On January 30 the Ontario Court of Appeal declared that “mandatory religious education in the province’s public elementary schools [is] unconstitutional.” It struck down the portion of the law that requires religious instruction in the regular curriculum of public elementary schools.
This judgment was viewed as a cause for celebration by the Canadian Jewish News and the three principal newspapers.
These papers also enthusiastically welcomed the Sault Ste. Marie school board’s February 27 decision to atop religious instruction in their classrooms. Earlier, members of the Sault board “had voted to defy a court ruling” (Toronto Star), but later on reversed themselves.
Bernie Farber, a spokesman for the Canadian Jewish Congress who had attacked the Sault board’s decision to continue its religious education classes, now hailed the board’s decision to stop religious instruction in the classroom. “It’s a major victory for the people of Sault Ste. Marie,” he told the Star February 28.
In their March 2 editions, all three major Toronto dailies approved of the Ministry of Education’s decision that Ontario’s public schools can provide religious programs as long as they do not try to “indoctrinate” students.
The Ontario media are intensifying their attack on Christianity. News reports on the Millington trial are a case in point. A little girl of a family practicing the Baha’i faith was afflicted by nightmares about her being in hell, allegedly the result of fundamentalist Bible Club’s teaching in an Elgin County school. This gave the Toronto Star grounds to imply January 7 that religion has “so often created intolerance and violence.” In fact, the paper caricatured Christianity as an especially villainous example of such intolerance and violence.
A democracy is that form of government where the tights f minorities are protected from loss by any action of the majority.
What is becoming increasingly obvious and disturbing, however, is the use of the courts by critically placed agents of social change to impose the will of a minority on the majority.
This will is made clear in newspaper reports. On February 8 the Canadian Jewish News reported that B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights calls on “the provincial government to ban all prayers in opening exercises in the classroom” of elementary schools in Ontario. In the same article, the Canadian Jewish Congress “has called on Conway to repeal the portion of the Education Act that calls for mandatory instruction in religion in public classrooms.”
A February 22 report in the Canadian Jewish News indicates that in the public schools of Ontario the democratic principle of majority rule should e set aside to accommodate a presumed greater good. States the editorial: “For generations Ontario’s Jewish school children have been subjected in the public school system, either to Christian indoctrination or have suffered the indignity of being singled out through exemption from religious sessions.”
This attempt by the minority to remove all religion, especially Christianity, from the public schools and substitute a pallid unstructured inclusion of “education about religion” is aimed at another very specific, and predictable target: the Catholic separate school system of Ontario.
The Globe and Mail of February 5 reported that “Ontario retains a regrettable obligation…to maintain a separate, publicly financed school system.” \Adopting an inflammatory tone, Toronto Star columnist Michael Bennet February 1 advocated the “necessity” of applying the January 30 Appeal Court ruling to Catholic schools. Another Sun columnist, Christina Blizzard, pronounced on February 2 that “Any child of any faith should be able to attend any Ontario school without fear of religious indoctrination.”
But in contrast, the February 15 issue of the Canadian Jewish News gave the results of a poll prepared for the Ontario Jewish Association by Equity in Education. It reported that “sixty-one per cent of Ontario residents agree that the provincial government should fund schools of all religious denominations.”
Throughout the centuries, men have fought for freedom of religion. In the present situation of the minority’s attempt to force its will on the majority, we seem to be witnessing men fighting to impose a “freedom” from religion on everyone.