MONTREAL, Feb. 26, 2010 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today called on the Quebec ministry of education to extend religious freedom to all Quebec parents by making the new “Course on Ethics and Religious Culture” optional for all students, not just those in private schools.
In refusing Feb. 24 to hear the appeal of two families from Drummondville for an exemption from the course, the Quebec Court of Appeal noted that their request was no longer meaningful since the students were no longer in the public system, and therefore “not subject to the obligation to attend the course of ethics and religious culture.”
“It is quite simply unacceptable that most families are denied a right, allowed in theory by the Law on Public Education (LIP), but denied to them in practice,” said Jean-Morse-Chevrier, League director and President of the Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec (APCQ). “According to the APCQ, the ministry has to amend the instructions it sends to school boards so that public schools grant the same right of exemption from the ERC course as the court has just recognized for private schools.”
The new course was introduced last Fall to replace older courses in Catholic or Protestant religion, or non-religious ethics courses. More than 70 per cent of families had been choosing courses with religious content. Criticism of the new course includes lack of doctrinal content, an emphasis on moral relativism and an over-broad definition of religion, as well as the course’s compulsory nature. Most school boards refused requests for exemption, leading the Drummondville parents to start the court case. Their application for the right to an exemption was refused by the court in September, 2009.
Private schools were officially required to teach the course in addition to religion courses, but Wednesday’s court ruling suggests that they are in fact exempt from the requirement.
The League supports Quebec’s Catholic parents, and those of other faiths, in their insistence that parents are the first educators of their children, and have the right to choose their religous education. This request is completely in keeping with Catholic Church teaching, and UN statements on parental rights.
Further information: Mrs. Jean Morse-Chevrier, president, Association des parents catholiques du Québec (APCQ), (514) 276-8068, (819) 661-7140.
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