In the Quebec context, where private denominational schools are legal, preventing a school like Loyola from teaching and discussing Catholicism from its own perspective does little to further the ERC Program’s objectives while at the same time seriously interfering with religious freedom. The Minister’s decision suggests that engagement with an individual’s own religion on his or her own terms can be presumed to impair respect for others. This assumption led the Minister to a decision that does not, overall, strike a proportionate balance between the Charter protections and statutory objectives at stake in this case.
That said, the Minister is not required to permit Loyola to teach about the ethics of other religions from a Catholic perspective. The risk of such an approach would be that other religions would necessarily be seen not as differently legitimate belief systems, but as worthy of respect only to the extent that they aligned with the tenets of Catholicism. This contradicts the ERC Program’s goals of ensuring respect for different religious beliefs. In a multicultural society, it is not a breach of anyone’s freedom of religion to be required to learn (or teach) about the doctrines and ethics of other world religions in a neutral and respectful way. In a religious high school, where students are learning about the precepts of one particular faith throughout their education, it is arguably even more important that they learn, in as objective a way as possible, about other belief systems and the reasons underlying those beliefs.Three justices in a separate opinion argued that the Court should grant the exemption and fashion a remedy, saying:
Loyola’s teachers must be permitted to describe and explain Catholic doctrine and ethical beliefs from the Catholic perspective. Loyola’s teachers must describe and explain the ethical beliefs and doctrines of other religions in an objective and respectful way. Loyola’s teachers must maintain a respectful tone of debate, but where the context of the classroom discussion requires it, they may identify what Catholic beliefs are, why Catholics follow those beliefs, and the ways in which other ethical or doctrinal propositions do not accord with those beliefs.Orangeville Banner reports on the decision.