The True North – Strong and Free?

Canadians are painfully nice.

This is not all bad, of course. Our history has made niceness a necessary quality to maintain harmony between a wide variety of cultures, faiths, and political beliefs.

One problem this has created for us is an epidemic of relativism, however. On questions of faith, this means two things. First: don’t claim that any belief is absolutely true and applies to everyone. Secondly: treat religion as a private matter, which should have no impact upon your daily life.

In other words, reduce your faith to a hobby.

A few weeks ago, North Americans were challenged by a very public act of free speech. Several American soldiers overseas decided to make a public statement by burning copies of the Koran, the Muslim sacred book.

The reaction from the Muslim world was swift and fierce. Demonstrations took place across the Middle East. Fights broke out in the streets. People were killed. The impact was felt so widely that President Obama offered an apology to all Muslims.

Throughout the news coverage on the reaction to the Koran burning, I was left asking myself : How would people have reacted if someone had burned the Bible, or spoken out against it in some way that distorted its content? I did not have to wait long for an answer.

Last November, an event that was billed as an anti-bullying assembly took place at Parkside Secondary in Dundas, Ontario. A speaker (a self-described advocate of gay rights who may or may not have introduced herself as a “gay rabbi”) invited by the school board presented to the student body her own unique, liberal interpretation of the Bible.

According to those in attendance, she said that the Bible should be interpreted in different ways at different times, and attacked sections she thought were no longer useful. The speaker made jokes about people of traditional faiths, both Jewish and Christian, and rejected the traditional understanding of the Bible as a holy book of timeless truth.

Not surprisingly, a number of people complained about the event. A few students left the assembly in tears. Others merely reacted with a sense that there was nothing one can do about it – the school board does whatever it wants anyway.

The public school board has been very clear: anyone attending or working in public schools who holds a view counter to their policy on issues like this will be “re-educated.” People of faith are entitled to hold their beliefs at home, but must leave them outside the front door of any “public” school.

Imagine how some people might react if a traditionally-minded person of faith were invited to speak on the same issue. They would likely tell students that the Bible is true, regardless of our time or culture. They would advocate what was once called “traditional morality”.

Of course, something like this would only happen in the realm of imagination: such a speaker would never be invited to a public school. No one believes our school system to be broad-minded enough to include such views in the debate. But how would other views be treated?

Consider the courtesies that would be extended to a male student who believes he is a girl. Would a public school accommodate his request to be excluded from the boys locker room or phys-ed class, if he identified as female?

You bet they would – faster than you can say, “Pass the pink T-shirt, Batman,”

Consider then, Sikh or Hindu parents who requested that their elementary school child be excluded from sex education that deals with homosexual intercourse, because of the teachings of their faith on moral and sexual questions. Would a Hamilton public school respect this request?

In a word: No way, baby.

What can be said of a society that feels it must tiptoe around one religious group, for fear of violent reaction, while publically sponsoring the indoctrination of its young people in anti-religious propaganda?

Which leads one to ask:

When will our school board apologize for sponsoring attacks on the Christian faith, as President Obama did over Koran-burnings?

Father Geoffrey Korz is Chairman of the Canadian Council for Religious Freedom.