Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let us get you Minister Bond's phone number..

School District 52 Trustees have taken the path of transference (as in let us transfer your call) when it comes to concerns expressed by the city's religious leaders over a new diversity program, one that is apparently soon to be introduced across the province as a teaching guide for promoting diversity.

With the local religious community compiling a few concerns over the purported tone of the program known as Making Space, Giving Voice, they have taken to written letter to express their worries over what they believe is the judgmental nature of the still to be completed program, as far as it impacts on the traditional values of the various religions represented by the authors of the letter.

Weighing their options, the local School District trustees suggested that the group address their concerns and observations to the Minister of Education Shirley Bond, pointing out that they have little control over the content of provincially mandated programs.

The program which is available in draft form on the Internet, describes itself as
Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice Throughout the K-12 Curriculum.

The Daily News featured the key elements of the debate over making Space, Giving Voice with a review of the concerns in Monday's paper.

Trustees urged to throw out guide for diversity
The Daily News
Monday, January 19, 2009
Pages one and three

A new teaching guide that promotes diversity in the classrooms may soon be introduced to schools throughout the province, but not without opposition from some in the religious community.

Making Space, Giving Voice is currently in draft form, and will be the Ministry of Education's newest addition to the curriculum once completed.

The language used in the guide stresses the importance of concepts such as social justice and tolerance, especially among those students and staff who have different beliefs, opinions or lifestyles to the mainstream.

However, it isn't the premise of the guide that Prince Rupert’s pastors have a problem with, it’s what they call “discriminatory language used against our religious beliefs.”

“We, as religious organizations, and more specifically as Christian churches, object to the way in which this document vilifies Our beliefs and violates the Charter rights of our members and their children," wrote six representatives of local churches in a letter to the School District 52 Board of Trustees.

"Our belief in the traditional definition of marriage is labeled 'heterosexism' and equivocated to 'homophobia' and even 'racism.'

"This is a gross and prejudiced misrepresentation of our beliefs. Students and teachers are thus prohibited in the guide from expressing support for the traditional definition of marriage because the guide has defined this view with such a biased distortion."

The clergy leaders, who included Pastor Keith Gaetz of the Prince Rupert Pentecostal Church, Pastor Alex Hogendoorn of the Prince Rupert Fellowship Baptist Church, Father Chris Lynch of Annunciation Catholic Church, Captain Gary Sheils of the Salvation Army, Rev. Lloyd Thomas of the Bethel First Baptist Church and Rev. Jim Whaley of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, claim that while the ministry's mandate is to provide education free or religious creed, it does not have the right to denounce or condemn religious views.

"While the Supreme Court has ruled that certain minority groups must receive a higher profile in public education, this cannot be at the expense of religious rights and freedoms," the pastors stated.

"We conclude that Making Space, Giving Voice should not be used in classrooms in our district or province as long as it contains such a prejudiced caricature of those with religious convictions on marriage."

Responding to the letter, trustees agreed that they have little to do with literature drafted and implemented by the ministry, particularly when it encompasses the entire province.

In response to the letter, the trustees passed a motion to reply to the pastors, encouraging them to address the letter to Minister of Education Shirley Bond.

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