Two Christian schools that asked the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to censor the LGBTQ section of the museum when they visited for field trips have lost a lawsuit to keep their names out of the news.
Between 2015 and 2017, the museum catered to the bigoted whims of faith-based schools. Tour guides, some of whom were LGBTQ themselves, were told not to show certain students any content that might offend their religious sensibilities, including a section on same-sex marriage. It put those staffers in the awkward position of having to shield students from an important part of Canadian history because their bosses wanted admission fees more than they wanted to educate students.
To put that another way, an organization supposedly dedicated to “preserving and promoting” Canada’s human rights heritage (both inspiring and ugly) was willingly erasing that heritage if a handful of bigots didn’t like it. It made as much sense as a science museum cordoning off a section about evolution to appease Creationists. It would have been much easier—and more principled—to tell those schools that the facts are the facts, and if they couldn’t handle the truth, their money should go elsewhere and their students deserve better.
After CBC News reported that story, the museum promised to never again adapt tours at the request of religious schools and CEO John Young announced that he would be stepping down after his term ended.
But there was another story brewing at the same time. When the CBC was reporting on the censorship, they issued a public records request to find out which Christian schools had requested the Don’t-Show-Us-Gay-Stuff tour. The schools in question went to court to prevent the museum from releasing that information.
The two schools, which now operate under the OneSchool Global banner, filed an application to prevent the CMHR from releasing the names in information about how the Winnipeg museum had censored its exhibits at the request of some visiting groups.
A spokesperson for OneSchool Global said it regrets any offence caused to any individual or group.
“This incident is one which the school regrets and has learnt from. Our teachers and students all uphold our core values, which include compassion, kindness and respect for all people.”
That statement is a lie. There’s no reason to believe they have respect for all people given that they’re not apologizing for their censorship request or admitting that they did anything wrong. They’re not even apologizing for trying to hide their identity from the public. The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, which operates OneSchool Global, is as anti-LGBTQ as any other conservative Christian group. In 2005, the CBC notes, the church fought “against gay marriage in Canada… through an anonymous mail and advertising campaign.”
Those weren’t the only schools that made the censorship requests:
They and groups from Mallard School, Springwell Colony School, Omega School and Interlake Hutterian Schools all asked for censored tours.
After the CMHR notified the schools their names would be released to the CBC, the Sterling schools filed an application in Federal Court to prevent the museum from doing so.
The schools argued the release of their names as the entities that asked the museum to censor LGBT content would likely cause them financial harm, in the form of reduced grants and lower enrolment.
They gave away the game right there: If you tell people what we actually believe, fewer people will want us to indoctrinate their children! If they actually stood by their (lack of) principles, they would’ve been out front in saying they demanded the Canadian Museum for Human Rights hide the section on LGBTQ rights from their students. But they would rather lie to the public than allow the truth to ruin their unearned reputation.
Ken Rubin, an investigative researcher and access to information expert, said this case reinforces that “embarrassment is not an exemption under any access act.”
The CBC noted that these schools weren’t just anti-LGBTQ bigots. Some of them also wanted the museum to shield sections on women’s rights and abortion. (At some point, you have to wonder why they even bothered taking their students to this museum.)
Every staffer and administrator at every single one of these schools should be ashamed of themselves. If they had any self-respect or courage, they would quit.
The one silver lining here is that the Sterling schools, which tried to block the CBC from reporting their identities, will now have to pay the legal bills for both the museum and the CBC. they won’t miss the money. It’s not like they were educating children with it.