Most exclusive Catholic schools in the country are notorious for having strict rules and regulations. Moreover, most of these schools claim that their strict rules are in line with their religious principles and argue that these regulate the things that distract their students from learning. However, one private Catholic school in the country recently came under fire for a contract that stated that students can be sanctioned for their sexuality.
On Aug.7, a section of The Employee’s and Learner’s Handbooks of Assumption Iloilo began circulating online. The handbook has a section defining immorality as “acts that are contrary to the Catholic morals, teaching and values as defined, described and/or discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, including but not limited to fornication, pornography, prostitution, engaging in premarital sexual relations, rape, homosexuality, adultery, incest, sexual, abuse, ‘free union’, ‘trial marriages’, ‘live-in arrangements’ and unions outside marriages as provided and discussed in Sections 2353, 2370, 2380-81, 2388-91 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, by reference, is made integral to this manual.”
“Immorality is considered a grave offense sanctionable by dropping from the rolls following due process,” it said.
Students and alumni proceeded to denounce the contract’s definition of immorality through #ActBetterAC by sharing their experiences with the school’s alleged homophobic practices in the past. From teachers shaming rumored same-sex couples to banning LGBTQIA+ characters in their theatrical shows, several students and alumni claimed that the school has been sexist and homophobic even before the contract was written.
Moreover, since Assumption Iloilo is co-educational, some also spoke up about the schools’ double standards, accusing them of giving their male students more freedom with dress codes and extracurricular activities compared to their female students.
While the fight against gender-based violence and discrimination in the country is far from over, sexuality should never be seen as a hindrance to education. In fact, the Department of Education Order No. 40 S. 2012 or the “DepEd Child Protection Policy” states that no educational institution should tolerate any form of discrimination which was defined as “an act of exclusion, distinction, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as age, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, language, religion…which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms.”
Assumption Iloilo issued a statement in response to the issue saying that the school was “within its rights to adopt a definition of what constitutes immorality in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
They emphasized that “there is no intent nor was there ever an intent to discriminate against homosexuals as represented in social media” and added that their definition of immorality “speaks of the ‘acts’ of a person and not the ‘condition’ or ‘orientation’ of a person.”
If the school wanted to sanction “sexual misconduct,” then why did they point out homosexuality? Separating homosexuality from homosexual “acts” is faulty because these are expressions of their sexual orientation and not necessarily “sexual misconduct.” Engaging in homosexual “acts” does not make anyone less of a person and should not deem them as unworthy of quality education. Branding these “acts” as “immoral” and grounds for “dropping from the rolls” justifies hate and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. Moreover, just because their definition is grounded on a church doctrine doesn’t mean that it’s OK and not infringing on the rights of other people.
The Commission on Human Rights responded to Assumption Iloilo’s statement by emphasizing the need to pass the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill.
“CHR emphasizes that the SOGIE Equality bill seeks to address the crucial issues, such as differential treatment in the workplace and denial of admission or expulsion from educational institutions. With this measure, we will be able to fully protect the rights of persons with diverse SOGIESC,” said CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia.
“For stigma thrives in institutionalized discriminatory policies, we urge Assumption Iloilo to retract and revisit their enrollment contract establishing homosexuality and other acts as grounds for expulsion. Discrimination does not have a place in educational institutions and more so in our society,” she added.
We vehemently condemn Assumption Iloilo’s discriminatory actions towards their students and demand that they repeal and rethink their definitions establishing homosexuality and sexual misconduct in this contract.