Quebec Teaches World Religions in Schools; Christians File Lawsuit and Lose September 5, 2009

Quebec Teaches World Religions in Schools; Christians File Lawsuit and Lose

We already know the Religious Right gets mad that religion has been taken out of public schools (even though they’re wrong about that).

So you might think if schools taught about many religions, those religious types would be ok with it. Of course that’s not the case.

In Quebec, Christian parents sued because of a required course for students that teaches them about “a broad range of world religions” — they lost the case:

In the Canadian province of Quebec, a trial court judge has rejected a challenge by Christian parents to the mandatory new course in grades 1 through 11 in Quebec schools that teaches about a broad range of world religions. The Ethics and Religious Culture course covers Christianity, Judaism, aboriginal spirituality, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism… It replaces parents’ choice of one of three separate courses that focused on Catholic or Protestant thought, or moral instruction.

Those parents have already spent around $100,000 fighting this broader education.

“The course shouldn’t be compulsory, because it changes completely how parents keep their moral authority over the education of their children,” said Mr. Décarie, of the Coalition for Freedom in Education. “We’re not talking about mathematics or French or English here. We’re talking about something that involves the essence of the culture of people.”

The classes are not there to discuss what’s right and wrong. They’re all about simply exposing the students to what different people believe. By trying to withhold that information, the religious parents seem to be sending the message that no child should even be aware of the existence of non-Christian people. Their desire is to teach their children ignorance of the world around them. It’s absurd. The courts ruled the correct way.

Reader Jeff wants to go a step further:

I think any child who is home schooled should be required to show proficiency not only in the standard courses but in comparative religions, too. That would drive the nutjobs up the wall. Of course, the one modification I would want would be to include a significant section on the history of non-belief.

I thought conservatives preferred teaching multiple theories…


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  • Claudia

    I can picture Daniel Dennet doing a little happy dance in my head right now. He has long advocated this kind of course for all children.

    The problem for parents wishing to indoctrinate their own children is obvious enough. Richard Dawkins was, amazingly enough, quite a pious little boy once. Two things made him an atheist; the realization that there were many different religions that people believed as much as he believed his, and understanding evolution and hence how life came to be.

    Children taught from an early age about world religions, where there own religion is merely one more on the list, will mostly realize that there is nothing special about theirs, and if the course is well taught, they will realize how much religions copy from one another and how they evolve culturally through history. A child with such knowledge will be MUCH harder to indoctrinate.

    The only problem I see with this being compulsory (apart from it being politically impossible in the US) is that such classes are vulnerable to corruption. It’s not too hard to imagine that even if such a class were to exist, a “comparative religion” class in Kentucky wouldn’t give Christianity the same treatment as Islam, or religious Buddhism.

  • Miko

    The social sciences are the greatest long term threat to archy/cracy. A good analysis of world religions would end theocracy. A good analysis of the electoral process in the U.S. would end our form of oligarchy (commonly misdescribed as democracy). A good analysis of history would probably lead to anarchy proper.

    The existing power structures are aware of this, which is why they design the public school curricula to ensure that the social sciences never present a good analysis of anything. Adding a compulsory course in comparative religion won’t change this one bit.

  • Ibis3

    Just wanted to point out to your readers that this programme also covers “secular expressions and representations of the world and of human beings, which seek to define the meaning and value of human experience outside the realm of religious beliefs and affiliation.”

  • Tori Aletheia

    “The course shouldn’t be compulsory, because it changes completely how parents keep their moral authority over the education of their children,”
    Parents should not be able to have moral authority over the education of their children! That is taking away the children’s rights to a liberal (as in broad-ranging) education!

  • A good analysis of the electoral process in the U.S. would end our form of oligarchy (commonly misdescribed as democracy).

    And commonly misspelled as “oligarhy” 😉

  • I’ve been in favor of this sort of course for a while now. It teaches children about important facets of the world they live in.

    It also happens to be quite corrosive to religion – for me, the fact that there exist many different, contradicting religions, whose many followers take their religion just as seriously as Christians do theirs, was one of the clearest signs that all religion was likely bunk.

    But while we know they are right to fear a course like this, as we are acutely aware of how weak the arguments for religion are, shouldn’t they be the people with absolute faith in their Obviously True Religion? Do they really doubt their teachings so much? Even more interesting is that they seem to be aware of it…

    Furthermore, parents may have the right to teach their children what they want, but that doesn’t give them the right to deny them access to other information. This sort of forced isolation is a form of child abuse (although not comparable to physical or sexual abuse, obviously).

  • Aj

    Mr. Décarie, of the Coalition for Morons in Education,

    “We’re not talking about mathematics or French or English here. We’re talking about something that involves the essence of the culture of people.”

    He doesn’t think language is included in the essence of the culture of people? He doesn’t think people without religious beliefs have culture? It’s funny how people start advocating freedom when they’re trying to restrict it. What about the children, is deliberately keeping them ignorant setting them free? If you think culture is something you should force down your child’s throat then you’re not for freedom. Fuck tradition, and fuck Christian douchebags like Mr. Décarie. Clearly these people shouldn’t have moral authority over their children’s education, they don’t deserve it.

  • mikespeir

    Wouldn’t it be terrible if Christian kids learned that their religion was just one of many?

  • Epistaxis

    Teach the controversy!

  • AnonyMouse

    Ooh, goody! I was hoping for an excuse to say this:

    It is a commonly-held belief in the Religious Right that there are no atheists in foxholes. This is, of course, completely true. It is also completely true that there are no Christians in Mensa.

    Srsly, we’re really on opposite sides of the spectrum here. Atheists arm themselves by learning everything they can. Christians arm themselves by learning as little as possible.

  • Of course, the one modification I would want would be to include a significant section on the history of non-belief.

    I’m from Quebec. I’m very happy that the “parent’s choice” system has been put to rest with that new law.

    But like most Quebec Atheists I’m not too hot on the fact that indeed, there’s not much in that curriculum on “non belief“.

  • Matt

    If only they had this sort of thing in the US. We could really make a more tolerant society with better education about what people believe, the similarities and values religious groups share and we could dismiss myths and stereotypes that are prevalent about minority groups. Plus, it would mean more job opportunities for people with degrees in religious studies like me. 😉

  • trixr4kids

    “Atheists arm themselves by learning everything they can. Christians arm themselves by learning as little as possible.”

    Anonymouse, may I quote you!? 🙂

  • Barnab

    I was raised in a church-going Catholic family, and was sent to private Catholic schools for grades K-12 so that I would get a a “good Catholic education.”

    Along with the usual, math, English, history, etc classes, students were forced to take a religion class as well. Ironically, it was a religion class I took as a sophomore that lead me on the road to being a non-believer.

    In this class we discussed many other religions. Although I don’t recall that it was stated explicitly at the time, I think the reason we were exposed to these other religions is so that students could see how “sensible” Catholicism is and how “ridiculous” these other religions seem by comparison. Yeah, right.

    Years later I discovered that a friend of mine had also come to the same conclusion about god (i.e there is no god), and a lot had to do with him taking that religion class our sophomore year!

  • ChameleonDave

    Religion classes have no place in public schools. Instead there should be history and anthropology classes that include information about superstitions at different times and in different places.

    This would have the effect of making sure that children brought up in religion X are aware not just of religions Y and Z, but also dead religions A, B and C. Catholicism has equal validity with the Roman religion it replaced.

  • As a Canadian, I am ashamed that they’re acting this way. This is what Americans are supposed to do so we can laugh at them!

  • beijingrrl

    I just want to reiterate again that not all people homeschool for religious reasons. In my area of California, many of us are nonbelievers. My opinion is that trying to force the religious nut jobs to teach their children things outside of their faith would simply isolate their children even more as the parents would likely go underground. I’ve been homeschooling my kids for awhile and every year there are some people who think they need to hide what they’re doing despite the fact that it’s not illegal here. They’re just waiting for someone to persecute them. By reassuring them they don’t have to hide, their kids are exposed to more rational influences.

  • I hate to say it, but I’m tempted to ask them where the Flying Spaghetti Monster fits into all this…

  • Baconsbud

    Epistaxis great comment.

    I would like to know the types of questions that the kids taking these courses are asking their parents when they get home. How many of the kids are now asking their Sunday school teachers tougher questions?

  • False Prophet

    My compulsory Grade 11 religion course in Ontario Catholic school focused on world religions for the first half.

    We spent about a week each on Hinduism and Buddhism, a day on Zarathustrianism, and about a week each on Judaism and Islam. It was done in a cursory fashion, and no one else in the class really paid attention, but it was there. I understand shortly after I took the course, they removed the eastern religions in favour of native spirituality. (This angered my religion teacher, who claimed Hinduism and Buddhism were recognized by Vatican II while native faiths weren’t.)

    The seeds of doubt were sown for me much earlier, when we were taught some Greco-Roman myths and native legends in the early Grades, the same time religious study began in earnest. I didn’t understand why the classical and native myths were just stories, but the gospel tales were supposed to be true. (Catholics have an interesting relationship with the Bible: most of the Old Testament can be taken metaphorically, but most of the New Testament is more or less taken literally.)

  • Ron in Houston

    Hmmm, I wonder if Canada will now face a flood of illegal immigration from Americans fleeing intellectual poverty.

  • aphanes

    “The course shouldn’t be compulsory, because it changes completely how parents keep their moral authority over the education of their children,” said Mr. Décarie, of the Coalition for Freedom in Education. “We’re not talking about mathematics or French or English here. We’re talking about something that involves the essence of the culture of people.”

    I presume by Freedom in Education, they mean the freedom to teach their particular religious myths unquestioned as “facts”? And who actually said that religion should be unquestioned as an essence of the culture of people. The culture of any people must always be questioned. If it wasn’t, we’d still have rampant racism, sexual repression of peoples’ personal sexuality, slavery, sexism and still be watching public hangings and any other number of what were once considered unwavering timeless cultural norms.

    To have cultural sacred cows limits the potential for any society to move forward and the sacred cow of religion is finally being sacrificed to the more enlightened future of a 21st century education and a scientific understanding and comprehension of the universe and its contents.