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

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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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Texas AG to Target: Show me how you’ll protect women and kids from criminals

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

AUSTIN, Texas, May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The latest backlash Target received as a result of its transgender bathroom policy was a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.” 

“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity.”

“As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued.

More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms.  Opponents of the policy worry that it puts women and children at risk by emboldening predators, who may now freely enter women’s restrooms. 

Target’s new policy is “inclusive,” the company claims, and they say “everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.” 

“Texans statewide can no longer be silent on the issue of protecting the safety of women and children,” Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz said in a statement Wednesday urging Texans to boycott Target.  This is the first time in its history the pro-family group has called for a boycott. 

“We need all Texans to understand that Target is using this radical change in their store policy to try convince people that our laws should be changed in this dangerous direction as well,” said Saena.  “Our goal with this boycott is for Target to change its dangerous new policy, to raise awareness of the real threats to safety that these policies bring and to help businesses and lawmakers understand the significant opposition to such measures that is growing daily… Texans all across our state must join this Boycott Target effort before someone gets hurt.”

On Tuesday a male allegedly filmed an underage girl at a Frisco, Texas, Target fitting room.  Police are searching for the man. 

There have been numerous incidents of male predators across North America accessing women’s facilities and citing transgender policies as allowing them to do so.  



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Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against a katz / Shutterstock.com
Albert Mohler

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Christians, America has reached a crisis point. Are you ready to take up this challenge?

Albert Mohler

May 5, 2016 (Albert Mohler) -- For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose? 

To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.

Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.

Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.

By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.

The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.

But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.

As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.

This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.

To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.

Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.

Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler.



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‘Sick and twisted’: Scientists keep embryos alive outside womb up to 13 days for experimentation

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two teams of scientists have announced that they have been able to keep human embryos alive outside the womb for 13 days for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments. Some call the announcement the onset of a “Brave New World,” while others are petitioning lawmakers to lift sanctions that would keep scientists from experimenting on newly conceived babies even longer.

Researchers from Cambridge University, King's College, and Rockefeller University said in two separate reports that they stopped at 13 days only to avoid violating an internationally accepted law. At least 12 nations restrict the amount of time a newly conceived child may be kept alive in a laboratory to 14 days, the point at which scientists believe “individuality” begins.

The newest development allows scientists to observe newly conceived human beings after the point at which implantation in the womb would have occurred.

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, one of the studies' lead researchers, said her team's breakthrough could advance embryonic stem cell research and “can improve IVF success.”

Some scientists have called on the international community to extend the amount of time such experimentation can take place.

“If restrictions such as the 14-day rule are viewed as moral truths, such cynicism would be warranted,” three experts – Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston – wrote in a commentary published yesterday in Nature magazine. “But when they are understood to be tools designed to strike a balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust, it becomes clear that, as circumstances and attitudes evolve, limits can be legitimately recalibrated.”

Pro-life experts said the experimentation destroys human life and could lead to grave ethical dilemmas by extending the research.

“No human being should be used for lethal experimentation, no matter their age or stage of development,” said Dr. David Prentice, a professor of molecular genetics and an Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. “The 14-day rule is itself arbitrary, and does not assuage those who believe life begins at the moment of sperm-egg fusion. Moreover, allowing experiments on human embryos beyond 14 days post-fertilization risks the lives of untold more human beings, because it further encourages creation and destruction for research purposes.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the experimentation “sick and twisted.”

“Science has undeniably proven that a new human life, with unrepeatable DNA, begins at conception,” she said. “There is no reason for experimentation on that human life and science itself should not be heralding thae fact that a tiny human being can survive now for two weeks outside of the womb, all for the sole purpose of experimentation.”

Dr. Prentice noted that embryonic stem cell research “has yielded no benefit thus far,” leading even its most vocal advocates, such as Michael J. Fox, to admit it has not lived up to its promise.

“If this research does not stop at 14 days, where does it stop?” asked Prentice. “This is a risky step which could encourage further eugenic attitudes and actions.”

Dr. Prentice encouraged Congress “to have a full and open debate on the issue of human embryo research before the research community moves further without oversight.”



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