I am writing this letter in response to the article ‘Religious leaders fight anti-bullying bill that promotes rights for gays', which appeared in the March 16 edition of The Guardian.
I do believe that it is important to protect religious freedoms, but not at the cost of infringing on the human rights of others. Gay youth have the right to learn in safe school environments, and this should not be any different with religious schools. If the Bible can be used as an excuse for opposing Bill 18 (as Rabbi Avrohom Altein has done) why can't we use it to oppose women teachers (1 Timothy 2:11, NIV) or for disallowing persons with disabilities to approach the altar (Leviticus 21:18)? No school or religious institution would be allowed to enforce such biblical restrictions, so why is the homosexuality issue even still up for discussion?
The Bible, as with all religious texts, is sacred to many people and it does contain a great deal of wisdom and spiritual knowledge. However, the context in which it was written needs to be considered, and it is filled with laws and commandments that would be considered immoral and oppressive in society today. As a gay person who has grown up in the P.E.I. school system, I have experienced first-hand the consequences of the non-existence of bills such as Bill 18. That is why I chose to fight for the inclusion of LGBT persons in the zero tolerance anti-bullying policy in the Island school system. Although there is still work to be done, I am very pleased with what has been gained so far, and I am optimistic that things will continue to improve.
I want to applaud Manitoba's Education Minister Nancy Allan for refusing to back down on Bill 18 and for speaking publicly on the importance of protecting gay students. My hope is that no Canadian youth, no matter what school or religious institution they attend, will have to suffer because of who they are. Bill 18 is an important step toward that dream.