Friday, March 27, 2015
MOJ readers are likely familiar (here, here, here (Religion Clause blog), here, etc.) with the long-running saga of Loyola High School in Montreal to resist a government mandate that it teach a general ethics-and-culture course in a way that, the School believes, conflicts with its Catholic character.
Well, the Supreme Court of Canada's decision is finally here. (Congrats to my friend Victor Muniz-Fraticelli for being cited!) At first, the reports were that Loyola won big -- and it does seem that they won -- but, getting down into the weeds, it's still troubling, I think, what the Court seems to agree the government is allowed to demand. Here is an interesting account ("What Did Loyola Really Do?").
Here is the holding:
The Minister’s decision requiring that all aspects of Loyola’s proposed program be taught from a neutral perspective, including the teaching of Catholicism, limited freedom of religion more than was necessary given the statutory objectives. As a result, it did not reflect a proportionate balancing and should be set aside. The appeal is allowed and the matter remitted to the Minister for reconsideration.
There's more explicit balancing talk here -- and, later, more cites to Aharon Barak and Habermas -- than we are used to, probably, in American cases, but . . . so far so good. Catholic schools may teach Catholicism (pretty much?) as if it is true. Early on in the majority opinion, there's this:
Freedom of religion means that no one can be forced to adhere to or refrain from a particular set of religious beliefs. This includes both the individual and collective aspects of religious belief. Religious freedom under the Charter must therefore account for the socially embedded nature of religious belief, and the deep linkages between this belief and its manifestation through communal institutions and traditions.
Also good. Read the whole thing!