Monday, February 20, 2012

Quebec Religious Ethics Classes Constitutional: Supreme Court of Canada

Students in Quebec public schools take courses in Religions and Ethics that include study of numerous world religions. A couple challenged the law, claiming that the class infringed on their religious rights with regards to their children, which they wanted to use to restrict their child's own religious freedom to whatever their household faith was. The Supreme Court ruled against on Friday, saying that the course did not pose an impairment to the right to freedom of religion.

In writing the descision, Chief Justice McLachlin wrote:
Although the sincerity of a person’s belief that a religious practice must be observed is relevant to whether the person’s right to freedom of religion is at issue, an infringement of this right cannot be established without objective proof of an interference with the observance of that practice.  It is not enough for a person to say that his or her rights have been infringed.  The person must prove the infringement on a balance of probabilities. ...    L and J have not proven that the ERC Program infringed their freedom of religion, or consequently, that the school board’s refusal to exempt their children from the ERC course violated their constitutional right.  They have also shown no error that would justify setting aside the trial judge’s conclusion that the school board’s decision was not made at the dictate of a third party. Decision Text at
Essentially, the argument was that exposure to new/different religions did not constitute a restriction on religious freedom. One of the appellants offered the CBC a statement.

"My son is in fourth grade and he already asks questions about his own religion and I find it sad that it's happening at such a young age," said S.L., the mother who can only be identified by her initials, because of a publication ban.
 Personally, I don't grant her premise. Questioning your religion is the only way to increase your understanding of that religion, and, more importantly, to build your own spirituality. Doing something "because that's the way it's done" is not a valid motivation. For faith to be sincere, it must be hard-won, through experience and analysis. If I am not mistaken, a child at the fourth grade is old enough for confirmation and first eucharist. I believe we call that the age of reason, do we not?

Frankly, I think just about everyone on earth would benefit from exposure to new and different faiths. I'm sure others will disagree.

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