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.