Man denied exemption to union dues on religious grounds, after board rules his objections are political

B.C.’s Labour Code provides an exemption from union membership to people who can prove their religious beliefs preclude them from belonging. (CBC)

A Christian teacher who objected to his union fighting a Chilliwack, B.C., school trustee over comments on transgender children has lost his bid for a religious exemption from union dues.

Robert Alan Bogunovic told the B.C. Labour Relations Board his religious and political views had become irreconcilable with his membership in the B.C. Teachers Federation after the union laid a complaint against trustee Barry Neufeld for criticizing the board’s LGBT policies.

But last month, the board dismissed the high school teacher’s application to pay his fees to a charity instead of the union — finding his objections grounded more in politics than in faith.

“I accept that in recent years he has developed a strongly negative view of unions, associating them with Marxism and other political, social and cultural causes to which he is ideologically opposed,” wrote board chair Jennifer O’Rourke.

“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.”

His faith has ‘evolved’

Although Bogunovic wouldn’t comment on the case, he said he does plan to appeal the board’s dismissal.

The case highlights rare exemptions granted by B.C.’s Labour Relations Code to people who object to joining trade unions or paying dues because of religious convictions or beliefs.

The beliefs have to be “based on deeply-held, personal religious convictions and not on social, political, ethical, moral or philosophical grounds.”

“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,” the board wrote in 1976.

A Donald Trump supporter holds a sign at a rally in Arkansas on Feb. 27, 2016. Trump received support from evangelical Christian voters. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Bogunovic has belonged to the BCTF for 20 years. According to the decision, he came to believe in God at the age of 21 and in…

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