Saturday, June 19, 2010

Quebec Court Orders Exemption From Religious Culture Course For Catholic School

In Canada, a Quebec Superior Court yesterday ordered the provincial government to grant an exemption from the mandatory course in Ethics and Religious Culture to a private Catholic high school. In a reform implemented last year, Quebec required both public schools and private religious schools (most of which receive some government funding) to offer a course in Ethics and Religious Culture covering Christianity, Judaism, aboriginal spirituality, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. (See prior posting.) The Montreal Gazette reports that Loyola High School has won the right to teach about other religions and ethical creeds from a Catholic perspective rather than following the secular teaching guidelines created by the Education Department. The court ruled that otherwise the province would be infringing the school's religious freedom guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The court wrote: "The obligation imposed on Loyola to teach the ethics and religious culture course in a lay fashion assumes a totalitarian character essentially equivalent to Galileo’s being ordered by the Inquisition to deny the Copernican universe." A broader challenge to the new course filed by parents was rejected last year. (See prior posting.)