Lesbian teacher's allegations ignite debate
A day after allegations surfaced that a Vancouver Catholic school dismissed a music teacher for being gay, there is fierce debate about the conflict between freedom of religion and individual rights.
Lisa Reimer, a teacher at Little Flower Academy, made the allegations on Wednesday.
She said that she returned to work after her partner gave birth to their first child only to be told that she wasn't allowed on school property -- though she would continue to be paid.
"They say, ‘You're employed ‘til the end of June 30, and you'll be paid out, but you're no longer allowed on campus to see the girls, and all classes have been cancelled," she told reporters at a press conference.
She says that this is all because parents found out that she's gay.
"They would not allow a gay or lesbian teacher to employ their girls for fear that it would lead them astray."
The school denies that Reimer was actually fired, but has refused to comment on the specific allegations against it.
Little Flower is a private school, but still receives public funding -- nearly $2 million last year alone.
Critics say that means the school is using public dollars to make private religious decisions.
"Our tax dollars should not be funding institutions that are violating people's rights under the Charter," Irene Lanzinger, president of the BC Teachers Federation, told CTV News.
But the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says that while what allegedly happened to Reimer was morally wrong, it wasn't illegal.
"As a matter of our constitution law protected by the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms), people have the right to associate in groups. That means that churches are protected and can define their membership," the association's President Robert Holmes said.
In other words, in a case like this, freedom of religion trumps Lisa Reimer's individual rights.
"She has a choice as well, and choice is to not work there, not to associate with them," Holmes said.
B.C. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid has said that the province is looking into Reimer's allegations.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Stephen Smart
What do you think? How do we balance individual rights and religious freedom? Have your say in our comments section.