Posted by on 06/06/2012

Kids have the right to band together to create clubs in their schools — whether for sports, drama or to address bullying. And, so long as their clubs are consistent with a positive learning atmosphere, they should have the right to name those clubs as they see fit. Student clubs are student clubs — not outposts of the principal’s office.

Those opposed to Bill 13, which defends the right of students to create clubs to stop bullying of LGBT students, including using the word “gay” — even in Catholic schools — forget that for many of us who seek equality for LGBT people, this is fundamentally a matter of faith.

Try as they might, the Vatican is not the only voice within the Church on questions of sexuality and that old, old story of love for one’s neighbour. Many Catholics — and certainly many members of other denominations — find Vatican teachings on homosexuality horrible and contrary to the Messianic mission and messaging of Jesus.

That is why the debate over Bill 13, which upholds the fundamental freedoms of students, cannot be reduced to a (false) dichotomy of Catholics versus a secular government. There are Catholics — and other individuals of faith — who, for religious reasons, support LGBT rights.

Acceptance that love comes in all sexualities is a cardinal point of debate within the Church itself. The Vatican can neither censor dissent within the Church nor ignore the many, faith-based opinions on sexuality.

On Monday, the Vatican’s doctrinal office denounced Sister Margaret Farley, a nun and Yale Divinity ethics professor, for her book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, because it found both moral and theological justification for same-sex marriage.

The first registered victim of 9/11 was Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan chaplain to the NYC fire department. He was a long-time member of Dignity, a Catholic group whose interpretation of Christ’s message of unconditional love compels them to argue for changes to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. He was hounded by his Cardinal for his support of the group.

Both Sister Farley and Father Judge recognized that if you find such a fundamental part of someone’s being — namely their God-given sexuality, the manner and means by which they show love, which The Bible declares the greatest virtue — to be a mortal sin, an act of evil, how are you not necessarily viewing them hatefully? And Catholics are commanded to love one another.

Or, to put it in Father Judge’s words: “Is there really so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?”

The Catholic school boards — and their backers — should stop pretending the Vatican is the only voice on this issue. Indeed, the Catholic teachers’ union supports Bill 13; Catholic students support Bill 13. To allow a principal with a conservative interpretation of the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality to disallow students to use the word “gay” is an assault on the students’ freedom of association and expression — and, in some cases, their freedom of religion too.

Ultimately, Bill 13 does what Pink Floyd long ago demanded: “Hey! Teachers: leave them kids alone!” in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

Originally published on nationalpost.com