Friday, October 23, 2009

Canadian Student Punished for Silent Pro-Life Witness

What harm would it have done to leave her alone?

Have we now reached the point where even non-violent, non-aggressive, non-confrontational expressions of anti-abortion sentiment are anathema?

Most Canadians likely do not agree with the political position taken by Wiarton high school student Jennifer Rankin, as part of an international Pro Life Silent Day of Solidarity.

Time and time again in recent years we have let it be known that we do not wish to revisit the abortion debate.
This is a deeply personal issue of conscience and most of us believe it should stay that way. But Jennifer Rankin wasn't hurting anybody. She wasn't bothering a soul. She covered her mouth with red tape in mute protest. That's all.

For this, officials at Peninsula Shores District School brought out the police? For this they kept her isolated in a room at the school for an entire day?

Surely the police have better things to do? And surely a 16-year-old should not be punished for the nonviolent, non-aggressive expression of her political beliefs?

Some in the community are crying foul. They say it's hypocritical of the school to allow an annual Gay Pride event, but ban protests like Rankin's. They're right.
School principal Pat Cavan argues that Gay Pride is different. It's aimed at ending discrimination, which is banned under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nonsense. Isn't free expression also guaranteed by the Charter? And don't people who take the anti-abortion or pro-life position also believe that theirs is a human-rights issue?

Of course they do.

If expressions such as Gay Pride are encouraged on school property, then other political expressions should be as well. It's only fair. Either you have no politics -- or you open the doors to all views.

On balance, no politics would be better. Educators have no business promoting political positions of one hue or another. That's a job for parents and for the students themselves.
But even if educators were banned from "teaching" political positions of any kind (which they clearly are not) they still would not be in a position to prevent non-intrusive expressions of political opinion, on matters of personal conscience, by students.

It's a free country. Freedom of speech is fundamental. We all have a right to speak our mind.
Agree or disagree with Jennifer Rankin, her courage is laudable. Her school owes her an apology.

From Michael Den Tandt, published in the Owen Sound (Canada) Sun Times.