Wednesday, October 09, 2013

On Distributing Religious Literature In Ontario Schools

About a recent ORHT case where an atheist demanded that the practice of allowing  Gideons International in Canada to distribute their version of the New Testament to grade 5 students be stopped, and that the tribunal should rule against the practice of allowing any religious literature to be distributed in Ontario schools:

The Tribunal had no trouble finding that the Board’s original policy of allowing only one religious group to distribute materials to students amounted to discrimination.  However, the Applicant asked that the Tribunal order that no religious literature of any kind be distributed in schools. 

The Tribunal held that while the Code ensures equality because of creed, it does not ban creed from all public spaces.  A public school board may decide not to distribute religious material of any kind.  However, if a school board’s policy is to allow for optional religious activities outside the instructional day, such a policy would be allowable under the Code, provided that:

Student participation is optional;
All creeds are treated equally; and
There is no subtle or formal coercion of students to participate.

The Tribunal went on to say that if a school board is going to allow for the distribution of religious material in its schools, it needs to do more than just ensure that its policy facilitates the access of groups other than the Gideons.   To ensure compliance with the Code, the school board must make some effort to encourage a diversity of literature, and promote awareness of its willingness to allow for the distribution of materials by all interested groups. 

The extent of the effort necessary to comply with this requirement is unclear. However, the principles outlined in this decision provide a useful guideline for public school boards intending to review their policies and practices with a view to allowing after-school religious activities in schools.

Very little in the MSM on this.  Lifesite has a realtively sane (for them) story on the case here.  The ruling (which I haven't read yet) can be found here.  It looks as though, for the time being, nobody gets to hand out pamphlets until a compliant policy has been formulated.

1 comment:

deb said...

religion should probably stay at home and in churches ...and no special allowance of christianity over others.
I dont get how this is complicated or needs that much study.
(unless the private school is set up as offering religious doctrine as their mandate, then parents can make that decision and pay for it)