Saturday, February 18, 2012

Canada's Supreme Court Upholds Quebec's Ethics and Religious Culture Program In Schools

In S.L. v. Commission scolaire des Chênes, (Canada Sup. Ct., Feb. 17, 2012), the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a religious liberty challenge to the mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture Program that in 2008 replaced Catholic and Protestant programs of religious and moral instruction. Two parents challenged the program, arguing that it interfered with their obligation to pass on the teachings of the Catholic religion to their children. Justice Deschamps' opinion for 7 justices held:
Parents are free to pass their personal beliefs on to their children if they so wish.  However, the early exposure of children to realities that differ from those in their immediate family environment is a fact of life in society.  The suggestion that exposing children to a variety of religious facts in itself infringes their religious freedom or that of their parents amounts to a rejection of the multicultural reality of Canadian society and ignores the Quebec government’s obligations with regard to public education.  Although such exposure can be a source of friction, it does not in itself constitute an infringement of s. 2(a) of the Canadian Charter and of s. 3 of the Quebec Charter.
A concurring opinion by Justices LeBel and Fish agreed that on the current record, the program should not be struck down. They said, however, that once the program is full implemented so that the actual content and approach are known, it may be that a valid challenge will be available.

One News Now reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.)