Religious freedom upheld by Canadian Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in Canada has upheld the right of a school to continue teaching religious studies in line with its religious ethos.

Loyola High School, a private Roman Catholic school in Quebec, had been told that it must teach ethics and world religions from a secular viewpoint.

But after a six year legal battle, Supreme Court Justices ruled in favour of allowing the school to reflect their own ethos when teaching Roman Catholicism.

Religious freedom

Supporters of the school say that the decision represents a victory for religious freedom.

A Roman Catholic parents group, the Association des Parents Catholiques du Québec, said: “It’s a confirmation of the religious freedom of religious schools and of parental rights”.

Asking the school to teach material which contravenes its religious ethos is unreasonable, according to the Supreme Court.

Extinguishing religion

The majority decision read: “A secular state respects religious differences; it does not seek to extinguish them”.

Justice Rosalie Abella said, “preventing Loyola from teaching Catholicism seriously impairs its Catholic identity”.

“Although the state’s purpose is secular, this amounts to requiring a Catholic institution to speak about its own religion in terms defined by the state rather than by its own understanding”.

Great success

The former principal of the school Paul Donovan welcomed the decision saying: “Everything we argued and asked for was ratified by the judges”.

“To get people to work together and tolerate each other, you don’t have to set aside your faith and religious beliefs”, he added.

Quebec Education Minister François Blais said that the Government plans to analyse the decision.

In the UK, schools’ regulator Ofsted has been accused of trying to enforce secular values in schools using ‘British values’ rules, brought in by the Department for Education last year.

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