Peter Baklinski

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‘We are not allowed to be who we are’: Quebec Catholic principal tells Canadians

Peter Baklinski
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MONTREAL, October 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Montreal Catholic high school principal, whose school is engaged in a legal battle on the steps of the Supreme Court over religious freedom, is touring across the country warning Canadians that Quebec’s increasing secularism — ramped up with its proposed Charter of Values — will force Christians out of public life.

“Quebec is now moving towards ‘closed secularism,’ in which the government says not only are we secular but we want society secular as well. And religion moves back into the homes and the churches and stays out of the public square all together,” said Paul Donovan, principal of Loyola High School, in an interview with National Post.

Loyola High School has been battling the provincial government in court for five years for what it says is its right to teach a provincial mandated course on religion and morality, but from a Catholic perspective.

Quebec courts have forced the school to teach the government “secular” Ethics and Religious Culture course (ERC) which exposes students to the global study of religions, but from a perspective that the government calls “neutral”.

The course, which teaches for instance that homosexuality is a normal choice for family life, is compulsory for all primary and secondary schools, private and religiously affiliated schools, and for children who are schooled by their parents at home.

Loyola appealed to Canada’s highest court in February after Quebec’s Court of Appeal ruled that the Jesuit-run school for boys must cease teaching its Catholic course on religion and morality and switch to the government provided ERC course.

Donovan said in a YouTube video that the court rulings forbidding his school from teaching an equivalent course amount to the government saying that a confessional school is “unable to teach the recognition of others — tolerance, understanding — and the pursuit of the common good.”

“From the perspective of the Ministry of Education, of the Quebec government, and affirmed by the Court of Appeals, we can only [teach these things] as secularists, from a secular perspective,” he said.

In his cross country tour, Donovan speaks about the situation in which Loyola finds itself and about how the situation is relevant to all Canadians who may believe religious freedom is a safe and protected right.

Appearing at events such as a Religious Freedom in Education symposium at McGill University, Donovan will tell his listeners that Loyal’s legal action at the Supreme Court is a last-resort effort to the government’s continual refusal to allow the school to operate according to its Catholic identity, values, and mission.

“Quebec wants us to keep any explanation out of [the course about] why people believe what they believe,” said Donovan to the National Post.

“You are supposed to say this is what they believe and that’s it. The government requires that when you’re dealing with other religions that the teacher in the classroom completely disassociates himself from any religious perspective or religious value. So we can never say, ‘As Catholics, we see this…’”

According to Donovan, students at Quebec schools cannot even raise questions from a Catholic perspective.

“The government wants statements about religious belief to be absolute. They’re not to be argued. They cannot be seen as rational. In Catholicism, St. Thomas Aquinas said reason is the first step to faith. So we are not allowed to be who we are.”

Meanwhile a vote on the province’s controversial Charter of Values looms in the near future. Donovan worries that if it passes, religious people will be excluded from public life.

“What it’s saying is if you have a religious outlook, you can’t serve the common good. Under the charter someone in the Quebec government would never be able [to] serve the common good if they were religious. So the charter would remove any indication that the person is religious by banning outward symbols.”

“It’s the same argument about why we can’t do the program the way we want. You have a religious view so therefore you can’t serve the common good. You as a Catholic can’t possibly inform kids about other religions,” he said. 

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