Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ontario's Liberals and The Catholic Schools

"As Both A Catholic and An Ontario Liberal" begins a post by former David Dingwall entitlement Warren Kinsella today. When I expressed the view (perhaps overstating, but then, what's Twitter for?) that this was oxymoronic, Kinsella simply called me a "moron". So, given that Liberals don't like to debate any issues around religion and would rather simply call religious folks "morons" while at the same time somehow claiming to also be religious, I thought I'd unpack some thoughts in a brief post.

I don't like what the McGuinty folks have done with the mandating of the "Gay-Straight Alliance" title in Catholic schools. Not because I'm opposed to these clubs however, or even this name. In fact, I personally think anyone who believes what you call such a club will have any effect at all on homophobic bullying in schools has totally forgotten what it's like to be 14. Kids don't care about this nonsense at all.  Kids who are going to bully will still bully. Kids who don't like the kids who go to a GSA won't like them any more or less because it's called a GSA. There's the story of the British troops in the Falklands who called the locals "Bennies" because their woolen hats made them look like a character in a television soap opera of the day. When their COs insisted this disrespect should stop, the troops switched to calling them "stills" - because they're still Bennies. Parents can do far far more to stop bullying than anyone else. Government is at the very bottom of the influence list.

Homophobia is on the wane at all levels in our society, as it should be - and indeed as the Catechism also says it should be. These kinds of social changes happen not because of politicians' efforts, no matter how well meaning. They just happen over time and they will continue to happen over time. Solving issues of bullying in schools comes down in the end to wise and decent parents, teachers and principals. What McGuinty is doing is simply shameless window dressing and more "look at me, I'm so compassionate" Premier Dad stuff - and the debate it's launched distracts nicely from not having done anything on the deficit yet. 

The real issue is that this is a very thin end of a wedge - a major assault on religious freedom that is coming to North America. Led by Obama in the US and the Liberal parties of Canada, this is going to get much, much worse. McGuinty is floating a trial balloon here on an emotive issue, one where he knows the majority will take his side. It's his first slice of salami. The question is, what's next?

And of course, Catholic schools are uniquely vulnerable because they straddle the state and the church, taking taxpayer funds. If taking government money, goes the argument, you have to abide by government policy - even if that directly contradicts your religious beliefs, as it does in this case. And this is a valid argument. Sometimes governments are respecters of freedom. The Liberal party, and people like Kinsella, are long documented enemies of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, however, and so taking their taxpayer dime from them puts one on the road to serfdom. 

When John Tory lit the fuse on his famous exploding faith schools plan, I always felt that it was a bad idea precisely because most faith schools don't want the shackles of state control. A far more optimal solution, for all concerned, in my view, was the partial tax credit for private education that was in place before the nanny statists took over in Ontario. Let parents choose, and if they choose privately funded schools - on faith or any other grounds - then provide some financial recognition that they are not using the services for which they are paying taxes. It's not total funding of private or faith schools by any means, but it provides what is in my view the best balance between the interests of the majority in a state education system and the rights and freedoms of religious groups to educate their children in their respective traditions. The level of such a tax credit can be debated to achieve the right balance.

But to get to any kind of fair resolution on this stuff, you'd have to be dealing with people willing to debate and not dictate - and in Queens Park, and on Twitter, it seems we only have dictators for the time being.