Thaddeus Baklinski

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Ontario tribunal bans Bible distribution unless school board also gives out atheist texts

Thaddeus Baklinski
Thaddeus Baklinski
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TORONTO, September 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the District School Board of Niagara cannot hand out Bibles unless the school board revises its policies to facilitate the distribution of atheistic texts.

"If it [the school board] is prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of Christian texts to committed atheists, it must also be prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of atheist texts to religious Christians," wrote David Wright, associate chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, in a decision handed down on August 13. 

"It cannot design its criteria in a way that would permit communication of materials setting out their beliefs by some, but not all creeds," Wright wrote.

In the case of R.C. versus District School Board of Niagara the Human Rights Tribunal found that atheism is a "creed" that has religious protection equal to that of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions, and declared that the board was guilty of discrimination under the Human Rights Code for not allowing the “creed” of atheism to be equally available to its students. 

“Protection against discrimination because of religion, in my view, must include protection of the applicants’ belief that there is no deity,” wrote Wright. "The belief that there is no deity, superhuman or controlling power is equally connected to ‘spiritual faith, self-definition and spiritual fulfilment’ as a belief that one exists." 

The ruling stems from a complaint by a Niagara region parent who objected to the availability of Gideon Bibles at his daughter’s school.

In 2010 Rene Chouinard took issue with the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) when his fifth grade daughter brought home a slip which would allow the Gideons to give the girl a Bible, with parental permission.

The Gideons are an evangelical Protestant association based in Nashville, Tennessee. They have been placing Bibles containing the New Testament plus the Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament in Canadian public schools since 1936. Gideon Bibles have been made available in the District School Board of Niagara schools since 1964.

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Chouinard, a self-professed secular humanist, challenged the board’s policy of allowing Christian material to be given to students by demanding that he be allowed to distribute two humanist books titled “Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children” and “Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist” to the Grade 5 students of Nelles Public School in Grimsby, where his children attended.

Chouinard told media at the time that his intent was not to actually give the books to students, but to provoke a situation where the board would be forced to censure the Gideon bibles.

In response to Chouinard’s demand, in March 2010 the DSBN amended its policy regarding the distribution of religious materials by inviting other religions to offer religious books to students, with the approval of the education director, principals and parent groups, and with the permission of the child’s parents.

Chouinard applied to have his secular humanist material given to students under the new policy. However, his application was rejected because his tracts did not fall within the definition of religious texts as outlined by the Ontario Multifaith Information Manual (MIM), an “authoritative guide for the management of religious diversity issues” that was consulted by the Niagara school officials to determine if Chouinard's books were acceptable.

The Ontario Multifaith Information Manual covers everything from Bahá’í to Zoroastrianism, addressing such issues as basic beliefs, sources of prayers and scriptures, and even dietary requirements, but does not include atheism or secular humanism.

In his ruling, Wright said that the Niagara Board's policy of allowing only texts considered acceptable by the Ontario Multifaith Information Manual to be distributed to students was discriminatory. His order states that if the school board wants to continue to allow the distribution of Gideon bibles, it has six months to produce and submit a new policy.

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, theologian John Paul Meenan, Associate Professor of Theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a Catholic college in Barry's Bay, Ontario, argued that there is an inherent contradiction in the Human Rights Tribunal ruling that atheism is equivalent to a religion with a creed that has its foundation in a belief in God.

"First, one must define one’s terms," Meenan said. "What is meant by a ‘creed’? A creed is a system of beliefs, by which one directs one’s actions and one’s life, the metaphysical foundation for one’s existence."

"Atheism, by definition, is a ‘creed’ only in the negative sense," Meenan explained. "The very term implies that it does not believe in a ‘God’, or any deity.  Well then, what do they believe?"

"One must define one’s religion affirmatively, through some sort of creed, for it to be protected," Meenan argued. "All of the religions listed in the MIM in the HRC ruling have such a creed. There is a clear idea of what their religion teaches. I think that by asking the ‘atheists’ to define explicitly what they do believe, their support may dwindle. After all, not many can stand up, and live by, the tenets of stark atheism. Without God, there is no basis for love, or hope, or religion in any meaningful sense." 

"After all," Meenan said, "the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the Human Rights Tribunal uses as its guiding document, states in the very preamble that 'Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law'." 

Noting that "there is an underlying issue with the role of the State in education," Meenan said that if "Mr. Chouinard wants to indoctrinate his daughter in atheism, well, go ahead.  But not at school, and not other people’s children." 

"Up until the modern age, we have all more or less agreed on what an education should look like, but that is now unravelling. This HRC decision is just one more disintegration in the common foundation of our society," Professor Meenan concluded. 

The full text of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision is available here.

 

Related:

Case against Gideon Bibles in schools to be heard by Ontario Human Rights Tribunal

Ontario school board bans Gideon Bible distribution after parent complains

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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