The Catholic school district of Calgary, Canada has come under fire for reportedly requiring teachers to sign Catholicity documents. These documents allegedly suggest same-sex relationships are a breach of their employment contract.
According to the Calgary Herald, one of these teachers has now brought the case before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
What teachers are saying
‘How can these contracts — these Catholicity clauses — be allowed to stand when they are clearly discriminatory,’ said Kristopher Wells, associate professor with the Faculty of Health and Community Studies at MacEwan University.
‘It’s hard to believe that in 2018, when same-sex marriage is legal in this country, that anyone could lose their job because of that.’
In Wells’ perspective, requiring teachers to uphold so-called ‘Catholic values’ with regard to who they love creates a harmful environment for both teachers and students.
‘This is not a system that is directly supported by the church. It is a public education system supported by taxpayers,’ Wells states.
‘But there is this “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality that creates feelings of stress [and] despair. Where you have to remain silent to maintain employment. That not only impacts teachers, but it denies LGBTQ youth the important role models they need.’
Calgary Catholic School response
The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) told the Calgary Herald that ‘all teachers have to sign a contract that outlines a variety of expectations, one of which includes living “a lifestyle and deportment in harmony with Catholic teaching and principles.”’
Richard Svoboda, superintendent of human resources for CCSD confirmed this, saying, ‘anyone who is not living a lifestyle in alignment with the church, that piece of the contract would impact them.’
‘Relationships that would be acceptable are those recognized by the Catholic Church, that have to be acknowledged by a Catholic priest,’ Svoboda stated. ‘That would not include a same-sex relationship or a common-law relationship.’
According to Svoboda, teachers are dealt with on a ‘case by case’ basis and urged to meet with a Catholic priest.
‘It isn’t for me to determine whether they are right or wrong in the eyes of the Catholic Church,’ Svoboda said. ‘We provide them with avenues to reconcile.’
Human Rights Commission complaints
Still, former Calgary Catholic school principal Barb Hamilton has taken her case to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Hamilton alleges that she was forced to leave her job due to her sexuality. There is another ongoing complaint, also regarding an LGBTI teacher.
These instances seem similar to the story of the lesbian couple who lost their jobs in Canada. They also brought their case to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
This past week, more teachers in Edmonton and Red Deer have expressed concerns over having to sign these Catholicity clauses.
Tonya Callaghan was an associate professor of education at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education. However, she left her job to pursue research into the ‘institutionalized homophobia in the Catholic school system.’
According to Callaghan, these Catholicity clauses are disproportionately pushing out LGBTI educators. In her experience, she’s never seen these clauses negatively impact unmarried heterosexual couples who are living together. Nor women who use contraceptives.
‘We don’t see news stories about that. Those things are not happening,’ she told the Calgary Herald.
Back in 2015, the Alberta government required schools to have a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).