Kevin Smith:  Attending a Catholic School Board meeting

April 14, 2011

I'm happy to post remarks from friend and colleague Kevin Smith on his fight to defend gay high school activists who have had their "Gay Straight Alliance" club banned at Ontario publicly funded Catholic high schools.  We'll be posting coverage of this issue on our youtube channel for those interested, at Think Again! TV:
Andrea Houston is like a dog with a bone. She’s relentless in her pursuit of rights for gay, straight, bi and transgendered on the pages of XTRA! In person, more so. At your peril, no one messes with Ms. Houston.

January 2011. The sleepy, taxpayer funded Halton Catholic School Board decides to ban students from forming gay/straight alliances. End of story. Or it might have been had Chair of the Board Alice Anne LeMay not remarked that these alliances were akin to having Nazi groups. Andrea, along with the help of co-crusader Justin Stayshyn took her to task and LeMay, along with her Catholic crew, woke up to a public outcry.

The heart of the matter lies some 2000 years before Alice Anne got out of the wrong side of bed. It’s a code of ethics, rules of how we must live. Or you shall go into everlasting punishment. It’s phrases, some of the most famous ever written, translated into hundreds of languages. Interpreted by scores of religions. It’s a self help guide to get you the best seat in Heaven. The Bible.

Fast track to April 2011. The Halton Catholic School Board, having been crucified by Houston and verbally lashed by the public, are set to vote on allowing gay/straight alliances. Not just an umbrella group, but as requested by students, an alliance – God help us, every deceased Pope will spin in their crypts – with the word gay in the title.

LeMay, defender of the faith, takes her seat in front of the cross. Hunched over the microphone like a pit bull, scowling at those heretics who dare enter her windowless chamber, a room without a view.

In session, opening prayers ensue, bowed heads, mouths murmur words by rote. Hands move in unison, touch the head first, across the torso. To the uninitiated it’s like watching tribal rituals in a film from the archives of National Geographic.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association faces the Board and makes a passionate speech, educating these educators about human rights and human respect. Trustees in repose, faces as in a Romanesque painting. No. More like images on a passport. Vacant, staring.

Relief as Noa completes her appeal. Board members squirm back into Board position, leaning forward, making their best efforts to appear learned, caring, compassionate. Hands rise to motion for motions, amendments, second and third readings.

Paul Marai, the gay trustee, sits amongst them but doesn’t seem a part of them. It goes unsaid, but the room reeks of it; love the sinner, or maybe not, but we hate your sin. For my Bible tells me so.

He asks the education director if a student requests a GSA, would they be allowed to start one. The red faced gentleman, out of his element, does his best impersonation of political spin. Attempting to recall the memo, he mumbles to the floor, “presently we have social equity groups that encompass students with any issue…”. “I asked you a yes or no question”, Paul dares to interrupt. The director has lost this battle. He is no professional politician. He rattles on until he hits a wall. “No” he says quietly, looking down at the table. Defeated.

Puffed up with self induced wisdom, a devious request by a trustee across the table, “the Pastoral Guidelines need to be included in the new policy, they are important and need to be recognized”. Translation; gay is not an identity, gay sex is immoral and sinful, gays should live a life of chastity. These are not guidelines as much as Bishop inspired homo-hate. They call it the Catholic perspective. Motion carried.

Houston perches, wired -  writing and tweeting. She raises her camera, targets her first victim, LeMay, and shoots. Click, fire, click, fire – she has them all in her sights.

The next Board circus begins in early May. The students, in their continuing fight for dignity will follow the motto of the Halton Catholic School Board; Achieving, Believing, Belonging. Those faceless Bishops, the elected Trustees, those who serve these courageous young people will not.

Religion in Canada is in decline, a serious free fall. Time is on our side as these humble servants of their Lord, clutching their self serving ethics, pass into silence. Human rights be damned, we’re off to meet our maker, the Glory of God welcomes us for defending his word.