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A Catholic school is Canada is considering petitioning the Supreme Court after the Quebec Court of Appeal issued a decision obliging it to stop teaching a Catholic course on religion.
The ruling, issued last week, told the school that it must replace the course with a state-imposed Ethics and Religious Culture course (ERC) which is at odds with Catholic teaching, according to Vatican Radio.
The decision overturned an earlier judgment of the Superior Court, which supported the request Loyola High School put to the education minister to teach the course objectives from a Catholic perspective.
The Jesuit boys school, located in Montreal, has been battling the provincial government on this issue since 2008.
Marie Bourque, vice-president of the Catholic Parents Association of Quebec, said the decision infringes on the rights of parents to choose an education for their children in line with their faith and values and “to rely on the collaboration of confessional schools” to this end.
Bourque described the ERC as a “totally superficial, folkloric and materialistic” program, which “forbids any chronological or historical teaching of religions.”
“It presents them as the fruit of the human mind,” she explained. “It’s all relativistic; there’s no absolute truth at all. So, moral and philosophical stands, which are atheistic, certainly sound more credible than any religion at all in this context.”
Both the Catholic Church and the UN Declaration of Human Rights state that parental rights in education are essential and must be upheld, she underlined.
“The responsibility belongs to (parents) to teach morals and religion. They can delegate it to whom they choose but it belongs absolutely to them in the first place,” she said.
The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) called the ruling “a grand social experiment” that raised the “legitimate objections of religious parents”.
“With this decision, the Court of Appeal has seriously infringed upon the right of parents to direct the religious education of their children,” said League President Philip Horgan.
The CCRL pointed out that the decision “creates a dilemma” for Catholic parents in Quebec who send their children to private Catholic schools “to avail their children of an authentic moral and religious upbringing in accordance with their faith”.
Loyola High School first took legal action in 2008, when the education minister refused to grant equivalency to the school’s Morals and World Religions course. The minister argued that Loyola’s course is taught from a Catholic viewpoint, whereas the state course requires religions to be taught from a secular and religiously neutral perspective.
The ERC program was mandated at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year for all students, and spans from grade one to the end of high school. The course purports to take a “neutral” stance on world religions, giving equal merit to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and aboriginal spirituality.