MONTREAL, Quebec, February 4, 2013(LifeSiteNews.com) – A private Catholic high school in Montreal has decided to appeal to Canada’s highest court in its fight for academic and religious freedom.

Loyola High School will appeal a decision by Quebec’s Court of Appeal that forces the Jesuit-run school for boys 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.

Catholic critics of the ERC have said that the course promotes moral relativism as well as ethical positions that clearly violate Catholic teaching. In the course instruction equating homosexuality with normal family life is to be presented as early as grade one. Under ‘ethics’ for grades 1-2 the course is intended "to bring children to explore the diversity of relationships of interdependence between members of different types of families."

“The decision of the Court of Appeal has, in effect, raised fundamental issues that, in Loyola’s estimation, address some of the core values of our Québec and Canadian societies,” the school stated in a press release. 

“It is for this reason that the Board of Governors, with the support of the Jesuit Board of Directors, has decided to pursue the matter and ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case.”

The Quebec Court of Appeal had 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.

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The decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal was slammed by Quebec’s Catholic bishops. They said the ruling would require the Catholic school to put the “confessional nature” of its educational approach in “brackets” every time the mandated ERC course was taught. 

Loyola called the argument advanced by Quebec’s education minister “absurd,” in that it characterized the school as being incapable of teaching “tolerance, good will and good citizenship from a confessional perspective”. 

“Catholic education in general, and Jesuit education in particular, have produced a whole spectrum of intellectually competent individuals who made, and continue to make, a difference in the world,” Loyola stated.

Paul Donovan, Loyola’s principal, said that the “most remarkable facet of the case is the fact that the Quebec Attorney General has gone on public record saying that religious corporations, such as Loyola, do not even enjoy freedom of religion.” 

“According to this position, only individuals possess freedom of religion, whereas corporations such as Loyola (incorporated as a non-profit entity under the Quebec Companies Act) do not, and the State can restrict their religious practice and belief as much as it wishes. This would mean that the numerous religious groups in the province are entirely at the mercy of the State,” Loyola stated in its press release.

Donovan called such a position “completely contrary to Canada’s tradition of religious freedom as we understand it.”

The Coalition for Freedom in Education (CLE) has applauded Loyola’s decision to appeal, saying that a private school ought to enjoy academic freedom that is consistent with its confessional nature.

"The government exceeded its privileges when the Minister of Education claimed that a private Christian school must be ‘open’ to teach for a few hours during class that Jesus could very well be just another mythical figure,” said Patrick Andries, CLE’s secretary.

It now remains up to the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether or not it will hear Loyola’s case.