” Such schools, in Manitoba, receive about 50% public funding. There have been some comments on the news articles advocating that if private schools want to accept public funding they must follow the legislation; however, this leaves the loophole that if they want to refuse the funding they don’t have to abide by the provincial laws. I believe this is a dangerous route to go — kids who are forced by their parents to attend religious schools are the ones most in need of protection. And if religious schools are exempt from the legislation, this may cause some parents to transfer their kids, and the private schools will become bastions of homophobia.

I’m sure many Christians in the area would love that. Over a thousand of them met up recently to discuss why this law was a bad idea, despite gay students in the area explaining otherwise:

“Steinbach’s a very religious, conservative community, and I’m really concerned about what these students are feeling like in their homes… that they feel that they really can’t come out,” [gay student Evan] Wiens said.

“I just want to be able to at least have a place at school that they feel safe.”

Safety: An irrelevant concern for the Christians opposing this law. To them, if a law supports the formation of a gay-straight alliance group, it’s automatically anti-Christian.

This pamphlet (PDF) put out by a local Christian school almost goes out of its way to not mention homosexuality, even acknowledging that that’s the public’s perception of their opposition:

Q. Is opposition against the Bill simply because it requires schools to accommodate and promote a “Gay-Straight Alliance”?

A. No. First of all, it’s not an effective Bill to reduce bullying. But it is also true that the Bill requires schools to accommodate and promote groups in the school that may be against school or community values and faith. But the issue isn’t which group it is, schools, particularly faith based schools, should have discretion on the activities that happen within the school regardless of the group or activity

They still miss the mark. GSA groups are not anti-Christian. They promote values (dignity, respect, kindness toward all people, regardless of sexual orientation) that we should all strive to uphold. To suggest they go against “community values” is a thinly-veiled way of trying to keep homophobia alive and well.

Other churches are far more blunt about their intentions (PDF):

In reality this bill is ultimately not about bullying. It is about aggressively promoting a pro-homosexual educational agenda in our schools, one which seeks to brainwash our children into viewing homosexual behavior as perfectly normal, good and moral — a healthy alternative to the traditional heterosexual marriage relationship.

Forcing our children to learn about and accept the homosexual lifestyle is bullying!

As Christians we need to be aware of insidious Bills such as Bill 18 that chip away at the moral core of our society. To some fighting this Bill may seem extreme. But, if we don’t stand up for the rights of the Christian home and the values of God’s Word then who will? This is where being a dedicated and unashamed believer in Jesus Christ becomes a reality.

That’s more like it. If we don’t protect Christians’ right to bully gay kids, we’re brainwashing students into accepting the homosexual lifestyle.

Christians are also upset that they’re being portrayed by the media as ignorant bigots. Well, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck… I’m not sure what else they were expecting. You have a group that supports treating all students with dignity and respect… and then you have these Christians, who think that’s a horrible idea.

The upside to this is that the bill appears to have the support of the majority of the government as well as the majority of Manitobans. Hopefully, that means it’ll pass without a problem. If the Christians have taught us anything in this battle, it’s that Manitoba needs this legislation. (And for what it’s worth, Christians would be protected under this bill as well.)

On another note, if it’s going to pass no matter what, then I hope the Christians keep complaining. The more they oppose sensible legislation, the more people the push away from their awful religion. It would be great if Christians who felt differently spoke up, but I’m not going to stop Christians from digging their own graves with this one. They’re reveling in their martyr complex while the rest of the province moves on, showing their true colors and making a strong case for why no decent person would want to be on their side.

(Thanks to Aaron for the link)

***Update***: Last night, the City Council in Steinbach voted 5-2 on a resolution asking the province to review the bill:

…The motion was put forward by Councillor John Fehr.

“We oppose this Bill for the following two reasons. It is not specific as to what is perceived to be bullying and what the consequences are for those choose to bully and it makes no provision for private schools and other schools to adhere to their faith principles.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Hamid Afra

    Christian lobbying groups are powerless in Canada, and they cant do anything. I live in Ontario and liberal party here passed the same thing last year and it will pass in Manitoba too. Supreme court of Canada also ruled last week that people cant use their religion to discriminate against others.

    • Andrew

      Sadly this isn’t entirely true, as proven in Bountiful BC, where polygamy is practiced, young girls are married and impregnated, and where only the boys are allowed to have any serious education, all protected by their right to religious freedom.


  • AxeGrrl

    You either support the idea that schools should be a ‘safe place’ for ALL students, or you don’t.

    And if you don’t support that idea, then shame on you.

  • Craig Hansen

    Steinbach is a hotbed of Christianity in Manitoba. A few years ago, I spent some time debunking a “mortgage acceleration software ” MLM scam (United First Financial). This sort of thing is often marketed through church connections, and by the sales figures that were leaked, they sold more in the Steinbach area than they did in Toronto. It was common for the scam leaders in Steinbach to criticize me for being an atheist, as if that proved my math wrong or something.

    I’m not shocked to see this community in the news for defending their right to be religious bigots. I just hope their kids don’t feel the same way as many of the parents seem to.

    • kent_wh

      Steinbach is also one of the only (possibly the only) dry town in Manitoba, due to the same loud religious forces.

      The place has a strong Menonite history, and has historically been quite conservative.

  • Mackinz

    The reason that these christian groups are against this anti-bullying bill is that they themselves are the bullies, who get their jollies condemning others and making them feel like they should kill themselves for being different.

    Bullies are dicks. People who oppose anti-bullying bills because they would be punished for bullying people who aren’t like themselves are dicks.

    Someone should teach them what it is like to be bullied for who you are. That would be something I would enjoy doing, if I didn’t despise bullying after being called
    “Wirth-less” for most of my public schooling. I can think of quite a few things I could call a Christian…

    • observer

      I’ve always had a theory that bigots (especially religious extremists) fear being labeled the “bad guys”. After all, you can’t really brag that you’re the moral one if you’re doing unjust harm to others. If the Christian group allowed this bill to pass, then it may tell others that homosexuals ARN’T the evil ones, but the bullying Christians are.
      So, for the sake of keeping their reputation of being morally superior, bigots keep butting heads with their opponents, clamming that it’s the homosexuals who are the “evil” ones (or the abusers), while the bigots are the heroes (or the victims).

  • Rain

    But, if we don’t stand up for the rights of the Christian home and the values of God’s Word then who will?

    Jesus maybe? Oh he can’t because he’s pretend.

    This is where being a dedicated and unashamed believer in Jesus Christ becomes a reality.

    Yeah. Pretend is reality, gay is bullying, hate is love…

  • James Glazier

    why then if these christian schools are so against this bill don’t they just refuse funding from the government?Because they are greedy that’s why and they expect those of us who pay taxes and don’t believe in their fairy tale imaginary god to foot part of their bill.I’m tired of the bigotry that is permitted due to “religious freedom” in my country of Canada.

  • Stev84

    I would expect nothing else from Christians. Scum of the earth.

    • Brrr

      It’s interesting how the ones most overtly violating of the text of this bill are the ones who claim to support it.

  • ortcutt

    I would really like to live in a more humane society. School was a very inhumane place when I was there and I hope these things change in the future. It’s sad that religion is one of the last serious obstacles of more humane society.

  • busterggi

    “Who knew being a kind, decent human being went against the teachings of Christ?”
    Anyone who know the history of Christianity or seen how his followers act today.

  • Randay

    Forcing our children to learn about and accept evolution is bullying! …

    This is where being a dedicated and unashamed believer in evolution becomes a reality.

  • PrairieCoast

    I am a Christian living in Manitoba who is utterly sickened and outraged by the comments I am hearing against Bill 18. It sucks that I am lumped in with this vocal conservative group because I follow Christianity. It sucks that the voice of Christians who affirm and support homosexuality does not seem to be represented in the media. I HOPE that most people understand that the views summarized in this article are not the views of all Christians.

  • Chad

    Hi, this is where I grew up, and the church in which I grew up was the sister church of the most powerful (mega) church in Steinbach, Southland Church–which has been the organizing and motivating force behind most of the Bill’s opposition. I’m an atheist now with many friends who underwent the exact bullying targeted by the Bill, and many Christian friends who can’t understand the vitriol against it. I’m very familiar with the situation there, having had many conversations about the Bill and its opposition, including Steinbach’s local government representative (who is a member of the mentioned church and is heavily involved in the organized resistance).

    Hemant, you’ve hit the nail on the head. There are other criticisms of the Bill than just religious freedom, but they’re generally easy to answer and tend only to come out in situations where the religious freedom argument is struck down or unpopular. Even the gov’t rep refused to engage my criticisms of his claims, challenging only my assessment of how much support Bill 18 had in Manitoba.

    The church in question, Southland, has a significant portion of the community as congregants and has been associated with playing politics before. The veiled threat to representatives and people in power to toe the party line is serious. Christian interest groups may not have much power in Ontario, but in Steinbach they run the town. Thankfully, the school district superintendent vowed to abide by the Bill, but you can be sure that LGBT teens in the town, especially at the local Christian school, face a difficult life. They indeed need this legislation more than anyone else.

    I haven’t been an atheist for very long, and this situation is causing my wife and I to speak out and act more publicly than before, writing emails to government representatives and posting on various blogs and social media. The Bill is very likely to pass, but if anyone has suggestions for making more of a difference, please share.

  • Friendly_Autist

    Look on the bright side: America’s not the Christian-crazy country in this one.

  • keddief

    Hey, thanks so much for drawing attention to what’s happening in Canada! Even though most Canadians didn’t vote for this government (and they are way out of step with Canadian views on so many issues), we’re stuck with these guys. Even our public broadcaster (the CBC, supported by our tax dollars), seems to have an increasing amount of coverage about religion (absolutely zip about humanism, of course).

  • Proud United Church Christian

    There are many Christians that are in support of Bill-18 in Manitoba. We just don’t get the same airtime as the others. We have been writing letters to the editor of newspapers and trying to get interviews on tv. But because we don’t have the pithy, horribly homophobic quotes that others have we can’t get our voice heard. It is frustrating to belong to a Christian denomination (the United Church of Canada) that is one of the largest Protestant denominations in Canada and still get lumped in with “all” Christians regardless of what the beliefs are. We are an Affirming Church that welcomes all and wants to create a safe space for people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, stage, etc. PLEASE PLEASE don’t lump all Christians together.

  • The_Analyst

    Thank you for providing crucial attention to this important issue in my neck of the woods.

    In southern Manitoba – outside of the Winnipeg (the biggest city, with more than half the province’s population) and likely Selkirk/Gimili/Brandon as well – the religious right has a lot of power.