Monday, September 10, 2012

Christian Father Sues to Keep Kids From Learning About Sex and Sexuality but He's Not a Bigot

'Back to School' photo (c) 2011, Phil Roeder - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Okay, I know this is going to be a second article about parenting and schools today, but I really feel that this topic needs some conversation. Steve Tourloukis, a parent whose kids attend school in the Hamilton-Wentworth area, has asked to be given advanced notice when the teacher plans to teach sex education, so that he may remove his children in order not to conflict with the Greek Orthodox Christian teachings in the home.  When the request was denied, he decided to sue.
“It is important for my children to be taught about these issues from a Christian perspective,” he told a news conference on Monday.

“As a Christian, I hold a sincere religious belief that I am required, by God and the Greek Orthodox Church, to raise my children according to biblical principles and the tenants of the Christian faith.”

Tourloukis is the father of a daughter in Grade 1 and a son in Grade 4, and his wife is a teacher in the same school board. Tourloukis says his traditional Greek Orthodox faith guides his family’s views on marriage, family and human sexuality.

According to the case, to be heard by the Superior Court of Ontario, Tourloukis is demanding the school board provide him with advanced notice of any lessons or material that conflict with his “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and allow him to remove his children from class.

“I have never been an advocate for ignorance. This is not about me merely objecting to ideas that I don’t like. I teach my kids that everybody is made in the image of God, including people from the gay community,” he said.

“I teach my kids not to condemn anybody. In fact, to condemn anybody in my faith is a sin.”

His lawyer, Albertos Polizogopoulos, said the Greek Orthodox church holds traditional views on the subjects.

“The Greek Orthodox Church holds certain views on marriage, traditional Christian marriage, and so … he wants to teach his children about marriage through a Greek Orthodox lense,” Polizogopoulos said.

Tourloukis said he is not seeking money or even an apology, only the same religious accommodation afforded to other groups, suggesting Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims are allowed to leave class during certain activities.  (source)
Okay, I understand that Dr. Tourloukis has religious beliefs; however, schools are public institutions funded by public dollars.  I highly suspect that his issue has a lot to do with schools teaching about same sex families and homosexuality.  If he really didn't have a problem with the LGBT community, he wouldn't have an issue with his children learning that members of the GLBT community deserve equal treatment in society and should not exist with a stigmatized identity. As it is, the information given in school does not even approach the necessary level to teach children about heterosexism, cissexsm, homophobia and transphobia.  


Just last night I was chatting with Destruction about how gay men are often perceived socially as not being "real men," and why it's wrong. It was a difficult conversation and I am not entirely sure I got my point across, but I tried. This is something he will not learn about in school, no matter what changes are made to the curriculum and it is only because of our family belief that all people are equal that these conversations even occur. It disturbs me to see a parent demanding to remove their child from a program that barely scratches the surface in terms of equality.  I imagine if schools were to ever truly become inclusive that parents like Tourloukis would lose their ever loving minds.

It would most certainly be easy for the school to call Tourloukis each time the subject were to come up, but in doing so they would not be doing their jobs.  The function of a school is to educate children and prepare them to become productive members of our society.  Though Tourloukis claims he is not advocating ignorance, clearly this is the case.  A good functioning adult thinks critically, and challenges their privilege.  It sounds to me that Tourloukis intends to teach the trite "hate the sin love the sinner" nonsense and that is actively teaching a bigoted perspective to children.  The problem with men like Tourloukis, is that they believe that their religious beliefs should grant them social immunity from their bigotry.

What Tourloukis doesn't realise is that it is society -- or in this case more specifically the GLBT community -- who will have to deal with the consequences of his religious beliefs. If his kids were headed off to live on an island with people who look like them and think exactly like them, I wouldn't have a problem with his position, but the fact is, we live in a diverse society and their failure to learn that difference and religion does not justify bigotry and ongoing oppression is wrong, is a problem.  Tourloukis does not prepare his children to live in the world as it is today and this consequently means a gap in the kids education, should the school board capitulate to his request. We need schools to be constantly evolving and forward moving, not stuck in some religious black hole of bigotry.

There are always going to be parents who believe that their rights and or beliefs outweigh the public good in education.  There are after all parents who believe that intelligent design is all kids need to know about science and creation.  There are parents who are upset that their revisionist views of history aren't taught as truth.  Pick a subject or situation and there are always going to be parents who believe that they are acting in the best interests of their child but this does not mean that we need to capitulate to their demands. The cost of tolerating ignorance and bigotry regardless of the reason is simply too high.