A fundamentalist Christian has claimed that B.C. schools are encouraging students to adopt a “dangerous” lifestyle by offering a class that covers homosexuality. Ron Gray, vice president of Parents for Democracy in Education and a former national leader of the Christian Heritage Party, states that this could end up shortening students’ life spans by 20 years.
“The simple fact is that this behaviour is dangerous,” Gray told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “If they [students] are given information [about homosexuality], it should be a warning not to engage in it.”
According to Gray, his group’s goal is to see the rescinding of a 2006 agreement between the Ministry of Education and Murray and Peter Corren that led to the creation of an elective course called Social Justice 12.
The settlement was reached after the Correns complained to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that B.C. public schools discriminated against gays and lesbians by failing to provide information about them in the curriculum. The settlement granted them the right to consult with Ministry of Education officials to ensure that the school curriculum respects all sexual orientations.
Murray Corren, who is a long-time Vancouver LGBT–rights activist, told the Straight that it’s appalling for people to harbour such animosity and homophobia over an agreement that’s aimed at creating a more positive school environment for all children.
“The world hasn’t come to an end,” Corren said in a phone interview. “I think it’s lamentable that people haven’t been able to move on.”
But Gray disagrees, and he asserted that courses like Social Justice 12 are being used by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to manipulate students’ opinions and “drive a wedge between parents and their kids”.
In August 2008, the Ministry of Education approved the course, which takes on a wide variety of social-justice issues, including poverty and women’s, aboriginal, and LGBT rights.
Susan Lambert, vice president of the BCTF, told the Straight in a phone interview that there is no place in schools for kids to be living in a state of fear, and she questioned Gray’s stance on the topic.
“Isn’t it much more dangerous for a child who has a different sexual orientation to grow up in a school where that is not respected or accepted?” she asked.
Both Lambert and Corren agreed that courses such as Social Justice 12 will only benefit kids, and will provide critical skills for the upcoming generation to respect the differences they see in others. Meanwhile, Vancouver LGBT–rights advocate Romi Chandra Herbert told the Straight that people shouldn’t forget where the demand for this type of education is coming from. Chandra Herbert, who started the first high-school-based gay-straight alliance in B.C., explained that kids are getting frustrated with people like Gray, who pretend that homosexuality doesn’t exist.
“It’s not the homosexuals out in the community asking for this,” he said. “It’s their own children.”
Corren pointed out that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not allowed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He believes Canadians should be concerned when groups like Gray’s attack social-justice issues.
Gray, however, said that a letter sent by the American College of Pediatricians to U.S. school superintendents prompted his group to take action. According to Gray, the letter said that students who experience same-sex attraction should not be told to accept that they are gay.
Corren warned that right-wing, homophobic organizations often hide under the cloak of science and research, but Gray defended the letter, citing studies from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
“I just wonder how many of them know that George Rekers is the man behind their cause,” Corren said.
He was referring to George Alan Rekers, a prominent board member of NARTH who allegedly hired a young male escort through the Web site Rentboy.com to accompany him on a European vacation.
Gray wasn’t aware of the allegations that have been made about Rekers but was disappointed to hear the news. “When anyone’s life begins to go wrong, I feel sad for them,” he said.