By Gudrun Schultz
QUEBEC, Canada, October 24, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Private Christian schools in the province of Quebec must teach sex education and Darwin’s theory of evolution, the province’s Ministry of Education has ordered, or they will be shut down.
The National Post reported today on a controversial decision by Quebec’s education ministry to force small Christian schools to comply with provincial curriculum standards for all subjects, regardless of whether there is a contradiction with the school’s religious beliefs.Â
A province-wide investigation followed complaints by an Outaouais school board that children at a small evangelical school near Saint-Andre-Avellin, Que. were not being taught the full provincial curriculum.
“Quebec children are legally required to follow the provincial curriculum…but these evangelical schools teach their own courses on creationism and sexuality that don’t follow the Quebec curriculum,” said Pierre Daoust, director-general of the Commission Scolaire au Coeur-des-Vallees in Thurso.
The 20 students attending the school operated by Eglise Evangelique, both in elementary and high school grades, are taught a “world view” that school administrators defend as essential, including both evolutionary and intelligent design theories.
“We offer a curriculum based on a Christian world view rather than humanistic world view,” Alan Buchanan, chairman of the school reorganization committee and a former Quebec public school teacher, told the Post.
“We want the children to understand what they’re going to meet in the outside world, and also what’s wrong with the theory [of evolution],” he said. “We also teach a better theory – that God created the universe and so on.”
The school teaches biology, but not sex education, Buchanan said. “You have the Christian world view that says sex should only be in the marriage and a public school system that teaches kids about sexuality. We believe students should be taught abstinence.”
Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham, director of law and public policy with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, told LifeSiteNews she is surprised the Quebec government would be “dogmatic” about an issue that is “clearly understood to be a religious issue.”
“Darwin’s theory of evolution is an issue about which many Christian parents are very concerned,” said Dr. Epp Buckingham. “They don’t like the way [the theory] is taught in a very atheistic way. That’s one reason parents send their children to private Christian schools, so that they’re not subjected to public school teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution as being not only fact, but in a way proof that God is not involved in creation.”
Dr. Epp Buckingham said parents’ right to educate their children in accordance with their religious beliefs is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In 1986 the Supreme Court ruled that although an Alberta pastor who was running a school out of the basement of his church did have to license the school, the provincial government had to provide reasonable accommodation for religious belief.
The court ruled that the province must “‘delicately and sensitively weigh the competing interests so as to respect as much as possible the religious convictions as guaranteed by the Charter,’” Dr. Epp Buckingham quoted.
“That makes it pretty clear that when the Quebec government is licensing schools they have to respect religious beliefs.”
“We have seen a number of religious freedom cases coming out of Quebec where the government hasn’t been respecting religious freedom. So we would hope they are aware that this is a Charter right, parents do have the right to educate their children in accordance to their religious beliefs, and that they will negotiate on that basis.”
Three unlicensed evangelical schools in the Outaouais have been identified as failing to meet Ministry standards, according to Ministry spokeswoman Marie-France Boulay, including 40 students at the Pentecostal Eglise Nouvelle Alliance in Gatineau, Quebec, and a school in Hull.
The province will negotiate with the schools for the next few weeks, said Ms. Boulay, to see if they can agree on a curriculum that will meet the provincial standards by including Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Dr. Epp Buckingham said until the negotiations are completed it won’t be clear if the Ministry is in violation of the Charter, but she added that at this point the situation is “certainly a squeeze on religious freedom.”
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To express concerns to the Quebec Minister of Education, Monsieur Jean-Marc Fournier:
Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport
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