Canadian father Steve Tourloukis – who featured in television commercials for the Coalition for Marriage – has been fighting a legal battle since 2012 to protect his parental rights and religious freedom. The legal battle just came to an end, but not in the favour of Mr Tourloukis – or religious freedom.
He initially sent an accommodation letter to the school board in his district, asking that his children be opted out of the sexual education program, since many of the messages in the class directly conflicted with his religious beliefs. In the letter, he specifically mentioned that he was concerned about the “discussions or portrayals of homosexual/bisexual conduct and relationships and/or transgenderism as natural, healthy or acceptable.”
However, the school board refused to acknowledge his position, and after two years of unsuccessful attempts to practice his parental and religious rights, Mr Tourloukis took the board to court.
On 20 November of this year, Ontario’s appeal court gave their final ruling. However, it was not in Tourloukis’s favour, and according to CBC:
Justice Robert J. Sharpe, who dismissed Tourloukis's appeal, wrote in his ruling the "central and fatal shortcoming" in his case was "the lack of any concrete evidence of interference with his right to religious freedom."
Justice Sharpe said it's clear to him that if children attending secular public schools are exposed to ideas that challenge their parents' religious beliefs, it does not count as infringement of religious freedom.
He quoted the attorney general, "requiring students in public school to gain an awareness of Canada's diverse reality is not a substantial infringement of religious freedom."
This is despite Article 18(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights providing as follows:
“The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” (emphasis added.)
The most concerning aspect of this case is the passive way in which the court shut down freedom of religion. Aware that they could not directly rule against this fundamental right, they chose to ignore the fact that ideological gender programs come into direct conflict with a wide variety of religious beliefs.
Without directly banning the practice of religious freedom, the Ontario court essentially set the stage for all future battles over such fundamental freedoms. If one freedom can be revoked, the rest will inevitably follow.
As the Australian parliament now debate the extent to which, if any, religious freedom will be protected in this country, our MPs would do well to heed the warnings coming out of Canada.