News & Analysis

Parental Rights On Trial: Steve Tourloukis appeal hearing

By: CLC STAFF

Dr. Steve Tourloukis, a Hamilton, ON father had an appeal hearing on June 26th, in his lawsuit against the Hamilton Wentworth Public School Board where his two children attend elementary school.

As described by Tourloukis’ legal counsel during opening remarks at the hearing: “At stake in this case is the right of parents to direct the moral education of their children”.

Recap – Lower court ruled against parental rights

In late 2016, a lower court judge ruled against this dad who simply asked the school to give him a heads up before teaching his children about controversial issues like homosexuality and transgenderism.

That way, he explained, if the lesson appeared to conflict with his religious beliefs, he’d have the ability to either prepare them for the lesson at home, through the lens of his Greek Orthodox Christian faith, or otherwise, to excuse his children from class

The judge declared that the school board’s alleged “right” to impose LGBT indoctrination on his children was “superior” to the father’s constitutionally-protected right to Freedom of Religion, and must take precedence.

Therefore, reasoned the judge, the school board did not have to accommodate the father’s request for advance notice of classroom lessons. According to the judge, the school has the right to keep Tourloukis completely in the dark about what his children are being taught with respect to sexuality.

In the lower court judge’s analysis, the right of the school board to indoctrinate his children with the government’s own sexual philosophy was necessary to protect the “charter values” of “inclusivity, equality, and multiculturalism”. That’s a specious argument to make if ever there was one. “Inclusivity” and “multiculturalism” are not even explicitly stated in the Charter.

The fact of the matter is that no such thing exists as a “right” for the State to impose its worldview of sexual morality on other people’s children. A counterfeit right is being used to obliterate a genuine right. Disguised behind the language of “inclusion” is this anti-Christian political objective, which hides in the language of “rights”.

The Appeal

On Monday June 26th, the courtroom was filled with supporters of Dr. Tourloukis. Some drove to Toronto from as far as Kingston and Chatham, to provide moral support to the courageous father.

The 3-judge panel listened to all the arguments, including from Dr. Tourloukis’ attorney, a friendly intervener from the Christian Legal Fellowship, plus two opposition lawyers from the school board, two more sent by Kathleen Wynne to argue against the father’s rights, and two more from the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

The 3-judge panel reserved their decision until a future date. That decision could take days or months, nobody knows.

A very discouraging start

It’s impossible to predict how the court will rule. We must admit however that during the opening arguments by Tourloukis’ attorney, Albertos Polizogopoulos, CLC staff who were present felt discouraged by the unduly harsh approach the 3-judge panel took towards the arguments presented by Polizogopoulos.

The judges did not seem willing to take seriously, Mr. Tourloukis’ claim that his Charter right to religious freedom had suffered injury. They did not even seem to accept the claim that it was at risk of injury.

Polizogopoulos told the court that his client did not object to his children learning values-neutral facts about homosexuality in a secular public school. For example, teaching the reality that same-sex marriage is legal in Canada.

But the father would object to a teacher crossing the line by making a “value judgement” which indicate a moral equivalence between homosexual marriage and the traditional, Christian view of marriage. That would represent “indoctrination” which contradicts the religious beliefs he teaches his children at home.

At least two of the judges suggested that without signed affidavits to prove that a teacher had already presented “value judgements” to his children regarding the topic of homosexuality, that no harm was done, and therefore no remedy was needed from the court.

The judges repeatedly suggested that since Tourloukis couldn’t prove that teachers had ever presented such value judgements in the past, therefore the court had no good reason to order the school to inform him when (or what) it would be teaching his children about homosexuality.

Justice Peter Lauwers chastised Tourloukis’ attorney for failing to bring a single affidavit or expert evidence, to prove that the school was crossing the line into making value judgements instead of presenting values-neutral facts.

We find it rather bizarre logic to require that parents must first allow harm to come to their children (or to their constitutional rights) before they can demand protection from an easily foreseeable risk.

It seemed clear that the judges were not going to entertain awarding a judgement to the dad because of his supposed lack of evidence that teachers would ever engage in classroom indoctrination.

Having observed the open hostility of the judges towards Tourloukis’ attorney throughout his opening argument, we feared all hope for victory was lost. It seemed that all the opposing lawyers had to do was reassure the court that teachers always handle these types of lessons in a professional manner, and are skilled at presenting facts with appropriate sensitivity toward religious families.

Opposition lawyers save the day?

But after the school board lawyer, Ms. Giovanna Di Sauro, subsequently presented her arguments, something unexpected happened. It seemed that she accidentally provided evidence to the judges that indeed, teachers will sometimes make value judgements on homosexuality.

Di Sauro began her presentation suggesting that the father’s concerns were unfounded because all sexuality lessons are fact-based. “This is not about indoctrination”, Di Sauro said. “The school board cannot indoctrinate”.

From then on however, she contradicted herself by reading statements which implied just the opposite. At least one of the judges seemed surprised to hear what she was inadvertently admitting, and asked her to clarify. “Does curriculum go beyond facts, to presenting value judgements?”, asked Justice Robert Sharpe.

Then luck, or perhaps providence, seemed to continue this trend with the next two opposition intervenors also providing evidence for exactly what the justices said was lacking in Tourloukis’ arguments.

Kathleen Wynne’s lawyers deny indoctrination, but then admit

Responding to a question from the court, Ms. Emily Bala, one of two lawyer sent by Kathleen Wynne from the Attorney General’s office, denied having any knowledge that value judgements on sexual orientation and LGBT issues were ever made by teachers.

But almost in the same breath, Ms. Bala made the startling admission that “it’s very difficult for a teacher to discern between a neutral statement versus a value judgement”.

She also argued that even if a value judgement were made about homosexuality, that would somehow not constitute a violation of the father’s right to religious freedom.

Lawyer from teachers union goes full-on, radical, soviet Marxist

Finally, the ETFO lawyer, Ms. Kate Hughes, gave Dr. Tourloukis what we hope will end up being the greatest gift of all: a brazen admission that State indoctrination is indeed the goal.

She openly admitted that the purpose of the Liberal government’s pro-LGBT policies and laws, including the controversial Equity & Inclusive Education Strategy, as well as the GSA-pushing Bill 13, is precisely to present “value judgements” so that students “celebrate” homosexuality and the ever-expanding list of LGBTQ identities.

Citing a government of Ontario document, Hughes explained that “teachers have a statutory obligation to honour and respect diversity” which includes same-sex relationships and transgender identities.

She then asked the court, “What is the difference between honouring and celebrating?” She answered the question herself, stating there is no difference. From there, she moved to argue that teachers have a statutory obligation to “celebrate” LGBT identities and same-sex relationships.

Furthermore, she argued that if teachers aren’t embedding the “celebration” of homosexuality in every subject, every day, they’re not meeting the government’s statutory objectives.

“If a teacher is doing their job right, LGBT will be everywhere”, Ms. Hughes told the court. “They must do this to comply with statutory objectives”.

The ETFO lawyer made it clear that every subject is supposed to be infused with “positive portrayals” of LGTB people and relationships, including math class. (On this note, we’d like to point out that that standardized EQAO student test scores in math have been steadily dropping every year for at least the past 5 years, not only at the Hamilton Board, but across the province.)

Hughes gave the math example of 2 gay dads and an apple. For this reason, Hughes argued, it would be “impossible” to give Tourloukis advance notice because “LGBT issues are everywhere, all throughout the curriculum… It’s everywhere”.

We hope this radical, yet blunt admission by the teachers union serves to give the judges the evidence they claimed was lacking in Tourloukis’ submission.

While we wait for a ruling

CLC’s National President, Jim Hughes, often reminds us that the pro-life/pro-family movement must be grounded in prayer for any of our work to be effective. In that spirit, please continue to ask God for a decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal that upholds parental rights.

If Dr. Tourloukis loses his right to know what his kids are being taught, the precedent will be set for every school board in the country to deny parental rights in education.

Those who wish to make a donation to Mr. Tourloukis’ legal defense fund may do so here.

And don’t forget to make a generous donation to Campaign Life Coalition too, so we can continue to support causes like that of Dr. Tourloukis. You can donate to CLC here.