Appeal rejected for B.C. teacher who objects to union dues on religious grounds

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

A Chilliwack teacher has yet again been told he can’t get out get out of paying union dues because of his belief in a Marxist conspiracy.

Robert Bogunovic’s application to the Labour Relations Board (LRB) to be exempt from union membership due to his religious beliefs was rejected in late June by LRB vice-chair Jennifer O’Rourke.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack teacher’s request to opt out of union on religious grounds rejected

He appealed and that appeal was rejected in a decision rendered Aug. 24.

Bogunovic’s argument came under Section 17 of the Labour Relations Code that does allow for the LRB to exempt an employee from the union dues and membership “if the board is satisfied that an employee, because of his or her religious conviction or belief objects to joining trade unions generally, or objects to the paying of dues or other assessments to trade unions generally.”

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.”

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

But while Bogunovic has been religious for decades and part of the teachers’ union for nearly 20 years, his conversion to what some call the alt-right agenda is as recent as the 2016 U.S. presidential election when he began to read “a number of YouTube bloggers who frequently discuss Marxism and its impact on politics and culture.”

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

• READ MORE: Chilliwack teachers ramp up strike presence

But he said he became convinced that “Marxism is a major player in a spiritual war that has been fought for centuries.”

And what triggered his application to the LRB to get out of paying union dues, was when the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CGA) filed a human rights complaint against trustee Barry Neufeld.

Neufeld was engaged for months in a fight against the SOGI 123 teaching resource designed to help LGBTQ students in the classroom, a teaching resource he argued will lead to a day “when the government will apprehend your children and put them in homes where they will be encouraged to explore homosexuality and gender fluidity.”

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

Bogunovic argued that the Neufeld/SOGI 123 controversy was largely irrelevant to his union exemption request, still he said the union case against Neufeld illustrated the threat of “cultural Marxism” in government institutions.

In the original decision written by O’Rourke, it was stated that the LRB had to be wary of “converts suddenly overcome with religious zeal in their opposition to unions, in place of their previously stated political opposition to unions.”

In his appeal, Bogunovic argued the board’s ruling was a catch-22 to say that his objections were political and not religious.

He submitted that “if one’s religious views include political, philosophical, moral, cultural and/or social dimension, they are somehow no longer deemed to be religious objections.”

He further argued that original panel was biased and that O’Rourke didn’t understand the anti-religious nature of Marxism.

The appeal panel concluded that the Section 17 exemption is to be granted in relatively rare circumstances, and agreed with the original panel decision that Bogunovic’s objection to the union is primarily political and not religious.

“We find no error in the original panel’s analysis and conclusion on the particular facts of this case, and we find the original decision is consistent with Code principles.”


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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