Yet another case of state-sponsored homophobia

13 04 2008

That’s how I think this should be framed:

One of Brisbane’s most prestigious all-boy schools says its willing to debate a ban on gay students taking same-sex partners instead of girls to the senior formal.The Anglican Church Grammar School, or Churchie, was in defence mode after it emerged several Year 12 students wanted to take their gay partners to the college’s end-of year dance on June 19.

Under current policy, the young men may only attend the ball with a female partner.

[. . .]

A spokesman for Queensland’s Catholic Education Commission confirmed it also would not allow gay couples to attend their school formals.

Because under current funding arrangements, every tax dollar that is given to these schools is a tacit endorsement of discrimination against a subset of students based upon their sexual orientation.

As a teacher, I don’t oppose in principle giving public funds to private schools: elite and wealthy schools aside, many independent schools have tight budgets, and every little bit helps. As a rule, I think money spent on education is money well spent–wherever it is spent. But given that anti-discrimination laws in most jurisdictions would preclude the kind of homophobic bigotry we’re seeing in “Churchie” and the Queensland Catholic Education system, it stands to reason that the taxpayer funding of fee-charging independent schools should be conditional upon those schools playing by the same rules as everyone else.

Instead, yet again we see this disturbing willingness of governments to tiptoe on eggshells around Bronze Age religious dogma, all in the name of a misguided notion of “religious freedom” as “the freedom to trample over the rights and freedoms of others.”

It just shouldn’t happen in a self-described secular liberal democracy.

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2 responses

13 04 2008
josephudo

Number 1, the government has no right to interfere with their expression of religion (that’s the other side of Separation of Church and State; you should read it.) Number 2, homosexuality is a choice, not something someone is born with and it is a horrible sin against God. So, a Catholic school has the right to receive public funding since the government has no right to interfere with its expression of religion.

14 04 2008
AV

Number 1, the government has no right to interfere with their expression of religion (that’s the other side of Separation of Church and State; you should read it.)

Taking this to its logical conclusion, the government has no right to interfere in cases of, say, female genital mutilation, honour killings, or ill children whose parents deny them medical care in favour of faith-based healing, if these are all “expressions of religion.”

Number 2, homosexuality is a choice, not something someone is born with

That’s nice. Now (i) provide the evidence that homosexuality is a “choice”–that you can “choose” your sexual orientation or who you find sexually attractive.

And (ii): even if it is granted, hypothetically speaking, that sexual orientation is “chosen”–so what? Religious affiliation is a matter of choice, too.

and it is a horrible sin against God.

Now we come to a dimension of the separation of church and state you don’t appear to be very interested in. The claim that homosexuality is a “horrible sin against God” is a theological claim, not a matter of fact (at least, not one that you have provided any empirical evidence for–and you would need to begin with empirical evidence for the existence of a god in the first place). Moreover, there are vast differences of opinion between religious denominations and within religious denominations on the sinfulness of homosexuality (look at the kerfuffle within the Anglican Communion, for instance, as well as the fact that the Anglican Church Grammar School has expressed a willingness to debate its policy on same-sex partners at school formals). Under the concept of separation of church and state, the state is overstepping its bounds if it privileges or endorses religious dogma, not only because this infringes upon the religious freedom of non-believers, but also because it infringes upon the religious freedom of those believers and those churches who do not endorse that particular religious dogma. So you can’t invoke the separation of church and state, and at the same time expect the state to endorse or privilege your position on homosexuality over that of others–believers and non-believers alike–who disagree with you.

So, a Catholic school has the right to receive public funding since the government has no right to interfere with its expression of religion.

That’s a nonsequitous argument that completely misses the point of what I was saying in my original post. Whether or not the government has the right to interfere with a Catholic school’s expression of religion has nothing to do with the right of that school to receive public funding, unless you can demonstrate that said Catholic school’s reliance upon fees and the financial support of the Catholic Church hinders its ability to express its doctrines.

Strictly speaking, the separation of church and state should rule out the allocation of public funds to religious schools, and that fact that such funding takes place suggests that we don’t really have a separation of church and state in Australia. As long as public funds are directed to religious (and fee-charging) schools, and since the withdrawal of such funds would have a potentially negative impact on the education of many children who have been given no say on whether or not they will be educated in a religious school, such funding should be conditional on those schools adhering to the same anti-discriminatory regulations as everyone else.

I doubt you would be happy about your taxes funding a Christian Identity school with policies discriminating against non-whites. Similarly, no secular liberal democratic system of government should facilitate the public funding of schools with policies discriminating against homosexuals or any other sexual, religious or ethnic minorities.

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