B.C. teacher’s request to opt out of union on religious grounds rejected

LRB ruling finds his fear of a ‘grand Marxist agenda’ an ideological opposition not a religious one

A Chilliwack teacher won’t get out of paying union dues because of his belief in a Marxist conspiracy taking over Western civilization.

That’s the ruling from the Labour Relations Board (LRB) for the case of Robert Bogunovic who, in his own words, says he adheres to the conspiracy theory of cultural Marxism’s “long march through the institutions.”

“Trade unionism is a major part of the grand Marxist agenda,” he said in his application to the LRB.

Bogunovic brought the case to the LRB asking for an exemption from union membership under section 17 of the Labour Relations Code, which states that the LRB can exempt an employee from joining a union due to his or her religious conviction or belief. If granted, those dues would be directed to a recognized charity.

The Chilliwack secondary social studies teacher argued that unions support Marxist organizations and causes while using union dues from members, and in so doing “render all of us partakers in a repressive agenda that is irreconcilable to my religious and political views.”

The trigger for Bogunovic’s action was when the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CGA) filed a human rights complaint against trustee Barry Neufeld for his ongoing vitriol towards transgender youth and his campaign against the LGBTQ community.

• READ MORE: BCTF files human rights complaint against Chilliwack school trustee

Specifically, Neufeld has been outspoken – even calling himself a prophet – for his opposition to the provincial education tool, SOGI 123, designed to prevent bullying and increase inclusion for LGBTQ students.

Neufeld wrote in a Facebook post: “If you don’t get off your duffs and push back against this insidious new teching [sic], the day is coming (maybe it is already here) when the government will apprehend your children and put them in homes where they will be encouraged to explore homosexuality and gender fluidity.”

While Bogunovic admitted the timing of his Section 17 application along with the Neufeld/SOGI 123 controversy was “not inconsequential,” he argued the it was largely irrelevant to his application for religious exemption.

Still, he argued the Neufeld case illustrated the threat of “cultural Marxism” marching through institutions.

“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 by outrage spewing hate and bile, and all of them were calling Neufeld the bully.”

Part of the LRB’s rejection of Bogunovic’s claim stems from the fact that Bogunovic said he came to believe in God in his 20s while already a member of a union. And having been in a union since 1998, this is his first application for an exemption.

Bogunovic was actually quite active in the union, front and centre during labour strife in 2014.

“We want to put pressure on our local MLAs; they have the ability to move this forward,” he was quoted as saying four years ago while protesting in front of Chilliwack MLA John Martin’s office.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack teachers ramp up strike presence

But the clincher was Bogunovic’s political, rather than religious, opposition to unions, expressed overtly by his belief in the conspiracy theory of “the rising menace of Marxism,” a belief hardened by following YouTube bloggers during the last U.S. election.

“The trade union movement, as well as the Labour Relations Board, must be wary of converts suddenly overcome with religious zeal in their opposition to unions, in place of their previously stated political opposition to unions,” according to the LRB decision.

Bogunovic tried to get around this by arguing while “Marxism did not exist as an ideology at the time the Bible was written,” that “doesn’t mean the Bible does not strongly argue against it.”

The LRB found his ideological opposition to unions generally does not provide a basis for granting the religious exemption.

“[T]he Applicant’s submissions establish his application arises from the negative view of unions he has developed generally and from his recent ideological disagreement with the Union over what he calls the Neufeld/SOGI 123 controversy.”


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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