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Who has the right to prevent children learning to be tolerant of others' beliefs?

No one.

The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that Catholic parents cannot prevent their children from attending ethics and religion courses. The parents have been fighting to prevent their children being "exposed" to other world religions (or even no religion) in the interests of multiculturalism.

The headline in the National Post reads "Catholic students must take Quebec religion and ethics class: Supreme Court"

From the article: (I quote)

The high court dismissed an appeal from parents in Drummondville, Que. who had sought to have their children exempt from the mandatory course when it was first introduced in 2008. They had complained the Ethics and Religious Culture course forced children to learn material that did not reflect their religious beliefs.

Writing for the majority, Justice Marie Deschamps said the parents failed to show that the ERC course interfered with their ability to transmit their faith to their children.

In the interests of creating a more secular society based on multiculturalism, the education system has developed a course for primary school children, designed to introduce them to a range of religious belief systems, including indigenous native spirituality.

Whether this is the way to deal with this or not is still an open question. To me, it seems to be a positive sign that Catholic parents oppose it, on the grounds that it interferes with their own efforts to indoctrinate their children with Catholic dogma. It is telling that the one judge who had some reservations said the following:

“In other words, is it a program that will provide all students with better knowledge of society’s diversity and teach them to be open to differences? Or is it an educational tool designed to get religion out of children’s heads by taking an essentially agnostic or atheistic approach that denies any theoretical validity to the religious experience and religious values?”

I gather that, had the course included agnostic or atheist ideas, the supreme court might have come down on the side of the parents. Now THAT worries me. What do the rest of you think?



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