Article de Daniel Cere professeur de religion, éthique et de droit à l'Université McGill de Montréal envoyé à la Gazette de Montréal.
Michael Schleifer contends that critics of Quebec's new Ethics and Religious Culture program are aiding and abetting religious fanaticism and extremism. It seems, for Schleifer, such critics are prime candidates for his compulsory program of re-education in "universal values."
This misleading attack by one of the architects of the program is a particularly troubling feature of the response to the concerns raised about the program.
Parents and faith-based institutions like Loyola High School are raising two important human-rights issues directly related to this controversial area of religious instruction. First, respect for "freedom of religion," a right widely acknowledged as the "first freedom" of the human rights tradition. Second, the need to address parental rights in moral and religious education.
These rights concerns are firmly entrenched in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants of rights, and in the Quebec Charter of Rights.
Schleifer loudly proclaims the program's "universal values" in the face of what he perceives to be the particularistic religious concerns of parents and confessional institutions. But this line of attack stubbornly refuses to engage the "universal" human rights concerns that the dissenting voices are raising.
William Johnson has been a fervent advocate of basic human rights and freedoms. And Loyola High School, one of the key plaintiffs in the current court cases, is a historic Montreal educational institution with a distinguished record of commitment to dialogue, universal values and civic education as well as spearheading education on religious diversity.
Loyola also happens to be deeply committed to human rights and willing to fight for them.
In a liberal democratic society, programs of public instruction aimed at promoting religious literacy and respect for diversity are valuable educational objectives. However, they must meet these objectives in ways that meaningfully address the central issues involved with religious freedom and parental obligations.
Unfortunately, the architects of ERC have effectively ignored, sidelined and repressed these rights concerns in designing and implementing their program. And the Department of Education seems determined to continue to disregard and dismiss these basic rights commitments. Its heavy-handed insistence on enforcing its own educational program has swept aside any meaningful dialogue with concerned parents or confessional institutions.
Respect for religious diversity and parental rights in public education requires a respectful dance between parents, the state and faith communities. However, the Department of Education and its defenders have been showing little or no respect for these concerns. Accordingly, these citizens are following an honourable tradition of democratic dissent in their struggle for the recognition and defence of basic rights to have a voice in the moral and religious education of their children.