The Supreme Court of Canada with its decision today has told Quebec parents they cannot exempt their children from the province's mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course. In Canada, this is a sad day for Christians and for those who believe in parental rights in education.
In its ruling, Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the parents, who took the case to court, didn't provide enough evidence to prove that the generic course was taught in a way that violated their religious freedom. One of the problems was that the course was started in 2008 and soon after the parents removed their children from the school program. This made it difficult for them to collect sufficient evidence from lesson plans and textbooks used.
So the highest court in the land is telling Quebec parents, that in order to exempt their children from the ERC, they should make a detailed record of the issues they are concerned about and then approach the local school board for accommodation. On this occasion, the secular agenda has won the day. However, there is some glimmer of hope in the decision: a future case may be filed with sufficient proof to support its claim. Let's pray for this outcome.
In June, 2010, the Quebec Superior Court did make the ruling that the Quebec Ministry of Education could not impose the ERC course on the private school Loyola High School because it infringed on parental rights and religious liberty.
Here's some of what Justice Gérard Dugré wrote in his decision: "Canadian democratic society is based on principles recognizing the supremacy of God and the primacy of the law – both of which benefit from constitutional protection. In this age of the respect of fundamental rights, of tolerance, reasonable accommodation and multiculturalism, the attitude adopted by [Education Minister Michelle Courchesne], is surprising." Christian parents can take some comfort in this previous ruling as it sets a precedent for a possible future legal victory.
What does this decision mean for parents? We can draw a number of conclusions from all this. Parents must be pro-active when it comes to their children's education. They need to ask their children what is being taught in the classroom and keep accurate and detailed records. In short, the onus of proof for the need for religious exemption is with the parents; they must provide evidence from the curriculum, resources and lesson plans to demonstrate that their parental and religious rights are being compromised. If none of this works, we need to consider private schools and homeschooling as viable alternatives.
Today's ruling underscores the need for Ontario parents to make sure Bill 13 is withdrawn or drastically amended to include student exemptions when the curriculum or other school programs come in conflict with family morals and religious beliefs. Bill 13, if passed as proposed by the Liberal Party, would give the government more power over what children are taught. The state ought to defend parental and family autonomy; instead the Quebec decision sadly weakens family independence in giving the government greater control in education.
It's clear that the high court ruling places a greater burden on parents to monitor their children's learning and seek some form of accommodation from school administrators. If political correctness is protected by the courts, then neither the school nor the government can be trusted when it comes to the values and morals children are being taught.
Parents need to realize that they are the first and most important educators of their children. If they object to what their children are being taught, they should hold the government and school boards accountable. A responsible and sensible government would not have proposed the moral madness and propaganda that is entering this nation's classrooms. In Ontario, it's called "Equity" education and Bill 13. Today's bad legal decisions by our Supreme Court is just another example of how the secular humanism running through public institutions continues to trample on human and divine rights.
In the end, let's remember these encouraging words from Peter's First Letter, 3:15: "Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience." Let's together continue to humbly do just that.