Thaddeus Baklinski


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

Thaddeus Baklinski
Thaddeus Baklinski

TORONTO, September 11, 2013 ( - 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.



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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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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