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Decision helps raise level of religious literacy across the country

A few days ago our Supreme Court decided that the Québec government has the right to impose the same ethics-and-religion course in all schools, whether public, private or faith-based.

The unanimous decision came after two parents claimed the course has violated their Charter right to freedom of religion. They said the course was making it more difficult for them to raise their children in their faith.

The members of the Court based their decision partly on the fact that Canada is a multicultural country and partly on the idea that it’s good for people to get acquainted with beliefs and practices of other religions. Now the way is open for other provinces to establish the same kind of general religious courses, even if parents protest.

Certainly, in the last 50 years Canada has welcomed people of all religions from all over the world; so, why should anyone object to a program that informs our children about what their fellow students believe?

My guess is that the root of the problem is fear: a fear that some teachers will treat all religions as equally valid or, on the other hand, that some teachers might disparage all religions except their own. And, of course, since different religions have different sets of ethical values, there will probably be many heated class discussions on matters of right and wrong.

From my own experience with doubt and vigorous discussion in a class on comparative religion, I think the Québec curriculum may be a blessing in disguise, helping to raise the level of religious literacy across the country.
Right now there are many professing Christians who don’t read the Bible, there are professing Jews who don’t read the Torah and probably a lot of Muslims who don’t know their Qur’an very well. And how many of us know what a Buddhist or Hindu might say about heaven? We may avoid important conversations because we are ignorant of what others believe and don’t know very much about our own spiritual foundations.

Personally I’m convinced that, consciously or unconsciously, most people are really seeking for a personal relationship with Jesus; but if a made-in-Canada comparative religion course prompts our students toward study of the claims of other religions, we can become a nation of friends who know which prophets to believe and why to believe them.

Al Reimers

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion

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