Letter sent today to the editor of the National Post.
To the Editor
1450 Don Mills Road, Suite 300
Don Mills, Ontario
It is somewhat with dismay that I read in your columns a description which radically misrepresents my views and the reasons I went to court so that my children could be exempted from the new Ethics and religious culture course recently imposed in Quebec.
In the article “Students must learn about other religions: judge”, you let Sébastien Lebel-Grenier, a law professor at Université de Sherbrooke, characterize the grounds of my court challenge as “demanding […] the right to ignorance, the right to protect their children from being exposed to the existence of other religions”.
This is obviously false and paints me unfairly as an obscurantist. I believe your readers need to hear what my grounds were as can be attested by my petition and testimony in front of the court.
Obviously, my husband and I have no problem about our children knowing that other religions exist – they already know their existence and freely discuss about religious diversity. Neither have we any qualms about knowing facts about other religions, the Catholic religion course previously taught in public schools in Quebec did so; we did not object. Our grievances are elsewhere: we object to the fact that our youngest child, then aged 6, should be taught that all religions have the same value. I objected to the textbook my child had to use where all stories, be they Biblical (the Nativity), aboriginal (Big Hare) or animal tales (The Mice X-Mas), are told as tales of equal value and truth.
It is important to note that the factual content taught in primary school is rudimentary; facts are not the real objective of the course. It is about instilling a pluralistic vision of religion: all are nice, more of them is better than one, all have truth in them, and none is therefore really true because they contradict each other. Learning basic facts about Islam, since you quoted me on that, does not need to start at 6 and last 11 years at school, it could easily be learned, as in other provinces, at the end of High school in a geography or history class.
One paradoxical side-effect of this course is that, in secular schools today in Quebec, pupils must “dialogue” about their religious background or beliefs and be labeled, in the eyes of their peers, in denominational terms thus dividing them on religious or philosophical lines.
As far as the Ethics component of the course is concerned, we decided to ask that our eldest son be exempted after he approached us and told us how he felt very ill at ease about “ethical” discussions and debates which dealt with sex in what he found to be an intrusive and indecent fashion. Again here, the teachers cannot state what is true or false and anything goes. We cannot see how this is a proper education and would rather our son took more useful and constructive courses.
I trust you will inform your readers about our real grounds for asking our children to be exempt, we think this is an important matter and readers should have access to both sides of the story.