WINNIPEG, Manitoba, October 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The principal at a Catholic elementary school in Winnipeg faces possible dismissal after he considered allowing students to count the 40 Days for Life vigil towards community service hours.
Principal David Hood of Christ the King School advertised the local 40 Days campaign in a recent newsletter and then told the Winnipeg Free Press on Tuesday that he was considering allowing students to join the vigil to satisfy part of the 10 hours of community service required of grade 7 and 8 students.
The comments led to a media firestorm with calls for the school, which is independent and under the auspices of the Archdiocese, but receives 50 percent funding, to lose its public funding for promoting “political” activism.
Now Principal Hood’s employment is under review by the school’s board of directors, the CBC reported Thursday afternoon. Hood was asked to stay home Thursday.
After the Winnipeg Free Press broke the story Tuesday, the Archdiocese, headed by Archbishop James Weisgerber, immediately distanced themselves from Hood’s actions, insisting that “Catholic Schools in Winnipeg do not give community service or academic credit for participation in prayer vigils.”
“There are no Catholic schools in Winnipeg that give academic credit for political activity,” Robert Praznik, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg’s director of education, told the Winnipeg Free Press. “We’re very careful, we’re not a political organization. None of this is part of the curriculum, and none of this is done on school time.”
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Praznik insisted the Winnipeg Catholic schools strongly uphold the right to life, but said they “would never give credit to people for attending a prayer service,” just like they “wouldn’t give credit to people for attending Mass.”
“We respect the sanctity of human life. It would be individual parents, families that would make those decisions,” he continued.
Asked if the schools would organize a group to attend a pro-life event, like the Catholic schools in Ontario do by sending students to the Ottawa March for Life, he said, “We would have difficulty if it happened during school hours because of our funding.”
“It’s not that we’re not supporting pro-life activities, but we’re also politically sensitive to the political environment,” he said. “In terms of government regulations in terms of school hours and so forth. We walk a fine line.”
Maria Slykerman, the organizer of Winnipeg’s 40 Days for Life, insisted the campaign is not political, and questioned why a Catholic school would not count standing as a witness to the dignity of the unborn as a service to the community.
“They’re not getting involved in political lobbying. They’re getting involved in praying,” she told LifeSiteNews. “I don’t see anything wrong about the teacher and the principal giving these kids community service.”
Manitoba’s Ministry of Education told LifeSiteNews in a statement that the 40 Days for Life would not fit into the government’s community service curriculum requirements, which they say are meant to support “worthwhile causes or organizations.”
Under the Manitoba government’s curriculum, community service for credit begins in high school, when students can earn one credit for a minimum of 110 hours. Christ the King’s 10 hours of service is not mandated by the government curriculum.
“Community service credits are awarded to students who make a contribution by volunteering for worthwhile causes or organizations,” the statement read. “Participation in this type of activity during school hours or as organized by a teacher would not fit under the Manitoba curriculum which all funded independent schools in Manitoba are required to follow.”
Bishops across the world have joined the 40 Days for Life vigils, including campaigns in North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Toronto, and Sydney. Most recently, Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver joined his local campaign.
In September 2010, an aide to Pope Benedict XVI replied to a letter from the 40 Days for Life campaign in London assuring them that the pope would be praying for “you and all those who seek to protect life in the womb, that their efforts might lead to a growing appreciation of the inalienable rights of the unborn child.”
Winnipeg is home to two Archdioceses - Winnipeg and St. Boniface. Christ the King School is based in the Archdiocese of St. Boniface but is overseen by Praznik at the Archdiocese of Winnipeg.
Principal David Hood was unavailable for an interview.
Christ the King School
Board of Directors
Click here for online e-mail form.
Most Rev. Albert LeGatt, Archbishop of Saint-Boniface
151, avenue de la Cathédrale
Saint-Boniface, MB R2H 0H6
Tel: (204) 237-9851
Fax: (204) 231-2652
Most Rev. V. James Weisgerber, Archbishop of Winnipeg
1495 Pembina Highway
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2C6
Tel: (204) 452-2227
Fax: (204) 475-4409