Youth
15 min

All extreme religious people should be treated as lunatics

BY ANDREA HOUSTON – A heart-wrenching story in the latest issue of Rolling Stone details the events that led to a rash of suicides in a small Minnesota town – Michele Bachmann’s home district – where evangelicals have been waging a war against gay teens.

The district passed a policy that effectively banned any discussion of homosexuality. Rather than risk their jobs, teachers completely avoided anything gay. Bullying of queer kids was ignored and even apologetically tolerated. Isolated, attacked and filled with shame, students in that small town started dying, one by one, by their own hands. In less than two years nine local teenagers were dead. 

". . . within the health curriculum, “homosexuality not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle."

The policy became unofficially known as “No Homo Promo” and passed unannounced to parents and unpublished in the policy handbooks; most teachers were told about it by their principals. Teachers say it had a chilling effect and they became concerned about mentioning gays in any context. Discussion of homosexuality gradually disappeared from classes. “If you can’t talk about it in any context, which is how teachers interpret district policies, kids internalize that to mean that being gay must be so shameful and wrong,” says an Anoka High School teacher. “And that has created a climate of fear and repression and harassment."

Now, before you gasp with shock and horror, don’t think this kind of religiously motivated bullying is exclusive to small-town America. It is happening here in Ontario as well. And it seems one of the province’s biggest bullies, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins – who has also banned the word “gay” – has recently has been promoted to cardinal.

On the weekend the Toronto Star published a very flattering profile of Collins, painting him as a hip and cool latte drinker with a BlackBerry and a Skype account. Imagine my shock and surprise when I didn’t find a single mention of gay teens, gay-straight alliances (GSA) or even bullying in the entire article. Not one.

 

Allow me to fill in the blanks and outline a few parallels.

Last year, Collins, “a staunch protector of Catholic orthodoxy,” helped establish a committee of Catholic leaders to write a set of rules to “protect Catholic values” and prevent the “promotion of homosexuality” in Ontario Catholic schools.

The committee’s long-awaited Respecting Difference guidelines are an attempt to silence students and teachers from discussing sexuality, even going so far as to stipulate that “peer-counselling” between gay students is not allowed.

Like the Minnesota town profiled by Rolling Stone, Collins prefers that schools adopt broad “anti-bullying” policies. (This is, of course, ignoring the fact that queer students are at a dramatically increased risk of bullying and most report feeling unsafe at school.)

"Being a Christian is not for sissies,” Collins tells Toronto Star reporter Sandro Contenta.

Neither is being a queer kid in an Ontario Catholic school, forced to endure bullying and abuse, much of it sanctioned by him. (Students are speaking out: here, here, here and here.)

But, regardless what students say they need, for Collins, protecting church doctrine has always been his top priority, the Star writes. Collins denounces any attempt at a “wishy-washy” or “watered-down faith.”

Allow me to translate: the homosexual lifestyle is an abomination and intrinsically disordered. Gay people are sinful and immoral and must learn to live a life of chastity. 

And that’s a message he has been sending loud and clear to queer teenagers in Ontario’s Catholic schools.

Like his boss, Pope Ratzinger, a man responsible for covering up hundreds of child sex abuse cases; Bachmann; Rick Santorum; and every anti-gay school trustee trying to prevent schools from offering supports to queer youth, Collins also has blood on his hands.

And I really resent the Toronto Star’s giving him a pass on this.

Collins shouldn’t receive praise from the Star; he should be grilled with questions on his extreme religious positions.

Howard Stern nails it when talking about Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. When [extreme religious people] speak, “there should be shoes flying. They should be drummed out of the country. Wherever they go they should be spat upon . . . They should be ignored, shunned and treated as lunatics.”

 

 

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