Quebec bishops slam court decision forcing private school to teach ‘neutral’ religion/morality class
MONTREAL, Quebec, January 10, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Quebec’s Catholic bishops have taken issue with a court decision that would force a Montreal private Catholic high school to cease teaching its Catholic course on religion and morality and switch to the “secular” and “neutral” Ethics and Religious Culture course (ERC) provided by the province’s government.
“For our part, we believe that the minister could have used [ministerial] discretion to recognize the value of the approach adopted by Loyola High School in its program,” stated Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier, president of the Quebec Catholic Bishops’ Assembly (AECQ) in a December 21 press release.
The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower court which had ruled that any attempt to force Loyola High School to teach the strictly secular religion and morality course would be a violation of their freedom of religion under the Quebec Charter of Rights.
The December 4 ruling upheld the initial 2008 ruling of the province’s education minister who, at that time, forbade the Jesuit run Loyola High School from covering the mandatory curriculum by means of an already developed equivalent course, but from a Catholic perspective.
The Court of Appeal ruled that “exposing students to the global study of religions in a neutral perspective without requiring them to adhere to it, is not an infringement of freedom of religion.”
But the bishops pointed out that the ruling would require the Catholic run school to put the “confessional nature” of its educational approach in “brackets” every time the ERC course was taught.
Instead of the government forcing disintegration on its citizens, the bishops would like to see the government make efforts accept and respect religious differences.
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The bishops stressed that “everything possible” must be done to make “everyone feel recognized and respected” in their religious differences as well as their religious and conscience rights.
“A society like ours, open to pluralism and to relevant modulations, cannot escape [this task],” they said.
Loyola principal Paul Donovan said in a December 14 YouTube video that his school did not go to court “just to get our way” but because the issue involved “society as a whole.”
Donovan said that at the heart of the issue is the “ministry saying that as a confessional institution, we are unable to teach the recognition of others — tolerance, understanding — and the pursuit of the common good.”
“From the perspective of the Ministry of Education, of the Quebec government, and affirmed by the Court of Appeals, we can only [teach these things] as secularists, from a secular perspective,” he said.
Donovan said that the court decision does not “bode well” for a society that values religious diversity, particularly in terms of the “richness that religions of all types have to offer, and in particular the contribution of Catholicism in schools like Loyola that have contributed so much to our society, and to the well being of society.”
Loyola High School has until February 2 to decide whether to appeal the Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.