School can refuse admission of child of same-sex couple

September 11, 2017
Article Source
Law Times

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled in favour of an evangelical Christian school that would not admit the son of a same-sex couple over the school's stance on same-sex marriage.

The unnamed married couple and their son, who live in a rural part of Ontario, took the case to the tribunal after the couple contacted the school about having their son attend a preschool program at the private school.

According to the ruling in H.S. v. The Private Academy, 2017 HRTO 791, the couple wanted their child to attend a Christian school that offered religious education. 

However, the principal of the school — which does not get government funding — told one of the parents that their same-sex marriage would clash with the school's teachings, including the biblical belief that marriage is between a woman and a man.

The couple launched a case alleging discrimination based on sex, creed, family status and marital status, but the tribunal ultimately ruled that the school had a legal right to limit who attends the school, based on s. 18 of the Human Rights Code.

"The school has a well-defined and specific set of creedal beliefs, mission statement and mandate. The respondent's evidence was clear that the school requires all parents to share these values if they are considering the school for their family," said the ruling.

"While I empathize with the parents' feelings of unfairness that their child would not be admitted, the respondent made no secret of its beliefs and was upfront that it may not be the right fit for every family."

Section 18 of the Code states that rights "are not infringed where membership or participation in a religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization that is primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination is restricted to persons who are similarly identified."

"In essence, this case is about whether the respondent can rely on section 18 of the Code as a defence to what would otherwise be discrimination under the Code. The respondent's position is that it is a 'special interest organization' and that it did not infringe the right to equal treatment of services," said the ruling. "It submits that it is a Christian school primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by a particular creed and that it is entitled to restrict participation to parents who subscribe to its creed."

Read more: School can refuse admission of child of same-sex couple