By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

DRUMMONDVILLE, PQ, May 12, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Parents who object to the Quebec government’s relativistic "Ethics and Religious Culture" school religion program are currently in Quebec Superior Court, where they are arguing that the compulsory school course is unconstitutional and violates their freedom to educate their children according to their religious convictions. The case opened yesterday.

The parents hope the court will decide to allow parents to opt their children out of the controversial course, which is compulsory for all primary and secondary schools, private and religiously affiliated schools, and even for parents home schooling their children.

According to a prepared statement, the parents "believe sincerely that the obligatory character of the course breaches their freedom of conscience and their faith, in that the course imposes on the student a polytheistic vision of the religious phenomenon, is relativist, separates ethics from morality, and claims to maintain a neutrality in dealing with ethical questions, and interferes with the ability of parents to transmit their faith to their child."

The new compulsory religion course replaces three options that had been available to Quebec students - a generic course in moral education, or two other courses that were either Catholic or Protestant in nature - with a relativistic program that includes positive presentation of homosexual families, and requires children to question their own religious upbringing.

The new course was developed and made compulsory by Quebec’s Education Ministry after the clause in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that guaranteed freedom of religious instruction and parental rights (parents have "the right to require that, in the public educational establishments, their children receive a religious or moral instruction in conformity with their convictions") was changed without any public consultation.

The amended clause removes the phrase "in the public educational establishments," and hence has been interpreted as meaning that parents no longer have any say in what type of religious instruction is given in the schools.

Lawyer Jean-Yves Cote, representing the parents in Drummondville, says the number of angry parents who oppose the mandatory nature of the program and demand an opt out is likely in the thousands and growing.

According to a Montreal Gazette report, official applications for exemption from the course were made on behalf of 1,742 students. All were refused.

A separate legal challenge by Loyola High School will be heard in Montreal in June. The private Catholic boys school objects to the course on the grounds that it conflicts with the school’s Catholic character.

Loyola High School principal Paul Donovan said he will pursue a court challenge to the imposition of the course on his students because the Education Department refused the school’s right to exemption.

"We essentially covered the themes and the topics that their course asked for, but we covered them in a way that’s consistent with the Catholic ideals of Loyola. We covered the biggest part of the world religions in Grade 11. But we do a little bit of it in all the other grade levels as well. And we do ethics every year. There’s just always an ethical component to what we do," Donovan said.

Angelo Polcaro, Vice-President of the Quebec Catholic Parents Association, which, in conjunction with the Coalition for Liberty in Education, is supporting the parents in the court challenge in Drummondville, told LifeSiteNews that the case will have far-reaching implications for freedom of religion in Quebec and the right of parents to have authority over the education of their children.

"The chance of a decision in favor of the parents in Drummondville is 50/50," Mr. Polcaro said. "Much depends on the perspective of the judge."

"There’s one thing that really disturbs me," Mr. Polcaro concluded. "Our government is sending young men to Afghanistan in the name of democracy and yet here in Quebec fundamental rights are taken away from parents. Is the government acting according to what it preaches?"

To express your concern please contact:

Michelle Courchesne, Minister of Education
600, rue Fullum, 9e étage
Montréal (Québec) H2K 4L1
Phone: 514 873-4792
Fax: 514 873-1082
Email: ministre@mels.gouv.qc.ca

Read previous LSN coverage:
Quebec Mandates Relativistic Ethical and Religious Education For All Students in Province
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/oct/07100409.html

Quebec Kills Parents’ Rights To Choose Religion Instruction
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/oct/08101703.html

Secular Quebec is Persecuting the Catholic Church: Quebec City Archbishop
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/apr/09041609.html