OTTAWA, Dec 19 (LSN)—Despite an “historic” appeal to the Senate made by two representatives of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Senate voted yesterday to amend the Constitution and abolish religious education in Newfoundland. Most Reverend Anthony Tonnos, Bishop of Hamilton and Chairman for Christian Education for the CCCB, and the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, Bishop of Labrador City and Newfoundland, asked pleaded with the Senate yesterday to safeguard the constitutionally-guaranteed rights to religious education in Newfoundland. Speaking for the federal Liberal government, Inter-governmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion urged the Senate to approve the proposed constitutional amendment.
The bishops focussed their remarks on the second clause of the proposal, which reads, “In and for the Province of Newfoundland, the Legislature shall have exclusive authority to make laws in relation to education, but shall provide for courses in religion that are not specific to a religious denomination.”
Bishop Tonnos warned Senators of the gravity of the proposed changes saying that “Instead of their own religious education programs, taught by their own teachers – something which Catholics have enjoyed for 150 years and is guaranteed by the Constitution—Roman Catholics in Newfoundland are offered the vague possibility of courses in religion that are not specific to a religious denomination.” “The proposal before you is so disturbing because it appears to create a secular religion that will ultimately undermine religious belief,” he said. “It assumes that religion can be treated as a subject, instead of as a way of life and a faith to be handed on. It weakens the ability of the particular denomination or religion to pass on its faith to its own members and, in the end, may undermine a person’s ability to see the value in any religion.”