The Supreme Court of Canada is battening down the hatches on potential claims that laws or educational programs infringe on a person’s right to freedom of religion and conscience.
In a key Charter of Rights decision on Friday, the court endorsed a religious instruction program that became mandatory in Quebec schools in 2008. The court said that anyone who challenges a program cannot simply assert that it offends their religious rights without furnishing tangible proof of harm.
Hmm I wonder what tangible proof of harm looks like when referring to the impact of religious teachings on children — Jesus Camp, anyone?
Errol Mendes, a professor at the University of Ottawa, endorses this decision:
“This is an important ruling that says there are limits to when religious groups can claim that their rights are infringed in a multicultural and diverse society… It is saying that governments have the right to promote initiatives that recognize the diversity of our society without singling out one or more religion for either benefits or disadvantage.”
It should be noted that the major religions that are taught in this course are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and aboriginal beliefs — not really my idea of an adequate variety. Is the government really recognizing the true diversity of our society?
On the one hand, I agree that if students are going to be forced to learn about religion, they should learn about them all equally. This should include information about atheism or ‘non-religion’ because that is also a very relevant set of beliefs.
Although I’m sure there are some atheist families in Quebec that are not thrilled about this ruling, it’s the religious parents that are coming forward to protest. Why? Possibly because many atheist parents are comfortable with the fact that their children will learn about religions (and many even endorse it), but have “faith” in the fact that their children are equipped with the ability to discern fantasy from reality.
The decision was a blow to a Quebec couple who wanted to pull their son from a mandatory ethics and religion program, claiming it is making him confused about the Roman Catholic belief system he is being taught at home.
The mother of the Grade 4 pupil said on Friday that the mixed messages of the Quebec program and have caused her son to question his faith at an age where he should be listening to parental instruction.
“There is a time and place for everything, and this exposure should come later. Unless, of course, the entire point of the exercise is to sow doubt”…
I both chuckled and was angered when I read these comments. I find it humorous and ironic that parents complain because someone is going to inform their child about other stories that might contradict the stories they’ve been telling them at home. That could confuse a child and possibly even lead them to recognize that these stories are ridiculous! I especially like the parent who thinks her son is too young to be able to question his faith because he’s at an age where he “should be listening to parental instruction.” Whatever happened to being able to think for themselves, critically evaluate information, make informed choices, and have a say in what they believe or don’t? I guess that’s for us atheist parents to worry about.
As for the woman who claims that exposure to other religions or ways of thinking “should come later,” why? Because you need a solid period of time to totally indoctrinate your child before they are allowed to have access to contrary information that might lead them to recognize that they are being indoctrinated?
Well I guess that makes sense.
The debate goes on and more parents are likely going to come forward and complain. It gives me hope, however, that if atheism continues to grow, I just might make a push for The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins to become a text in Junior High Science class 🙂