Quebec will appeal ruling vs. secular ethics and religion course
The Quebec government will appeal a ruling by a superior court judge that allows a Catholic high school in Montreal to drop a course on ethics and morality by the province.
Michelle Courchesne, education minister said the ruling of Quebec Superior Court Justice Gerard Dugre was “excessive.” Premier Jean Charest said there is a clear need to appeal, the National Post said.
Loyola High School, a Jesuit Catholic institution, disputed Quebec’s education department, which sought to impose a secular course on ethics and morality in place of their existing course which covers the same material, but from a Catholic perspective, CTV Montreal said.
The secular course, Ethics and Religious Culture, would cover a variety of religions including Judaism and Aboriginal spirituality, but from a more neutral point of view, the National Post said.
The course is required from grades 1 through 11, and it was drawn up after a 1997 constitutional amendment and a 2005 law, both of which eliminated denominational school boards and parents’ rights respectively to choose spiritual courses in schools, the National Post said.
Critics of the secular course which was implemented two years ago felt that it trumpeted moral relativism, which renders all belief systems on equal in footing, the National Post said.
Dugre issued the ruling and said imposition of the secular course is “totalitarian” in nature. He wrote, “In these times of respect of fundamental rights, of tolerance, of reasonable accommodations and of multiculturalism, the attitude adopted by the [Education] Department in the current matter is surprising,” the National Post said.
Dugre compared such imposition to that of the 1633 Inquisition when the Catholic Church placed Galileo under house arrest for teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun, the National Post said.
When asked to comment on the Quebec government’s intention to appeal, Paul Donovan, principal of the school, said debate was a necessary part of trying to pursue the common good, CTV Montreal said.
Marie Bourque of Quebec’s Catholic Parents Association said, “We find it a victory for democracy in Quebec, for democracy in education especially, for parental rights, for freedom of programs in education,” CTV Montreal said.
Jacques Darche, the lawyer for Loyola said, “Faith is omnipresent in this institution. Before football games, they pray. Before a press conference, they pray. It’s quite bizarre that in the one course that you would expect to be a part of a Catholic Jesuit school, the religion program, you’re not allowed to talk about God, you’re not allowed to pray,” the National Post said.
Dugré said that the imposition by the Education Department of the course on the school, which runs against Catholic doctrine, would be a violation of the school’s freedom of religion which the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects, the National Post said.
Marie Bourque, vice-president of a Catholic association said, “This decision represents a great victory for democracy in education, for freedom of conscience and religion, for freedom in education and for parental rights,” the National Post said.