OTTAWA, Ontario, February 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In what’s sure to come down as a devastating blow to parental freedom, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously rejected this morning the pleas of a Christian family to have their child exempted from the Quebec government’s mandatory ethics and religious culture course.
“Exposing children to a comprehensive presentation of various religions without forcing the children to join them does not constitute an indoctrination of students that would infringe the freedom of religion of L and J,” the justices wrote in the majority decision.
The high court’s ruling, released at 9:45 Friday morning, comes in the case of S.L. et al. v. Commission scolare des Chênes et al., which involved a Catholic family who took their school board to court after it refused to grant their child an exemption from the province’s controversial ethics and religious culture course (ERC).
The course, which seeks to present the spectrum of world religions and lifestyle choices from a “neutral” stance, was introduced by the province in 2008 and has been widely criticized by the religious and a-religious alike. Moral conservatives and people of faith have criticized its relativistic approach to moral issues, teaching even at the earliest grades, for instance, that homosexuality is a normal choice for family life.
Despite provincial legislation allowing for exemptions from school curriculum, the Ministry of Education has turned down over 1,700 requests, and had even moved to impose the course on private schools and homeschoolers.
Critics warned that a ruling against the family would have frightening consequences for parental authority and risked emboldening provincial governments across the country as they move to impose their own versions of “diversity” education.
The Supreme Court said the parents failed to establish that the course infringed on their ability to pass their faith on to their children.
“Although the sincerity of a person’s belief that a religious practice must be observed is relevant to whether the person’s right to freedom of religion is at issue, an infringement of this right cannot be established without objective proof of an interference with the observance of that practice,” the Supreme Court justices wrote. “It is not enough for a person to say that his or her rights have been infringed. The person must prove the infringement on a balance of probabilities.”
The Supreme Court heard the case in May 2011 after the parents’ effort was rejected by the Quebec Superior Court in August 2009, and then again by the Quebec Court of Appeals in February 2010.
The mother, who hails from Drummondville, argued that the ERC course’s mandatory nature violates their freedom of religion and their right to direct the education of their children.
The Quebec government faced a setback in June 2010 when the Quebec Superior Court said their attempts to impose it on Loyola High School in Montreal assumed “a totalitarian character.” It’s yet to be seen how the Supreme Court ruling will affect that case.
The family, their lawyers, and other supporters will hold a press conference in Montreal at 2:00 p.m.
Follow LifeSiteNews for ongoing coverage, including more reaction to the Supreme Court ruling.