On Campus

Religious educators hit a new low

Teachers at Canada's Christian universities can prove their open-mindedness by denouncing Ontario's anti-gay right-wing evangelists.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did an about-face today on Ontario’s new sexual education guidelines. McGuinty called for a “rethink” (apparently English words like “review” or “reconsideration” are too tricky for the Premier) after parents and religious groups objected.

Let’s take parents first. McGuinty’s suggestion that parents should be more “comfortable” with the changes demonstrate precisely what has gone wrong with public education in Canada. It’s paid for by the public; it should be for the public benefit. The customers of the Ontario public education system are not the parents of students, but rather the general population. No wonder educators have become so weak-kneed about holding kids to high standards: like the children they teach, they are cowed by Mom and Dad.

Worse still is that McGuinty seems to have backtracked at least in part because religious leaders denounced the new policy. Some objections were simply foolish, like this one from Muslim education leader Suad Aimad:

We believe basically that sex education may be taught by the parents to their children. It’s not public, it’s a private matter and that’s why I don’t think [sex] should be part of education, especially at such a young age.

No sex ed at a young age and preferably not at all? Absurd. And of course sex is a public matter: did Aimad miss the debates over gay marriage? Or the debates of the age of consent? Or the polygamy debates stirred by the community in Bountiful?

Other religious extremists went beyond nonsense and moved right on to attack. Christian evangelist Charles McVety had this to say about children learning about sexual orientation:

This is so confusing to an eight-year-old … these are children in the strongest sense of the word — they’re innocent, they’re clean, they’re beautiful — and to corrupt them by imparting a question of gender identity is beyond the pale.

No, Dr McVety, what is confusing is growing up feeling one thing and being given the impression that it doesn’t exist, or worse, feeling natural urges that are condemned by men like you.

What is beyond the pale is that McVety, the president of Canada Christian College, has publicly suggested that understanding the diversity of sexual orientation is a corruption of natural innocence. Even learning about what it means to be gay will warp the beautiful little minds of Ontario children? Children must be saved from such unclean knowledge? His remarks are vicious, and they should be condemned as such. Oh, and in case you think his remarks have been taken out of context, you can read a fuller statement, in which McVety calls education on sexual diversity “evil” here.

When I criticized religious education in the past, readers came swarming to tell me that I was presenting a caricatured view of religious educators as narrow-minded. Well, here is a chance for those same readers to prove it. I am calling on all religious educators in Canada to denounce the comments of Dr McVety, to denounce his “Stop Corrupting Children” campaign, and to call for his resignation.

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