Rankin believes the school principal violated her right of free expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“I felt very discriminated by it. I don’t think it was right at all what happened,” Rankin said.I actually support the board's views on this and the school's decision-- nor do I believe Rankin's rights were violated. It's always easy to forget when arguing Charter issues what Sec. 1 of it allows, that is the "rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits (my emphasis) prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."
School principal Pat Cavan confirmed the protest could not be allowed under school policy, which prevents any group from spreading one-sided information on any religious, political or other contentious subject.
“School property is not a public place,” Cavan said. “So while absolutely we support the right to free speech in a public space, that’s not school property."
“I understand that it is a public school and they’re concerned about everybody’s safety, but, you know, they have no problem doing a Gay Pride Day where everybody wears pink shirts,” (Sauble Christian Fellowship youth pastor Ken Holley) said. “I’ve been up there for poetry nights and I’ve seen the art work on the wall and it seems like if they call it art work or poetry they can say whatever they want and put whatever they want on the wall. I mean there’s nude pictures on the wall. My students have to go to school and deal with that, and as soon as they try to stand up for anything, it’s like, well, just be quiet, go home. I don’t think that’s right.”
Cavan said the annual Pride event at the school differs. It targets homophobia and supports an anti-discrimination view upheld in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Rankin could have stayed home, she could have joined others, including her youth pastor, in a public space elsewhere. By its nature a public school system has to be secular, even in geographical areas where there is little to no diversity in culture and religion amongst the population.
As to the pink-shirt day... I'm not sure what Holley is really trying to say there. In many schools that have adopted this, it's an anti-bullying program to openly discuss homophobia and other discrimination that leads to bullying in high school environments.
I am always intrigued by these sorts of issues -- for example, the Gideons and the Grade 5 Bible distribution is another similar issue -- as a graduate of a Catholic school. Matters of Bible distribution and/or pro-life advocacy were never really an issue since the faith that underpinned the school had some pretty clear direction on those topics. It's always intriguing to see how a secular system based largely on white, Anglo-Saxon protestant values struggles to remain open to all when the vast majority of its population is still Christian. Would this sort of protest have even gained any traction at a high school in a larger, more diverse, more urban area? Likely not-- although it might surprise some to see how many allies this issue would have among the other faith communities.
To flip this sideways, would it be appropriate for teenaged Young Liberal Party of Canada members to setup a protest / display against the governing Conservative Party of Canada's policies? Many would agree that's a clear politicization of the public system that shouldn't take place.
Certainly, public and private, there are plenty of options for those who feel the public-board system is far too secular for their children's education. To consistently and fairly be open to all, the public system needs to enforce its secularity. At the end of the day, despite my own educational history, I strongly believe the only place for education in faith and spirituality is within the home and within the faith community, not in a publicly funded school system.