Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Religious schools and civic education in Canada

We've talked a lot over the years, here at MOJ, about the importance of non-state associations and their expression to a free, authentically pluralist society.  So, the developments described in this story might be of interest:

A Roman Catholic private school sued the Quebec Education Department, demanding the right to continue teaching its own curriculum rather than a new series of ethics and religious culture courses mandated by the province.

Loyola High School and a student's parent, John Zucchi, say the courses imposed by the province are "fundamentally incompatible with its Catholic convictions and mission" as it propounds an ideology of "normative pluralism" that trivializes religious belief. 

Loyola asked to be exempted from the province's new courses in a formal letter to Education Minister Michelle Courchesne. Loyola wrote that it intended to adjust its program to make it compatible with the province's new courses. Its request was denied in early August. . . .

The school asserts that the minister denied its proposal for an alternative course of study due to her desire to achieve "complete uniformity in education throughout Quebec." In doing so she disregarded a section of the Education Act that allows religious schools to seek exemptions from the province's required programs of study if an equivalent program is provided, Loyola maintains. . . .

The state has no place in imposing its views about religion on children," the complaint states.  Loyola said it strives to instill in its students an appreciation for other religions, but the province's courses are "unacceptable in that it would amount to inculcating in students two diametrically opposed world views."

Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  A reader (from Canada) writes:

In Quebec a private Catholic school receives funding from the State for the operational aspects of the program. . . .  Also in Canada we do not have the same separation of Church and State you do in America.  In Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta Catholic schools are public schools and receive full funding both for capital construction and operations.  Catholic schools, as well as other faith schools in the Provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, and Quebec as well as non-Catholic faith schools in Saskatchewan and Alberta receive funds for operations but not capital.  Such schools are considered private.  In Ontario private faith schools, including private Catholic schools receive no funding of any type.  Schools in the four maritime provinces replicate the American model.


The Quebec case is unusual because the exemption does exist. What I mean by unusual is that the exemption has not been allowed. However you have to understand the history of Quebec education and Quebec society in order to understand why the request has been denied.

I won't be surprised to find the courts rule in favour of the government.  The schools only choice would be to reject the operational funds. They would have been far better to not challenge the government and to build a course which taught Catholicism within the syllabus of the new course.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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