Those discriminatory Christian schools!

Trinity Western is in the news again because of their “discriminatory” policies against gays. Students are forbidden from engaging in any kind of sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage. This, quite obviously, includes any sort of homosexual interactions.

Ironically, public school boards can be discriminating too with respect to the private lives of their staff, but for some reason the public outrage isn’t quite as loud.

The Ottawa public school board handed out some guidelines for use of social media that warned against “scantily clad photos on the beach” as well as photos involving drugs and alcohol.

How dare they? What a teacher does on their own time in no way impinges on their ability to teach, right?

In fact, let’s take the thinking even further; teachers should be free to come to school “scantily clad” if they so desire, shouldn’t they? We can be infinitely accommodating to the fashion values of Muslim women, but for some reason we impose all kinds of rules on nudists? Oh, the hypocrisy!

My wife is a teacher in the public system and we’ve had various conversations over the years about the remarkable lack of freedom that public school teachers have with respect to expressing their perspectives. She has to be incredibly cautious to ever allow any kind of religious discussion in the classroom, even if the students bring it up! And that’s just one area of discussion; she has bemoaned the fact that her personal views on a very wide array of subjects must be actively curtailed in the classroom. Some parents even ask her for parenting advice; she must be very cautious. Unless it is directly in the curriculum she often walks on eggshells.

She has to tread so very carefully for fear of losing her job, meaning she is absolutely not, by any stretch of anybody’s imagination, allowed to exercise her “freedom of religion” as a public school teacher. I know somebody who teaches in a private school – not a Christian school, by the way – who has to be even more cautious on an even wider array of subjects.

And if you are horrified by this, then you will be even more horrified to discover the startling extent to which discrimination exists in our society, as I previously wrote. Consider:

Discrimination is all around us and some if it is absolutely essential to the flourishing of civilization. Blind airline pilots and pedophile kindergarten teachers are recipes for disaster. In some cases it would be morally reprehensible of us to not discriminate.

In other cases, though, it’s a matter of non-essential value judgments. Would it be “catastrophic” if a white woman played Othello? Would lives be at stake, as with blind airline pilots? Would childhoods be in jeopardy, as with pedophiles teaching kindergarten? Of course not, yet those who object on such strong grounds are free to express their views, and we are free to disagree with them.

And if the white woman really wants to act, she can accept some other role, or play Othello in some other theatre, if that’s what she has her heart set on. Not everybody shares those same values, and in a free society we need to be allowed to disagree on matters such as these.

Similarly with the refusal to hire smokers. If a smoker really wants to work there, they can quit smoking (and some have!). Or, they can work somewhere else where smoking is permitted. The news article was intriguing in that it did a little research into what kind of companies refused to hire smokers. Any guesses what name came up? If you guessed the Canadian Cancer Society you would be right. Is anybody surprised by that?

In fact, as I work on starting my business, I am trying to create a certain corporate culture. I fully expect to hire non-Christians, smokers and perhaps even some gay people – those are not relevant to my business – but on other measures I will be extremely discriminating. My company will be very family-centric. Staff who want to splash centerfolds on their desktops and workstations will be told not to. Staff parties, sales meetings and just about any other setting wherein people are representing the company will have a minimal amount of alcohol. Alcohol will certainly be allowed, but moderation will be the order of the day. Vulgarity will be expected to be kept to a minimum. Insofar as it is possible, given staff roles, we will seek flexible working arrangements to allow people to find an appropriate balance between their personal and professional lives. I don’t intend to work my staff so hard that their families suffer.

If you really want centerfolds on your work computer, go work somewhere else. If the only way you know how to close a sale is by getting the customer semi-inebriated, then go work somewhere else. If you cuss like a sailor, go work somewhere else. If you like the idea of advancing your career by working 50-60 hour weeks, then go work somewhere else. There are lots of companies out there, with all kinds of corporate cultures, it shouldn’t be hard to find one that fits your style.

And every company must be given the freedom to create whatever corporate culture they see fitting (within certain moral constraints, of course). This freedom, properly exercised, provides options to potential employees. If every company had a corporate culture identical to ours then many workers would never feel “at home.” We need to be allowed to set boundaries relevant to the corporate culture we are establishing, and we need to extend significant freedom to other companies to establish corporate cultures that differ – sometimes quite significantly – from our own.

Given the explicit mandate of the Cancer Society – to fight Cancer, in case you weren’t sure – is it any wonder they forbid their staff from participating in one of the identified causes of Cancer? Hardly. Their hiring decisions are perfectly aligned with the core of their mission. It would be shocking if it were any other way.

And the same goes for Christian universities, and Christian private schools. Their mandate is to promote the Christian worldview, and one would reasonably expect them to hire in accordance with their best understanding of what “Christian” looks like. Roughly speaking:

  • Belief in God? Kind of important.
  • That Jesus guy? Also pretty important.
  • The Bible as some kind of authority? You bet that’s on the list.
  • Actually adhering to the Bible’s teachings? That seems to go without say.
  • Sex within heterosexual marriage only? Well, that’s in the Bible, so that’s got to be in there.

Just as the Cancer Society would be hypocritical to hire smokers (even if they only smoked “on their own time”) so Christian universities and schools would be hypocritical if they failed to uphold the Christian message in their staff and students. This is one of those forms of discrimination which absolutely must be permitted in a properly free society.

As with the dyslexic student who was “discriminated” against because he was expected to take at least one class in French – or like a hypothetical smoker who absolutely refuses to work for anybody but the Cancer Society and takes his / her cause to the human rights tribunal – one cannot help but wonder why people who disagree with the Christian message don’t just get connected with one of the many non-Christian educational institutions on offer. After all, there are vastly more of them than their are Christian schools.

It’s almost as if people are going out of their way to find others that they know they are going to disagree with, just so they can get in the news.