We’re so used to atheists going after prayer in public schools that it’s a pleasant shock when any other group leads the charge against it. But that’s what’s happening in Toronto:
A Hindu group [Canadian Hindu Advocacy] that regularly criticizes Islam is going after a Toronto school for holding prayer sessions for Muslim students on Friday afternoons, arguing that it violates principles of secularism in the public school system.
For about three years, Valley Park Middle School on Overlea Boulevard in Flemingdon Park has held the services in its cafeteria after non-Muslim students are finished [with] lunch. An imam from a nearby mosque leads the sessions, which last 30 to 40 minutes.
“This is so sad,” [Gerri Gershon, the trustee for the area] said. “This is part of our religious accommodation policy.”
Incidentally, the Canadian Secular Alliance and the Jewish Defense League have joined the Hindu group against allowing these prayer sessions.
I don’t know the legality of all this since it’s voluntary, but the first question I had was: if the prayer takes 30-40 minutes after lunch, how much class time are these students missing?
I’m also curious if the boys and girls are kept separate. Do other religious groups get access to school facilities during the day?
It hardly sounds like a reasonable accommodation. And it opens the door for other faiths to make absurd requests of their own.
At what point can we just tell parents to leave the religion at home and let school be a place where everyone gets a secular education?
(Thank to The Supreme Canuck for the link)
***Update***: Reader Tony points out some of the problems with this prayer:
Justin from the Toronto Centre For Inquiry was on the radio talking about this and he raised some salient points:
Firstly non-muslims are not welcome to these prayer meetings. This is divisive and counter to Canadian principles.
Secondly teachers are expected to help as part of their duties to set up the cafeteria for use as a mosque – a mosque which they are thereafter not permitted to enter because they are not muslims, see point #1.
Thirdly and most egregiously, the students attending are segregated into male and females, this breaching another Canadian value of equality between sexes.
Attendance is “voluntary” but it is all too easy to see how coercive students could pressurize disinterested secular muslims into taking part, and there is something sinister about giving a non-educater religious leader basically unfettered access to a whole generation of kids.