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Canadian student arrested at Catholic school for Biblical beliefs on gender

Protesting “gender identity” bathroom policy at Catholic high school leads to teen’s arrest

Josh Alexander during arrest at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Renfrew, Ontario Photo by Chris Dacey

Canadian student arrested at Catholic school for Biblical beliefs on gender

A Canadian teenager was arrested at a Roman Catholic school Feb. 6 for defying a non-disciplinary expulsion over his Biblical views on sexuality. Joshua Alexander, now 17, attended St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Renfrew, Ontario. In September, Alexander transferred from the public school system to the Catholic school in hopes of finding a school that aligned with his values.

“I’m not Catholic, but I’m a born-again Christian, and you would think the views of that school would be more aligned with Christianity than the public school board,” said Alexander.

St. Joseph’s Catholic High School is part of the publicly-funded Ontario Catholic school system, where 31 of the 37 boards planned to recognize Pride Month last June.

At his new school, Alexander spoke in support of the Biblical position on sexuality in class debates. Some of his female classmates confided in him that biological male students used female restrooms. The school follows the Ontario Human Rights Code, allowing people to use restrooms matching the sex they identify with.

“My Christian faith inspires me and gives me the courage to do what I do,” Alexander said. “So, as a young Christian man, I felt an obligation to stand up, especially when a young lady says something like that.”

Last fall, he talked with the principal and multiple teachers, but they showed no concern. Alexander organized a protest to gain media attention. Two days before the protest, Alexander was suspended indefinitely, while the principal, Derek Lennox, investigated. He went ahead with the protest on Nov. 25 outside school grounds. The protest remained peaceful, and counter-protesters from LGBT groups also gathered at the school.

On Dec. 20, Lennox suspended Alexander for 20 days. Alexander then secured legal representation from Liberty Coalition Canada and decided to appeal the suspension. In January, Alexander met with the principal to discuss a return to school. After negotiating, the school said he could only return if he excluded himself from two classes with transgender students, limited contact with students who identify as transgender, and refrained from referring to transgender students by their birth names.

Alexander rejected the agreement, calling it discriminatory. The school board issued him a notice of exclusion on Jan. 8. After returning to school on Jan. 9, he was charged with trespassing. He said this caused him to wait out the rest of the semester and lose four course credits. The school offered Alexander an online option, but he turned it down.

With the new semester approaching, Alexander and his lawyer reached out to the school, saying Alexander planned to return and continue to follow his religious beliefs. In response, the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board said that Alexanders’ return to school would be “detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils.” The school then spoke with Alexander’s lawyer and said he would be expelled for the remainder of the year. He returned to school anyway.

“I got removed from class with my lawyer on the phone, and we went down to the principal’s office where the exit was blocked,” Alexander said. Renfrew, Ontario, Provincial Police arrested Alexander and charged him with trespassing. They did not handcuff him or take him to jail, but released him to his family.

On Feb. 13, Mark Searson, director of education for the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board, wrote an open letter to the community addressing the events that took place. Searson said the board “deeply respects religious freedoms” but does not allow bullying.

“While all our students are entitled—and encouraged—to share their beliefs—it cannot be at the expense of others,” he wrote. “No one should be made to feel unsafe or marginalized.”

James Kitchen, chief litigator for Liberty Counsel Canada, is working to appeal to the school board trustees on the school’s decision to exclude Alexander from class. Due to a technicality, Alexander has not been granted the right to appeal, so Kitchen filed a court application to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, asking the court to compel the school board to hear those appeals.

Kitchen is also filing a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as he says this case clearly violates Alexander’s freedom of religion.

“He doesn’t merely hold these beliefs as political beliefs or standalone beliefs, these are religious beliefs, these are his Christian beliefs,” Kitchen said. “He’s a Protestant, Bible-believing Christian, so when he expresses these beliefs and he’s penalized for them, that’s discrimination.”

For now, Alexander is not allowed to return to St. Joseph’s High School, but he continues to work with “Save Canada,” a youth-run organization that promotes Christian nationalism and claims inspiration from former President Donald Trump. Alexander’s application to compel the school board to hear the appeals will be heard in court on April 23.

Alexandra Ellison

Alexandra Ellison is a graduate of World Journalism Institute.

These summarize the news that I could never assemble or discover by myself. —Keith

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