MONTREAL, Que., June 21, 2010 – The Catholic Civil Rights League is pleased that the Quebec Superior Court has upheld the right of Loyola High School to be exempt from a provincial government requirement that it teach the new Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course as mandated by Québec’s Education Dept. The League hopes, however, that parents and students in all schools will be offered the same degree of choice in religious education.
“While we are pleased that this ruling is a victory for the rights of private schools to adapt the material to suit their religious focus, and therefore recognizes the rights of parents who have chosen private schools for religious reasons, we would hope to see the same spirit of choice and respect for parental rights upheld for all students,” said League President Phil Horgan.
The judgment criticized what it called a dictatorial attitude on the part of the government in its dealings with the school, comparing the province’s attempt to impose a secular focus on Loyola’s teaching of the course to the intolerance of the Spanish Inquisition. “In this age of the respect of fundamental rights, of tolerance, reasonable accommodation and multiculturalism, the attitude adopted by the (Education) minister, is surprising,” wrote Judge Gérard Dugré in a 63-page judgment released Friday.
“Canadian democratic society is based on principles recognizing the supremacy of God and the primacy of the law – both of which benefit from constitutional protection.” The obligation imposed on Loyola to teach the ethics and religious culture course in a lay fashion assumes a totalitarian character essentially equivalent to Galileo’s being ordered by the Inquisition to deny the Copernican universe.” Justice Dugré ruled that by trying to compel Loyola High School, a Catholic institution founded in 1848, to adhere to rigidly secular teaching guidelines, the provincial government violated the school’s freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Québec Charter of Rights.
The school had asked for the right to teach the content in the course from a Catholic perspective. The ERC course, introduced last September for all elementary and secondary grades, replaces the traditional choice of Catholic, Protestant and non-sectarian moral instruction that had been offered in the province’s publicly-funded schools. Many parents have applied for exemptions but been refused. Concerns about the new program include its mandatory nature, the introduction at an inappropriate age of material that may contradict what is being taught in the home, and its relativist approach to religious matters.
A group of parents from Drummondville, Quebec, filed a challenge in provincial court insisting on the right to be exempt from the course, but was unsuccessful. They have applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada with the support of many Catholic groups, including the League.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs. Jean Morse-Chevrier, Quebec Director, 819-685-1812, email@example.com