For years a few atheists and influential sectors of the Jewish community have lobbied to ban Christianity from public schools in Ontario and elsewhere.
Christianity in public schools, it must be understood, meant Protestantism. Public schools in Ontario had always been Protestant schools. That’s why from the 1840’s onwards, Catholics in Ontario fought to have their own schools.
In recent years, the Our Father, a prayer taught by Jesus, was no longer deemed suitable for beginning the school day. In most places, public schools now start the day without prayer. And that’s just fine with the atheists and Jewish lobbyists who prefer no prayer to a Christian prayer.
Needless to say, it is not fine for a number of Protestants. But being split into numerous denominations, Protestants have been powerless to stop the de-Christianization of the public schools. Some took it for granted; others cared little. And the de-Christianization process continues. For example, recently there have been calls to ban Christmas carols.
None of this serves the public school well. Protestants who take their faith seriously have been removing their children to private Christian schools for years, abandoning what they see as a hopeless battle against secularism.
Pressure is building for Ontario to follow other provinces and extend financial help to these schools. And Orthodox Jews would like help for their Hebrew schools.
With Bill 125, the government of Premier Bob Rae is dropping Section 50 of the Education Act. This section gave parents whose children attend public schools the right to choose the kind of Protestant religious instruction their children should receive.
The section in question reads as follows:
50. – (1) Subject to the regulations, a pupil shall be allowed to receive such religious instruction as his parent or guardian desires or, where the pupil is an adult, as he desires.
(2) No pupil in a public school shall be required to read or study in or from a religious book, or to join in an exercise of devotion or religion, objected to by his parent or guardian, or by the pupil, where he is an adult. R.S.O. 1980, c. 129, s. 50.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is asking that instead of deleting Section 50, the government should amend it and restore the right to choose, this in harmony with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In passing, it should be pointed out that section 50(2) should be retained. It may prove useful in the future to guard against such novelties as New Age readers.