Friday, November 19, 2004

Opposing Religion to Human Rights

We were recently sent a note about a meeting in Toronto November 16, 2004 at which approximately 150 Muslim parents gathered in a Toronto gym to express their opposition to a series of videos shown to Market Lane Public School students on same-sex families, according to the Toronto Star.

The videos, dubbed 'gay-ed', were shown to the children without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

The parents had gathered to ask that Muslim children be excluded from discussions and materials on homosexuality, as the Islamic faith does not condone homosexual relationships. This request was refused.

It was reported that one Patricia Hayes, a rights expert with the school board, stated “religious beliefs do not trump human rights”. She stated that allowing certain children to leave the viewing of the video would create an unhealthy learning atmosphere for the remaining children.

Muslim parents, apparently disagreed, some feeling that their religious rights were being disrespected. "They showed a gay lifestyle to the kids without the knowledge of the parents," said one father, Mohamed Yassin. "Gay people have their rights. I have my rights."

Zafir Bangash, president of the Islamic Society of York Region, agrees."We're not trampling on anyone else's rights," he stated in Thursday's Toronto Star. "We don't want our children subject to that kind of thinking. It's very clear in our belief that marriage is between a man and a woman."

There is much more than the surface view of this Report suggests. Let us look at it a little deeper.

Note that the “rights expert”, Patricia Hayes, is quoted as placing human rights over against religious rights. This is a common tactic and one that must be carefully noted and opposed. In fact, religious rights form a central core of the category of human rights and ought not to be trumped by some broad category of “human rights”. The question is one of “sharing the public sphere” in this case public education, not, as we have argued many times in Centre publications, subordinating one set of beliefs to other beliefs.

When public education is viewed as a means of indoctrinating students in a particular belief system - - here a particular sexual belief system (same-sex conduct favourable) then there can be no proper respect for diversity and tolerance.

It is simply absurd to suggest, as Hayes is reported to have suggested, that allowing students to “opt out” of same-sex indoctrination would “create an unhealthy learning atmosphere for the remaining children”.

The ability, in fact, the right to “opt out” of things in education to which parents object, is a key part of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by our constitution and legal history.

Tell the so-called “experts” to take a hike for they are tramping on the rights of dissenting minorities. That they claim to do this in the name of “rights” just makes it more dangerous.

Iain T. Benson ©