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‘You can’t keep your kids ignorant about other religions’, Christian parents are told

CHRISTIAN parents who objected to their children being taught about other religions in a mandatory new Quebec school course have suffered a serious setback with a ruling this week that the teachings do not infringe their religious freedoms.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Guy Dubois dismissed a bid by parents in Drummondville, who said the course on ethics and religious culture introduced across the province last year was undermining their efforts to instill Christian faith in their children.

Judge Dubois wrote:

In light of all the evidence presented, the court does not see how the … course limits the plaintiff’s freedom of conscience and of religion for the children when it provides an overall presentation of various religions without obliging the children to adhere to them.

The course was controversial even before instruction began last September. During the year there were protest marches in some cities, and about 1,700 parents asked that their children be exempted from attending the class. All such requests were refused.

The course’s introduction was the final step in the secularisation of Quebec schooling that began with a 1997 constitutional amendment replacing denominational school boards with linguistic ones.

As of last year, parents no longer had the right to choose between courses in Catholic, Protestant or moral instruction. The new curriculum covers a broad range of world religions, with particular emphasis on Quebec’s religious heritage – Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and aboriginal spirituality. It is taught from Grade 1 through Grade 11.

The course’s scope was too broad for the parents in the Drummondville case, who cannot be named because their two minor children are involved. During the trial, the children’s mother testified that she did not see why her seven-year-old son needs to learn about Islam when he is still forming his own Catholic spirituality. She insisted:

It’s very confusing.

In his ruling, Judge Dubois cited a Catholic theologian who testified that religious instruction is primarily the responsibility of parents, not schools. He added that there is a commitment on the part of the Catholic church to understand other religions.

Sebastien Lebel-Grenier: 'Parents do not have the right to keep their children in ignorance of other religions'

Sebastien Lebel-Grenier: 'Parents do not have the right to keep their children in ignorance of other religions'

The Quebec government, which intervened in the case in support of the Des Chenes school board, argued that the course was objective and in no way limited parents’ ability to pass their religious beliefs on to their children. Teaching children about other religions is a way to promote:

Quality, respect and tolerance in the Quebec school system.

Sebastien Lebel-Grenier, a law professor at Universite de Sherbrooke, said he is not surprised that the new course survived a challenge under the Charter of Rights.

What parents were demanding was the right to ignorance, the right to protect their children from being exposed to the existence of other religions. This right to ignorance is certainly not protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Freedom of religion does not protect the right not to know what is going on in our universe.

He said the course is aimed not at instilling religious values but at trying

To explain to these children the diversity in which we now live in Quebec.

Richard Decarie, spokesman for the Coalition for Freedom in Education, opposed to the course, said the decision is a disappointment. He believes there are grounds for an appeal, but is not sure the parents involved can afford more legal expenses. He said they have already spent close to $100,000 fighting the case.

The course shouldn’t be compulsory, because it changes completely how parents keep their moral authority over the education of their children.

10 responses to “‘You can’t keep your kids ignorant about other religions’, Christian parents are told”

  1. Har Davids says:

    Parents' moral authority over the education of their children? I never knew I had any over my son, but then I didn't realise that I didn't own him, like some parents think they do. Being an atheist I'm wary of any religion, but I do think it important to know about it, as it has influenced history in a big way. And if these parents are so sure of their little cult, why should they worry about their kids getting some extra information?

  2. Angela_K says:

    Most freethinking persons would want religion banned from schools, but if schools must try to fill children’s heads with religious nonsense at least children will learn about the different branches of religion and hopefully realise that they can’t all be true because none of them are.

  3. Dave says:

    "What parents were demanding was the right to ignorance, the right to protect their children from being exposed to the existence of other religions. This right to ignorance is certainly not protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms"

    Exactly, Perhaps they don't want their children "exposed" read "indoctinated" into the offical cults, perhaps the children are ignorant in the methods of torture, or sexual activities or drunkness,

    As for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Print me a copy on 2 ply and I'll show you
    my ruling.

  4. Stuart_W says:

    I had to do a compulsory GCSE in RE in the late 90s, the reason being that nobody save for one person in our year chose it as part of their 'options', and even he only ticked that box because he saw it as the lesser of six evils. So, because nobody wanted to do it, we ALL had to. Little matter, it was basically a weekly doss period.
    (In case you're wondering, I got an 'F' which could stand for… see title of site!)

  5. Fr33think3r says:

    If your religion is True then you should have nothing to fear.
    "Freedom of religion does not protect the right not to know what is going on in our universe." You can ignore it but you are not protected from it. Unless of course you have your Morman magical undies.

  6. barriejohn says:

    They're scared shitless that their kids will start to think for themselves!

  7. Buffy says:

    But if children realize there are other religions out there they might convert to one of them or even realize they're all bunk. Oh the horror! The rights of parents to keep their children ignorant and compliant to one dogma should always be recognized and considered superior to anything else.

  8. Stoneyground says:

    These people are surely admitting that their beliefs are nonsense. I was not much concerned that my daughter had to go to a CofE school (Hobson's Choice) as I am well informed about religion and knew that I could counter their arguments. The fact is that the notion that Christianity is the only true religion can't stand up for a second in the light of the fact that there are other religions, all making different claims but with identical justifications for believing them. The fact that they are prepared to forcibly keep their children in ignorance of the real world in order to pass on their beliefs to them is something that they should be utterly ashamed of.

  9. KateV says:

    I feel very sorry for the parents in this case. The impression of them I personally get from all this (being careful given their evident liking for litigation):
    They seem to feel the need for external validation of their beliefs. In turn that suggests insecurity of belief.
    They seem not to recognise that others have different beliefs that are as legitimate as their own.
    They seem not to see that understanding a little about others' beliefs can aid mutual respect and reduce conflict.
    They have spent a lot of money – money they could have spent on broadening their children's understanding of the world.
    They must have spent a lot of time on this – time they could have spent with their children.
    That is so very sad.
    Personally, I sent my son to a Catholic school so he knew something of his father's family background and we hardly talked about religion at home at all. I was pleased he decided his views were similar to my own (humanist) but even more pleased that he had come to that decision by himself on the basis of information and thought.

  10. Chris Morton says:

    If they included "Freethought" then I'd get excited, but they are still pushing the belief systems. I wonder if they allow freethinkers/atheists to leave the classroom when they start their religious instruction?