A cartoon in the July 30 edition of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix depicts a classroom of multi-cultural students. On the blackboard is written: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is not in Saskatoon.”
In response to complaints from some parents that their children were forced to endure the “whims” and “personal biases” of teachers who still use the Lord’s Prayer, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission recently decided to make a change in religious policy for Saskatoon public schools.
Retired Judge Ken Halvorsen, heading the commission, ordered public schools to immediately end the reading of the prayer in classrooms and assemblies, and requested that school boards come up with a program more inclusive and multi-cultural.
Needless to say, the decision sparked controversy. While non-Christian parents were pleased, others were not.
Thomas Langan, president of the Catholic Civil Rights League, said, “The effort of a minority since the Enlightenment to marginalize the vast Christian majority in their own countries has succeeded in Canada to the point where the loving prayer of Christ for all is treated as ‘offensive’ when recited in any public domain.”
Langan went on to argue that the Lord’s Prayer echoes the Torah, and as there is not one sentiment in it with which a Muslim could not agree, the motive of the attack can only be a hatred of Jesus Himself.
He concluded his remarks by adding, “What a strange way to protect human rights!”
Bruce Clemenger, speaking for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said, “We agree with the board of inquiry that public schools should not compel religious instruction or religious observance. We are concerned, however, that the decision could be used to prohibit school boards from offering religious instruction in ways that are not discriminatory.
“This is the situation in Ontario where all religious instruction is banned, including student-led, voluntary, noon-hour Bible clubs. In a religiously diverse society, the public education system should seek to accommodate the faith perspectives of the students and their families, not exclude them.”
Clemenger also pointed out that “the use of the Bible is crucial to understanding our culture, literature and history, and should not be banned from the general curriculum.”
Noting that schools must respect the religious beliefs of students and their parents in order to be truly public, the EFC encouraged the school board and the minister of education to “explore creative ways in which to allow both religious instruction and religious education in the public schools of Saskatchewan.”