School draws criticism over policy against homosexuality
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — A Catholic school here has drawn criticism for writing into its student enrollment contract a prohibition against homosexuality.
Various groups have denounced the clause in Assumption Iloilo’s contract as discriminatory and homophobic, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed “grave concern” over the school’s definition of homosexuality as immoral.
The clause in the contract that parents and students sign as a condition for enrollment defines homosexuality as immoral along with fornication, pornography, rape, premarital sex and sexual abuse, among other acts or behaviors that the school considers grave offenses punishable by dismissal “following due process.”
‘No intent to discriminate’
In a joint statement issued on Friday, 80 groups representing homosexuals, including Iloilo Pride Team and Bahaghari, and student councils and women’s organizations demanded the clause be scrapped, saying it offended against the Iloilo City Antidiscrimination Ordinance.
The school administration defended the clause, saying it accorded with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and denying it was discriminatory.
“There is no intent nor was there ever an intent to discriminate against homosexuals as represented [on] social media,” the Community of the Religious of the Assumption said in a statement on Saturday.
The definition of immorality that included homosexuality, the community said, “speaks of the ‘acts’ of a person and not the ‘condition’ or ‘orientation’ of a person.”
Punishable are “acts considered as sexual misconduct” from the viewpoint of a Catholic institution, not the “condition” or sexual orientation of students, the community said.
‘Safe spaces’ for all children
“As a Catholic institution, Assumption Iloilo is within its rights to adopt a definition of what constitutes immorality in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” it said.
The CHR, however, said Assumption Iloilo, in adopting a definition of immorality that includes homosexuality, was discriminating against children of “diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.”
Assumption Iloilo’s definition of immorality “runs counter to the notion that schools are safe spaces” for all students, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement on Saturday.
“As a Christ-centered education community, it is their moral responsibility to provide a more equal and accepting safe space for all students,” she said.
De Guia described the policy as “discriminatory” and insisted that by clarifying that immorality in the clause pertained to acts and not students, the school was complicit in the creation of “threatening spaces” for children of various sexual orientations.
Other acts listed under immorality in the clause include “trial marriage,” which De Guia said ran the risk of discriminating against women and young girls, including solo parents, or students born out of wedlock.
“This could run counter to the provisions of the Magna Carta of Women prohibiting discrimination in education institutions and the prohibition of dismissal on the basis of pregnancy,” De Guia said.
The CHR reminded Assumption Iloilo of the city ordinance that describes the failure to accept or the expulsion of a student on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation as discrimination, and states that people who commit these acts can be held criminally liable.
“As educators and duty-bearers, it is within the mandate of the school to respect, promote and protect human rights of the students and ensure a healthy environment conducive for all,” De Guia said.
Discrimination is immoral
In their statement, the protesting groups said discrimination, not homosexuality, was immoral.
“When an educational institution values its name and reputation over upholding the lives and dignity of its students, it shows that it upholds bigotry instead of justice, hate instead of compassion,” they said. INQ
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