A British Columbia teacher, who applied for a religious exemption from his union, saying membership and paying dues is “irreconcilable with my faith,” has lost before the labour relations board — again — after arguing trade unions are “a major part of the grand Marxist agenda” and that “Marxism is diametrically opposed to Christianity.”
Robert Alan Bogunovic applied for a religious exemption from his union, hoping instead to give his dues to a charity. While he had been a member since 1998, he became particularly interested in the 2016 election in the United States, and had a “red pill” moment — a political awakening, usually an anti-leftist one — after watching YouTube bloggers, reading the work of writers such as Jordan Peterson and Mark Steyn and following those who warned about the menace of trade unions in religious terms.
“My present conviction is that Marxism is a major player in a spiritual war that has been fought for centuries, a war that pits truth against lies, good against evil, State power against freedom, families, and the Church, and that trade unions are on the side of those seeking to destroy that which Christians hold to be most vital (freedom, families, and the Church),” said Bogunovic in his application to leave the union.
“I have not yet felt God’s call to simply quit public education, so I have pursued the other option that was available to me, which was to submit an application for religious exemption.”
He argued, heavily citing scripture, that the Bible calls on Christians to “steward their money,” and that unions promote many causes, including “social justice, political correctness, identity politics, critical theory, and intersectionality,” which “all have their origins in Marxism,” which erodes family values and attacks the church.
The union, in opposing the original application, argued Bogunovic’s motivation stemmed specifically from a 2017 controversy involving Barry Neufeld, a Chilliwack School District trustee, who posted on Facebook that “allowing little children (to) choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse.” The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation filed a human rights complaint against Neufeld.
Bogunovic disagreed with this — and said so in correspondence with his union — and chose to opt out of the complaint. “The controversy pitted a lone Christian voicing his support for traditional family values against the media, the government, public-sector trade unions, a mob fueled (sic) by outrage spewing hate and bile, and all of them were calling Neufeld a bully,” Bogunovic told the labour board.
The union argued, in turn, that Bogunovic’s application shows he has a “moral and philosophical disagreement” with the union’s position — but not a religious one. The board essentially accepted that argument, since Bogunovic’s application to jump from the union ship came shortly after the Neufeld imbroglio.
The criteria for obtaining a religious exemption from union membership is fairly narrow. Basically, it won’t be granted for political or ideological reasons and must be an objection to all unions, not specifically the one of which one is a member, or to a particular policy. Jennifer O’Rourke, who wrote the original board decision that rejected Bogunovic’s application in late June, accepted Bogunovic’s explanation that he had come to view unions unfavourably.
“However, the explanations he provides for the evolution of his views about unions, and why he now wishes to be exempt from union membership and from paying union dues, do not indicate a fundamental change in his religious beliefs, which he concedes he has held for many years without seeking exemption from union membership,” O’Rourke wrote.
In his appeal Bogunovic argued (among other things) that O’Rourke had erred in relying on his longstanding union membership, saying it took a long time to realize how bad the union was and that O’Rourke was biased for not understanding that Marxism must be thought of in religious terms. He also argued against her contention that his views weren’t religious. “If one holds religious views deeply, those views will necessarily manifest in terms of one’s political, philosophical, moral, cultural and/or social understandings,” he argued.
No dice, said the three-person panel in the appeal last week — O’Rourke got it right. It concluded that a union’s power is derived from its representative ability, even if members disagree (the majoritarian principle); that an objection can’t be to specific policy, but membership and dues-paying generally; that religious views, not political ones, must be the motivation and that, on these counts, Bogunovic wasn’t sufficiently convincing.
Bongunovic said he was “not even remotely surprised” by the ruling, but believes there’s a conflict between the union’s code of ethics that prevents him from speaking out about its policies, and the majoritarian principle, which therefore leaves a legal challenge available.
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