All should agree that faith-based schools have the mission to help students grow as children in all aspects of their person: physically, academically, socially, morally and spiritually. In addition, all children attending these schools should experience a safe, caring, respectful, inclusive and welcoming learning and teaching environment. Who can be against fulfilling these goals and universal values? However, the dilemma in responding to Bill 10 GSA/QSA law and guidelines is, as usual, found in working out the implementation options and details in a reality of drastically conflicting worldviews.
Before examining GSA/QSA guidelines and response options some background facts need to be recognized. Foremost, Christianity, Islam and Judaism all share two essential precepts:
God designed humans genetically and chromosomally male and female, and anatomically matched for sexual intimacy.
God’s will is that sexual acts are to be carried-out only within the bonds of marriage and only between human beings of the opposite sex – husband and wife. All other partnered sexual activity outside these constraints is forbidden, taboo.
Directly assaulting these profound religious beliefs is the sexual minority (LGBTQ) movement’s central ideological tenet, best described as follows:
Our sexuality develops over time. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure. The teen years are a time of figuring out what works for you, and crushes and experimentation are often part of that. Over time, you’ll find that you’re drawn mostly to men or to women – or to both – and you’ll know then. You don’t have to label yourself today.
Cited by PFLAG (Parents and Families/Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in Be Yourself.
In fact, Alfred C. Kinsey, architect of early homosexist thinking, contended that sexual identity is primarily the result of preferred sexual pleasure and the result of early sexual experiences. Biographer Dr. James H. Jones, in his book Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/ Private Life, recorded Kinsey’s conviction as follows:
In essence, Kinsey argued that sexual identity was largely the result of how people, responded to their early sexual experiences. ‘After one has a pleasurable first experience, of either sort,’ he explained, ‘he looks forward to a repetition of the experience with such anticipation that he may be aroused by the sight or mere thought of another person with whom he can make contact’…‘Whether one builds a heterosexual pattern or a homosexual pattern depends, therefore, very largely upon the satisfactory or unsatisfactory nature of his first experiences,’ Kinsey declared.
James H. Jones, Alfred C. Kinsey: A public/Private Life, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997, p. 384.
Moreover, after years of study at the San Francisco Bi-centre, sociologist, Martin S. Weinberg, wrote in Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality of the pleasure principle in sexual identity. He writes:
What stands out is the relationship between one’s earliest sexual feelings and behaviours and one’s subsequent sexual preference. Early experiences and attractions seem predictive of later sexual preference.
No theory of sexual preference should ignore the mundane feature of sexual pleasure. Unfortunately, many of them do. We believe that sexual pleasure in its various forms is ordinarily the main reason people have sex. The role of pure physical pleasure seems much clearer for men. Men, in all three preference groups in our research, had their first sexual experience much earlier than women. Men thus learn early that sexual pleasure is possible with both sexes, and that given the great difficulty of getting female partners, other men may be acceptable substitutes.
Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, Douglas W. Pryor, Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality, New York: Oxford Press, 1994, p. 287.
Clubs publically advocating sexual minority movement politics and ideology – i.e. promoting premature partnered “same sex” and so-called “queer” sexual experimentation, sexual activity outside of marriage, transgenderism and early sexual self-identification, will confuse, if not mislead, students from assimilating authentic religious doctrine, which, after all, is the reason their parents placed them in a faith-based school. To the extent that GSA/QSA clubs are empowered and/or exploited to challenge or refute millenniums old foundational theology on human and moral sexuality the clubs will deeply clash with Christian, Islamic and Judeo worldviews and their faith-based school cultures.
Grappling with implementation of these clubs in faith-based schools is further exacerbated because current guidance offers no limitations to the activities of the clubs, no limitation on age of the members or age-spread within a club, no need for parental approval, no need for a club constitution approved by the school board or principal, and no Ministry guidance and oversight for the iSMSS-inspired Alberta GSA Network. On the other hand, the legislation and Ministry policies are clear, school boards cannot block creation of GSAs/QSAs upon request of one student and the Government has setup firstname.lastname@example.org so students can reach directly to Ministry staff that will ensure LGBTQ rights are being respected.
Within this jumble of guideline ambiguity and policy clarity two simplified categories of GSA/QSA clubs can be envisaged: internally focused clubs and externally focused clubs. Internally focused clubs are for intimate and private counselling and support and may be characterized as follows:
- Have school-based confidential support
- Are counsellor/facilitator led
- Focus on the individual student
- Offer spiritual, psychological support services
- Are often invisible within the school or have limited public presence
- Perceive the school culture or climate as welcoming or unreceptive
- Are a drop-in safe space
- Focus on normalization, fitting in, addressing individual needs
- May include straight allies
Externally focused clubs, according to the Alberta Teachers’ Association, have the intention to raise visibility and awareness and effect educational and social change within the school. An externally focused club may be characterized as follows:
- Are student led and LGBTQ advocate-staff supported
- Focus on student safety and human rights
- Have a visible schoolwide presence
- Are characterized by social, educational and political activities including guest speaker presentations and/or celebratory assemblies for:
- National Coming Out Day
- The Day of Silence
- The National Day Against Homophobia
- Transgender Day of Remembrance
- The local community LGBTQ Pride Week.
- Build networks and coalitions with supportive community-based groups
Quoted from the ATA publication GSAs and QSAs in Alberta Schools: A Guide for Teachers, externally focused clubs:
– Have an anti-oppression educational mandate across intersections of difference (race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity)
– Strive to move beyond tolerance
Alberta Teachers’ Association, GSAs and QSAs in Alberta Schools: A Guide for Teachers, p.31.
Faith-based schools should not allow the club titles: Gay-Straight or Queer-Straight Alliance. It is said that the name GSA/QSA is “important to identify the empowering relationship between LGBTQ students and their allies.” Faith-based schools operate under the constraints of a well defined religious worldview. An imposed alliance, albeit club, with associates whose goal is to thwart the precepts of this worldview makes no sense. Endorsing; indeed, empowering an externally focused club that is intent on making social change towards the goal of indifference to sexual practices and lifestyles is a club intent on undermining Christian, Islamic and Judeo values.
Faith-based schools have a spiritual mandate to reach out to students who experience prejudice, bullying and discrimination and to encourage a full understanding of diversity and human rights. All students are created in the divine image and likeness, and are therefore endowed with an inalienable worth that cannot be violated. Circumstances involving gender identity or gender expression, as they affect a student, should be addressed with a high degree of sensitivity, respect, inclusion, and professional counselling expertise (Greater St. Albert Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 734, Administrative Procedures Manual, p.2.). What is crucial in understanding orthodox (right) theology on sexuality is that it is the acts and practices that bring down moral judgment. Faith-based schools should be welcoming to students who experience homosexual attraction. The condition is not itself sinful, although objectively disordered (i.e. not anchored to authentic identity in Christ), since God made humans male and female, anatomically matched for sexual intimacy. The heterosexual condition, for example, becomes sinful through acts of fornication, adultery, or sodomy. Even though the inclination to homosexual acts is disordered, the person retains his or her intrinsic human dignity and value, along with certain protections against discrimination.
Not all youth who experience homosexual, bisexual, or queer attractions may be comfortable with their desires. Many youth speak of their homosexual attractions as an unwanted burden. These students also need a safe and confidential process to share thoughts and concerns with appropriately qualified staff. Hope for deliverance from unwanted attractions, identities and expressions, by grace in Jesus Christ, should never be allowed to be smothered under the indoctrination mantra of secular LGBTQ rights and ideology. The Movement’s very acceptance of “bisexuality” and “fluidity” in orientation, identity and expression argues for the possibility of liberation for those willing to change. The Apostle Paul witnessed this truth to the Church in Corinth when pointing out:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:11-12
Establishment of an internally focused club, for intimate and private counselling and support, under a different title than GSA/QSA will be needed in faith-based schools that have an established request. School boards should be administratively prepared for this eventuality. Christian, Muslim or Jewish youth who experience homosexual tendencies and who wish to explore counselling support or therapy (spiritual, psychological, or both) should seek out the assistance of a qualified person in their school who has preparation and competence in counselling and who understands and supports the applicable religious worldview on homosexuality.
In their accommodation of GSA/QSA guidance, Catholic School Boards are calling their clubs: LIFE (Lived Inclusion for Everyone) Framework/Diversity Clubs. The club facilitator is a selected Catholic teacher approved by the principal. At the principal’s discretion, if the school has a counsellor, social worker, Family School Liaison Worker (FSLW), chaplain or a staff member with a similar designation, that staff member should co-facilitate. The facilitator(s) will attend every club meeting. External advocacy activities by these clubs are primarily focused on bullying and harassment reduction and developing a responsive caring and inclusive environment within the school.
All school parents should be made aware, by letter, of the formation of the club and what its key constitutional goals, objectives and rules are.
Of course there is no absolute standard against which to measure “safe,” “caring,” “respectful,” “inclusive” and “welcoming” qualities to a school’s learning and teaching environment. The Law, left unchallenged, empowers a single student of any age (K-12), acting without their parent’s awareness or approval, to decide the level of respect and inclusiveness desired. He or she can appeal over all stakeholders directly to the Minister for help. The Law, left unclarified, can empower a few or many activist GSA/QSA club members, probably coached through allied LGBTQ groups or the Alberta GSA Network (iSMSS), to determine the level of “anti-oppression and social change” to be affected. Faith-based schools have no legal interpretation to declare whether an internally focused club as described, and named other than “GSA or QSA,” will be enough. Nor is there sufficient legal interpretation or Ministry guidance to set boundaries on the level and nature of activism among externally focused clubs. Under such circumstances faith-based schools enter this endeavour at huge risk.