Montreal, Dec. 19, 2008 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today commented on news that a Quebec school board has suspended students because they chose not attend the course on religious ethics and culture which has been made mandatory throughout the province, replacing the traditional choice of Catholic, Protestant or non-religious moral instruction. The suspension of students who have done nothing more than assert a basic right to religious freedom is clearly inappropriate.
The imposition of the course, which blends various aspects of the study of comparative religion and non-sectarian belief systems, conflicts with the parents’ rights to direct the religious education of their children, says League director Jean Morse-Chevrier. “It is the state deciding what religious content will be learned, at what ages, which totally usurps the parents’ authority and role.”
By refusing to allow exemptions or make the course optional, the state is essentially foisting one belief system on students and their families, says Mrs. Morse-Chevrier, who is also president of the Quebec Association of Catholic parents.
Granby’s Joseph-Hermas-Leclerc School has suspended students because they have boycotted the course. According to the Coalition for Freedom in Education, these suspensions were preceded by a series of threats, including to the Québec Department for the Protection of Children (DPJ) for adjudication, which could lead to further action against the student and his parents. The parents summoned before the DPJ are part of a group of seven families subjected to the same threats of dismissal for refusing to accept the new course.
The course is already the subject of a Quebec Superior Court case based on the refusal of the French school board in Drummondville to exempt a number of students from the program. The case, led by lawyer Jean-Yves Cote, is scheduled to be heard in May and is expected to test whether the new course infringes on constitutionally guaranteed rights.
While parents are allowed to seek exemptions from the course, virtually all such requests have been denied. In Church teaching, as well as the basic freedoms recognized in democracies, parents are the first educators of their children and have the right and indeed the duty to direct their religious and moral education. The League again urges the Quebec government to give parents a choice in the education of their children.
Quebec’s creepy new curriculum. Opinion by Barbara Kay.
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.