Quebec Relativism Course Going to Supreme Court
By Patrick B. Craine
QUEBEC, October 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Supreme Court of Canada, in a case with implications for parental rights across the country, has agreed to examine whether Quebec parents should be allowed to exempt their children from the province's mandatory course in moral and religious relativism.
Sylvain Lamontagne, president of the Coalition pour la liberte en education (CLE), praised the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case, saying the ethics and religious culture (ERC) course "undermines the fundamental rights of freedom of conscience and religion, by imposing what some sociologists have likened to indoctrination."
The ERC program, which took effect in 2008-2009, purports to present the spectrum of world religions and lifestyle choices from a "neutral" stance. It has been criticized for its relativistic approach to moral issues, teaching even at the earliest grades, for instance, that homosexuality is a normal choice for family life.
The course is being challenged by a Drummondville family who argue that its mandatory nature violates their freedom of religion and their right to direct the education of their children.
Despite legislation in the province allowing for exemptions, none have been given, and the Ministry of Education has even sought to impose the course on private schools. They faced a setback on this in June, when the Quebec Superior Court allowed Loyola High School, a Catholic boys' school in the Jesuit tradition, to teach the course from a Catholic perspective. Justice Gérard Dugré said the Ministry's actions assumed "a totalitarian character essentially equivalent to Galileo's being ordered by the Inquisition to deny the Copernican universe."
The Quebec Court of Appeal refused to hear the family's case in February after they lost at the Quebec Superior Court in August 2009. Justice Yves-Marie Morissette said the appeal was "doomed to failure." He dismissed it in particular on the grounds that the parents no longer had children who were required to take the course, because one had graduated and the other was put in private school.
Opponents of the course argued that by dismissing the appeal partly because one of the children was in private school, the judge had thus recognized exemptions for private schools, and that students in public schools should then also be allowed the exemption.
The Catholic Civil Rights League, which hopes to intervene in the case, insisted in a press release yesterday that parents are the first educators of their children. "This case is about the principle of parental authority in the religious education of their children," said League President Phil Horgan. "The appeal is a significant opportunity to affirm these rights in the public forum, and encourage parental rights in the implementation of moral and religious instruction in Quebec's public schools."
Richard Decarie, a spokesman for CLE, which has been supporting the parents, compared the parents' case against the Quebec government to David and Goliath. "The moral authority of parents over their children is at stake," he said. "If the parents from Drummondville lose, the government will be free to go all the way in other areas," such as child care.
"For us it's major because Quebec is the first province, but it could spread across Canada," he added.
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Judge: Quebec Gvmt 'Totalitarian' in Imposing Relativism Course
Quebec Parents to Take Mandatory Relativistic Ethics Course to Supreme Court
Quebec Family's Appeal Rejected for Exemption from Mandatory Relativism Course