Thursday, August 27, 2015

Canadian Court Says Charter Does Not Protect Proselytizing In Primary School During School Hours

In Bonitto v. Halifax Regional School Board, (NS Ct. App., Aug. 26, 2015), the Nova Scotia (Canada) Court of Appeal rejected the claim by Sean Bonitto, a fundamentalist Christian parent of school children, that Secs. 2(a) and (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect his right to hand out religious literature during school hours to elementary school students.  He sought to distribute his literature in a school in which 25% of the students were Muslim.  The court said in part:
Mr. Bonitto’s model envisages a theological midway with rivals beckoning nine year olds walking to their classrooms. The Minister, Board and school would have no control over the messages. That would contradict a basic premise of public schooling under the Education Acti.e. on school premises during school hours, the inculcated message must pertain to the approved scholastic program.
Mr. Bonitto’s message is that non-Christians will burn in a sea of flames for eternity. The Board’s witnesses held the view that elementary students, especially non-Christians, hearing this on the steps would entertain an unsettling distraction from their classwork. The message would undermine the “orderly and safe learning environment” and the “positive and inclusive school climate” proclaimed by the preamble to the Education Act. That view makes good sense to me.
CBC News reports on the decision.