By Jonathon Van Maren
Like Heather Mallick, Martin Regg Cohn is one of those Toronto Star columnists who displays, in addition to an airtight skull, a dazzling combination of arrogance and ignorance. A few years back, he penned a screed in which he claimed that Canadian doctors who declined to participate in practices that violate their consciences were “doing the work of the devil” and suggested that those who revealed their Christian beliefs should be kept out of medical school and instead sent to divinity school. Cohn, as it turns out, has not read much on the social consequences of requiring medical professionals to violate their consciences. That he does not understand the concept of conscience is both obvious and unsurprising.
Cohn, unsurprisingly, is at it again — and this time his column in a not-so-veiled threat aimed at Catholic schools for their refusal to publicly signal their support for his ideology: “York’s Catholic school trustees are abusing their power by refusing to raise the Pride flag. Their day of reckoning is coming.” He begins — and you cannot make this stuff up — with a Bible text: “Pride comes before a fall.” Which is indisputably true, but an odd verse to use as the lede to your column defending “Pride Month.” In his column, Cohn decries “prejudice toward the Pride flag” (a new category of sin, apparently, is bigotry toward the banners of ideologies you do not happen to share) while displaying a healthy amount of bigotry toward Canadians who disagree with him on said flag.
The writing is nearly as bad as the argumentation, but it is worth breaking down:
By refusing to raise the Pride flag at their main office, Catholic school trustees in York Region are giving Ontario a lesson in the politics of religious intolerance and intransigence. When blind faith closes its eyes to LGBTQ students, it leads to a dead end.
“The flag does not align with our faith,” argued board chair Frank Alexander. “We stand for our faith, we stand for Christ.”
Not so simple. It is not merely a matter of personal faith, for it also matters how the public feels.
York’s Catholic trustees are caught up in a catechism wrapped in a contradiction inside an anachronism. The trouble with their regressive and aggressive stand is not just that it harms LGBTQ students, but that it hurts the good name of Catholic educators everywhere ― the vast majority of whom are broadly supportive of Pride flags and GSAs.
Apparently to Cohn — and one can almost imagine him chuckling to himself as he wrote his “catechism” line — Catholic trustees remaining consistent with the two-millennia-old teachings of their church need to ignore the “matter of personal faith” based on “how the public feels.” He also asserts, completely without evidence, that declining to fly a flag over an office building “harms LGBTQ students,” which it most certainly does not. This decision, says Cohn, was made by “rogue Catholic trustees” when in fact the opposite is true — when Catholic trustees decide to make decisions completely contrary to the Catholic faith, one could call that “rogue.” But don’t let facts stand in the way — Cohn claims that now “Catholics are essentially in a majority,” which is completely false by any measurable metric.