Skip to main content

Teaching Sexuality, Teaching Religion: Sexuality Education and Religion in Canada

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
The Palgrave Handbook of Sexuality Education

Abstract

Debates about sexuality education are witnessed in numerous national contexts, in parallel with flashpoints regarding religious identity, public religion, and ‘national values.’ These two sets of controversies are not isolated from one another, witnessed when new sex education curricula are introduced (protested by particular religious groups) and when religious freedom claims are sought (and gender and sexual minorities groups voice concerns about religious freedom). This portrayal of sexuality and religion as inherently oppositional misses the nuance of both categories, ignoring intersectional identities and the challenges of living across religious and sexual diversities. This chapter explores the construction of both religious and sexually diverse identities as represented in debates about sexuality education. As sexuality education and curricula develop, it is important to consider the future of education about sexuality as also education about religion, secularity, and ideology.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. 1.

    A note about terminology; I am using the acronym LGBTQI to refer to multiple spaces and experiences of sexual diversity, recognizing that there are other acronyms that are current or in use. When I refer to LGBT or other shortened formats, it is simply to acknowledge the way the scholar or policy I am citing refer to the sexual minority groups in their article and policy.

  2. 2.

    Note here, I do not intend to imply that this equates to an inherently inclusive or welcoming experience for normative or alternative genders and sexualities; I mean only that our language has significantly developed in the last several decades, so that diversities of these identities are better known within the public imagination.

  3. 3.

    This is demonstrated most often in media generalizations regarding ‘religion’ in reporting, as argued by Hoover 2006; Knott et al. 2013, among others.

  4. 4.

    There is a vast literature on the category of religion from a historical and theoretical perspective. It is outside the scope of this particular chapter, however there is a growing debate about the category itself and the lack of reflexivity within academia regarding ‘religion,’ see for example, Arnal and McCutcheon 2012.

  5. 5.

    It is clear that religious studies (particularly here, the study of religious identities) would benefit from the work that has been done within the fields of gender and sexuality studies, but it seems that the problem of ‘non-religious’ has not yet been resolved; increasingly, individuals identify as non-religious, which is often mistaken for anti-religious or hostile toward religion in some fashion (Halafoff forthcoming; Shipley 2016b, among others). This assumption misses the mark when it comes to the complex interweaving of ethics and values expressed by the ‘nones’ (a forthcoming edited collection on Youth, Religion and Identity, edited by P. Beyer, P. Gareau, and S. Bullivant, Brill Academic Press, considers this subject in detail). The subject of the rising ‘nones’ and the connections between religious and non-religious identities are outside the scope of this chapter, but a great deal of recent research demonstrates the similarities in expressions and values between those who identify as religious and those as non-religious.

  6. 6.

    Notably in Canada, the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto first began marrying same-sex couples in the 1970s and spearheaded the campaign for marriage equality. See Shipley 2016a.

  7. 7.

    Wynne was criticized for her ‘lack’ of qualification to implement education policies when the new sex education curriculum was introduced. She responded to the criticism in the legislature as such: “Is it that I’m a woman? Is it that I’m a mother? Is it that I have a master’s of education? Is it that I was a school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education?” (CBC 2015b).

  8. 8.

    Furthermore, as was noted during one interview with a mother in Ottawa who had taken her children out of school in protest, was that while she repeated during the interview that she was opposed to her children being told about oral and anal sex (and this was why she was protesting), she was in fact discussing these topics while they were in the room (CBC 2015c).

  9. 9.

    For more, see Mathen and Plaxton 2014; Craig 2013.

  10. 10.

    And to play a devil’s advocate, would the mere fact that instruction has been solely about heterosexual families and heterosexuality actually not eradicate the world of anything other than heterosexuality at this point?

  11. 11.

    In tandem with the modifications to the sex education curriculum, particularly the addition of consent to the curriculum, Wynne has launched the “Who Will You Help?” sexual assault prevention campaign; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opPb2E3bkoo

  12. 12.

    Two recent tragedies are evidenced in the suicides of Amanda Todd (CBC 2014) and Rehtaeh Parsons (The Chronicle Herald 2013).

  13. 13.

    The subject religious education is currently a hot topic in the UK, as many consider the challenges of how to teach religion and religious identity. See Wallis 2014.

References

  • Arnal, W., & McCutcheon, R. T. (2012). The sacred is the profane: The political nature of “religion”. London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bakht, N. (Ed.). (2009). Belonging and banishment: Being Muslim in Canada. Toronto: TSAR Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beaman, L. G. (2012). Battles over symbols: The ‘religion’ of the minority versus the ‘culture’ of the majority. Journal of Law & Religion, 28(1), 67–104.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beckford, J. A. (2003). Social theory and religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beckford, J. A. (2012). Public religions and the postsecular: Critical reflections. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 51(1), 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berger, B. (2008). The cultural limits of legal tolerance. Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 21(2), 245–277.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berger, B. (2014). Religious diversity, education, and the ‘crisis’ in state neutrality. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 29(1), 378–395.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beyer, P., & Ramji, R. (Eds.). (2013). Growing up Canadian: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bramadat, P., & Seljak, D. (Eds.). (2008). Christianity and ethnicity in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burn, S. M. (1995). The social psychology of gender. McGraw-Hill series in social psychology.Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/

  • Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of sex. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • CBC News. (2010a). Lesbian teacher told to work from home, group says. Retrieved on April 28, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/04/28/bc-little-flower-academy-lesbian-teacher.html

  • CBC News. (2010b). Sex ed opponents claim victory in Ontario. Retrieved on April 23, from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/04/23/ontario-education.html#ixzz15MdtPaEC

  • CBC News. (2010c). Sex-ed change needs ‘rethink’: Ont. Premier. Retrieved on 22 April, from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/04/22/sex-ed.html

  • CBC News. (2010d). McGuinty supports new sex ed curriculum. Retrieved on April 21, from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/04/20/ontario-sexed.html

  • CBC News. (2011). Gay Ottawa teen who killed himself was bullied: Jamie Hubley was a figure skater and the only openly gay boy in his school. Retrieved on October 18, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2011/10/18/ottawa-teen-suicide-father.html

  • CBC News. (2014). Cyberbullying has ‘hugely disproportionate impact on women and girls. Retrieved on August 8, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/cyberbullying-has-hugely-disproportionate-impact-on-women-and-girls-1.2731195

  • CBC News. (2015). ‘Anal, oral sex’ not school topics, Ottawa mom says. Retrieved on May 5, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/anal-oral-sex-not-school-topics-ottawa-mom-says-1.3060978

  • Cherry, C., Deberg, B. A., & Porterfield, A. (2001). Religion on campus. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cho, S., Crenshaw, K., & McCall, L. (2013). Toward a field of intersectionality studies: Theory, applications, and praxis. Signs, 38(4), 785–810.

    Google Scholar 

  • Collet, B. A. (2007). Islam, national identity and public secondary education: Perspectives from the Somali diaspora in Toronto, Canada. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 19(2), 131–153.

    Google Scholar 

  • Collins-Mayo, S., & Dandelion, P. (Eds.). (2010). Religion and youth. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Connell, E. (2005). Desire as interruption: Young women and sexuality education in Ontario, Canada. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 5(3), 253–268.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cossman, B. (2007). Sexual citizens: The legal and cultural regulation of sex and belonging. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cossman, B. (2009). Sexual citizens: Freedom, vibrators, and belonging. In L. C. McClain & J. L. Grossman (Eds.), Gender equality: Dimensions of women’s equal citizenship (pp. 289–306). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Craig, E. (2013). The case for the Federation of Law Societies rejecting Trinity Western University’s proposed law degree program. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 25(1), 148–170.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crompton, R. (1989). Class theory and gender. The British Journal of Sociology, 40(4), 565–587.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davie, G. (1994). Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without belonging (Making contemporary Britain). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fetner, T., Elafros, A., Bortolin, S., & Dreschsler, C. (2012). Safe spaces: Gay-straight alliances in high schools. Canadian Review of Sociology, 49(2), 188–207.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: An introduction. Volume 1. (trans: Robert, H.). New York: Random House, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freitas, D. (2008). Sex and the soul: Juggling sexuality, spirituality, romance, and religion on America’s college campuses. London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleason, M. (1999). Normalizing the ideal: Psychology, schooling, and the family in postwar Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Government of Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training. (1998). Health and physical education (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1–8).

    Google Scholar 

  • Halafoff, A. (Forthcoming). Whatever: Religion, youth, and identity in 21st century Australia. In P. Beyer, P. Gareau, & S. Bullivant (Eds.), Religion, youth and identity. Leiden: Brill Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Halberstam, J. (1998). Female masculinity. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoover, S. (2006). Religion in the media age (media, religion and culture). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hunt, S. J., & Yip, A. K. T. (Eds.). (2012). The Ashgate research companion to contemporary religion and sexuality. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Irigaray, L. (1984). An ethics of sexual difference. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jagose, A. (1996). Queer theory. Australian Humanities Review. Retrieved from http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-Dec-1996/jagose.html

  • Johnson, R. (2002). Taxing Choices: The Intersection of Class, Parenthood, Gender and the Law. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Kinsman, G. W. (1996). The regulation of desire: Homo and hetero sexualities. Montréal: Black Rose Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knott, K., Teemu, T., & Poole, E. (2013). Media portrayals of religion and the secular sacred: Representation and change. London: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • LifeSite News. (2015). Ontario bishops’ general secretary has been actively supporting Wynne’s child abusive sex-ed. Retrieved on March 6, from https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/ontario-bishops-general-secretary-calls-tory-politician-pathetic-for-opposi

  • Maclean’s. (2010). Religious groups fight changes to Ontario sex ed curriculum. Retrieved on April 22, from http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/04/22/religious-groups-fight-changes-to-ontario-sex-ed-curriculum/

  • Mathen, C., & Plaxton, M. (2014). Legal education, religious and secular: TWU and beyond. Ottawa Faculty of Law working paper no. 2014–06. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2428207

  • Maticka-Tyndale, E. (2008). Sexuality and sexual health of Canadian adolescents: Yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 17(3), 85–95.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGuire, M. (2008). Lived religion: Faith and practice in everyday life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mckay, A. (1997). Accommodating ideological pluralism in sexuality education. Journal of Moral Education, 26(3), 285–300.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mckay, A., & Bissell, M. (2010). Sexual health education in the schools: Questions and answers (3rd edn). SIECCAN. Retrieved from http://www.sieccan.org/pdf/she_q&a_3rd.pdf

  • Montreal Gazette. (2015). Will Quebec learn lessons from Ontario’s new sex-ed program? Retrieved on February 26, from http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/will-quebec-learn-lessons-from-ontarios-new-sex-ed-program

  • National Household Survey. (2013). The Daily. May 8. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/130508/dq130508b-eng.htm

  • Naugler, D. (2010). Wearing pink as a stand against bullying: Why we need to say more. Journal of Homosexuality, 57(3), 347–363.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum: Secondary. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/health.html

  • Page, S. J. (2014). Sexuality and Christianity: Understanding the attitudes and negotiations of young adults in the UK. In G. Vincett & E. Obinna (Eds.), Christianity in the modern world: Changes and controversies (pp. 95–118). Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Page, S. J., Yip, A. K. T., & Keenan, M. (2012). Risk and the imagined future: Young adults negotiating religious and sexual identities. In S. Hunt & A. Yip (Eds.), The Ashgate research companion to contemporary religion and sexuality (pp. 255–270). Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parker, G., et al. (2007). Double discrimination? Gender and disability in access to the labour market. European Social Fund, Social Policy Research University. Retrieved from http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/spru/pubs/pdf/double.pdf

  • Planned Parenthood Ottawa. Training. Retrieved from http://www.ppottawa.ca/programs.aspx?id=30

  • Power & Politics. (2015). Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Politics/ID/2664214688/

  • Rasmussen, M. L. (2004). That’s so gay! A study of the deployment of signifiers of sexual and gender identity in secondary school settings in Australia and the United States. Social Semiotics, 14(3), 289–308.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rayside, D. (2010, June 1–3). Sex ed in Ontario: Religious mobilization and socio-cultural anxiety. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Canadian political science association, Montreal, QC. Retrieved from http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/papers-2010/Rayside.pdf

  • Regnerus, M. (2007). Forbidden fruit: Sex and religion in the lives of American teenagers. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Renold, E., & Ringrose, J. (2011). Schizoid subjectivities? Re-theorizing teen girls’ sexual cultures in an era of ‘sexualization’. Journal of Sociology, 47(4), 389–409.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ringrose, J., et al. (2013). Teen girls, sexual double standards and ‘sexting’. Gendered value in digital image exchange. Feminist Theory, 14(3), 305–323.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipley, H. (2014). “Religious and Sexual Orientation Intersections in Education and Media: A Canadian Perspective,” Sexualities, Special Journal Issue “Sexuality and Religion,” Ria Snowdon and Yvette Taylor, eds, 17(5/6): 512–528.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipley, H. (2015a). Challenging identity constructs: The debate over the sex education curriculum in Ontario. In P. Dickey Young, H. Shipley, & T. Trothen (Eds.), Religion and sexuality: Diversity and the limits of tolerance (pp. 97–118). Vancouver: UBC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipley, H. (2015b). The space in between: Religion, sexual identity, media and education in Ontario. In L. G. Beaman & L. Van Arragon (Eds.), Issues in religion and education: Whose religion? (pp. 211–230). Leiden: Brill Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipley, H. (2016a). Religious freedom and sexual orientation: Equality jurisprudence and intersecting identities. Canadian Journal of Women and Law 27(2): 92–127.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipley, H. (2016b). Apathy or misunderstanding? Youth’s reflections on their religious identity in Canada. In P. Beyer, P. Gareau, & S. Bullivant (Eds.), Religion, youth and identity. Leiden: Brill Academic Press, under review.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipley, H., & Dickey Young, P. (2014). Values and practices: How are youth in Canada integrating religion and sexuality in their daily lives? In H. Shipley (Ed.), Globalized religion and sexual identity: Contexts, contestations, voices (pp. 276–294). Leiden: Brill Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipley, H., & Dickey Young, P. (2015). “Christianity, Gender and Identity among Canadian Youth,” The Brill Handbook of Global Christianity, S. Hunt, ed, Brill Academic Press: 327–345.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, C., & Smith, P. (2009). Souls in transition: The religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Søndergaard, D. M. (2012). Bullying and social exclusion anxiety in schools. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 33(3), 355–372.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, C., & Peter, T. (2011a). Every class in every school: Final report on the first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. EGALE Canada. Retrieved from http://archive.egale.ca/EgaleFinalReport-web.pdf

  • Taylor, C., & Peter, T. (2011b). We are not aliens, we're people, and we have rights’ Canadian human rights discourse and high school climate for LGBTQ students. Canadian Review of Sociology, 48(3), 275–313.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, Y., & Snowdon, R. (Eds.). (2014a). Queering religion, religious queers. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, Y., & Snowdon, R. (2014b). Mapping queer, mapping me: Visualising queer religious identity. In H. Shipley (Ed.), Globalized religion and sexual identity: Contexts, contestations, voices (pp. 295–312). Leiden: Brill Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • The Atlantic. (2014). Is it possible to teach children to be less prejudiced? Retrieved on March 31, from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/is-it-possible-to-teach-children-to-be-less-prejudiced/284536/

  • The Chronicle Herald. (2013). Who failed Rehtaeh Parsons? Retrieved on April 9, from http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/1122345-who-failed-rehtaeh-parsons

  • The Globe and Mail. (2010). Muslims, Christians challenge Ontario’s more explicit sex ed. Retrieved on April 22, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/muslims-christians-challenge-ontarios-more-explicit-sex-ed/article1542657/

  • The Globe and Mail. (2015). Ontario’s sex ed curriculum teaches society’s values, and that’s good. Retrieved on May 8, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/ontarios-sex-ed-curriculum-teaches-societys-values-and-thats-good/article24329359/

  • The Sault Star. (2011). Religious group attacks anti-bullying law—Says McGuinty not a good Catholic. Retrieved on December 7, from http://www.saultstar.com/PrintArticle.aspx?e=3396249

  • The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. Retrieved from www.sieccan.org

  • The Star. (2010). Analysis: Dalton McGuinty’s sex-ed surrender motivated by politics. Retrieved on April 23, from http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/800039

  • The Star. (2011). Anti-bullying bill a front for ‘sex ed’ agenda, groups say. Retrieved on December 6, from http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1097682--anti-bullying-bill-a-front-for-sex-ed-agenda-groups-say

  • The Star. (2015a). Busting the myths around Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum. Retrieved on May 5, from http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2015/05/05/busting-the-myths-around-ontarios-new-sex-ed-curriculum.html

  • The Star. (2015b). Fact-checking 10 claims made by parents against the Ontario sex-ed curriculum. Retrieved on May 4, from http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/05/04/fact-checking-10-claims-made-by-parents-against-the-ontario-sex-ed-curriculum.html

  • Ursic, E. (2014). Bi the way: Rethinking categories of religious identity. The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, 3(4), 29–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wallis, S. (2014). Ticking ‘no religion’: A case study amongst ‘young nones’. DISKUS: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions, 16(2), 70–87.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weeks, J. (2011). The languages of sexuality. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilcox, M. (2009). Queer women and religious individualism. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodhead, L. (2013). Liberal religion and illiberal secularism. In G. D’Costa et al. (Eds.), Religion in a Liberal State (pp. 93–116). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yip, A. K. T. (2015). When religion meets sexuality. In P. D. Young, H. Shipley, & T. Trothen (Eds.), Religion and sexuality: Diversity and the limits of tolerance (pp. 119–140). Vancouver: UBC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yip, A. K. T., & Page, S. J. (2013). Religious and sexual identities: A multi-faith exploration of young adults. London: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yip, A. K. T., et al. (2011). Religion, youth and sexuality: Selected key findings from a multi-faith exploration. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, P. D. (2015a). Who speaks for religion? In L. G. Beaman & L. Van Arragon (Eds.), Issues in religion and education: Whose religion? (pp. 307–320). Leiden: Brill Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, P. D. (2015b). Severely normal: Sexuality and religion in Alberta’s Bill 44. In P. D. Young, H. Shipley, & T. Trothen (Eds.), Religion and sexuality: Diversity and the limits of tolerance (pp. 45–66). Vancouver: UBC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, P. D., & Shipley, H. (2015). Belief, not religion: Youth negotiations of religious identity in Canada. In J. Wyn & H. Cahill (Eds.), Handbook of child and youth studies (pp. 861–873). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Copyright information

© 2017 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Shipley, H. (2017). Teaching Sexuality, Teaching Religion: Sexuality Education and Religion in Canada. In: Allen, L., Rasmussen, M.L. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Sexuality Education. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-40033-8_8

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-40033-8_8

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-137-40032-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-137-40033-8

  • eBook Packages: EducationEducation (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics