lundi 14 septembre 2009


« On propose à nos sociétés un avenir multiculturel. Le grand paradoxe du multiculturalisme, c’est que toutes les cultures sont les bienvenues à l’exception d’une seule, la culture du pays hôte. Pour accueillir la diversité comme il se doit, la France est tenue de ne plus être une nation substantielle, mais une nation procédurale simplement vouée à organiser la coexistence des communautés qui la composent. »

Alain Finkielkraut, Le Point, 16 juillet 2009

Cheering Big Brother dangerous

By John Carpay, Calgary Sun, 2009-09-13

Columnist Michael Platt incorrectly claims some parents in Québec want to keep their children ignorant about other religions. ("Pinheaded? Believe it," Sept. 6.)

In August [on the 31st] , the Québec Superior Court rejected the demand of parents to exempt their children from a course called "Ethics and Religious Culture" (ERC).

In 2008, this course became mandatory for all students from Grades 1 to 11. Before the ERC course was imposed on public and private religious schools, children in Québec were already being taught about other religions. But parents had a choice to enroll their children in Catholic or Protestant religious instruction – or non-religious moral instruction. Parents objected to the removal of this choice, which triggered the court action. Québec's parents are not against their kids learning about the world's religions. Rather, parents went to court because the course trivializes religion as mere folklore and teaches the relativist notion that there is no truth. It is also opposed by the Québec Secular Movement, because it violates the freedom of conscience of atheists and agnostics who don't want their children presented with religious information they're not equipped to handle. Children are not all the same. Some children can learn about sensitive topics like religion and sexuality at an earlier age than others.

Why should politicians and bureaucrats have the right to determine the age at which all children will be forcibly exposed to facts and ideas about sex and religion? Shouldn't parents be able to determine what information goes into the minds of their own children, and at what age, and how it's taught?

Platt's "government-knows-best" attitude has existed as long as modern public education. Prussia in the 19th century was the first country to force children ages five to 13 to follow a national curriculum to instill respect for authority and following orders. Prussia's goal was to produce obedient citizens who would understand the King is always just and right. As German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte said: "The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will."

Dictators through history have tried to use a mandatory curriculum to impose their ideology on youth. This is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the prior right of parents to choose the education given to their children. Parental rights are one of the cornerstones for preserving a free and democratic society. Family autonomy and freedom of conscience are rights that protect atheists and agnostics as much as religious people from government coercion and intrusion. Few things are more coercive and intrusive than Big Brother imposing its ideology on your kids, teaching them the opposite of what you teach at home — especially when it comes to religion and sex.

Platt accuses parents in Québec and Alberta of being "willfully ignorant" zealots for not wanting other people's sexual and religious values imposed on their children. If Platt wants to educate his children in his beliefs (be they religious, secular, agnostic, atheist, progressive, traditionalist or relativist) he should be entitled to do so. But insisting his own attitudes towards religion and sex be imposed on all children through the public education system is just plain wrong. It's always tempting to cheer for Big Brother when he imposes your values on other people. But once Big Brother acquires that right, nothing stops him from imposing other people's values on you.

Élève anglican de Gilles Routhier vient à sa rescousse...

Voir la lettre envoyée à l'Express par un élève anglican de Gilles Routhier, les réactions sont instructives.

La hiérarchie anglicane vue par l'émission Yes, Prime minister!

God and government

Article from the National Post published this Monday 14th of September 2009.

What could possibly be wrong with children gaining a general knowledge of the world's major religions and the differences among them?

Plenty, if the government requires that children be taught that all religions, and all non-religious moral codes, have equal merit.

In a recent troubling judgment (Lavallee vs. Commission scolaire des Chenes), Quebec's Superior Court ruled that parents do not have ultimate authority over the moral or religious education of their children, and that the state can impose a curriculum that conflicts with the moral codes parents strive to instill. The court rejected a claim brought by parents seeking to exempt their children from the "Ethics and Religious Culture" (ERC) course, which in 2008 became mandatory for all students from Grade 1 to Grade 11, including students in private religious schools.

Some have lauded the court ruling as a rejection of the right to raise children in ignorance. But the parents involved are not against educating their children about other faiths and belief systems. Rather, they wish to do it from their own perspectives.

Parents do not wish to have to instruct their children — stealthily, at home — that the moral relativism they are being taught at school is wrong. They do not wish to have to undermine their children's confidence in their schoolteachers. Nor do they wish to become hypocrites, adhering to a particular moral code themselves, but pretending — in order to spare their children the conflict of having to choose between home and school — that it's okay for their children to accept tenets they consider immoral.

This concern resonates with people of all religions and moral codes. While the parents who brought the court action happen to be Catholic, the secular and humanist Mouvement laique quebecois also opposes the ERC course being mandatory for all children. Agnostic and atheist parents don't want their children forcibly exposed to religion at a young age.

If Quebec's goal were merely to save children from religious and cultural ignorance, it would tolerate a diversity of methods for achieving that goal. But no such tolerance has been extended to Loyola High School, a private Catholic school in Montreal. Its curriculum already included information about the world's other major religions, but in keeping with its mission and values, Loyola teaches its students that Roman Catholicism is actually true and ought to be adhered to. Quebec says such instruction is unacceptable because it is not "even-handed."

Since virtually every religion and moral code includes as one of its tenets a belief in its superiority over rival systems (or else why adhere to it?), Quebec's insistence on even-handedness is tantamount to compelling every teacher of religion or morality to deny or contradict some part of his creed. Why should teachers be forced into such hypocrisy in a country whose constitution — in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — guarantees freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression? The province maintains, and the court accepted, that parents' constitutional freedoms remain intact since they are still free to instruct their children in their own moral codes in the privacy of home. But even homeschoolers, who frequently opt out of government schooling precisely because they prefer to instruct their children in their own belief systems, will be required to teach the "even-handed" ERC course or an equivalent course. Imagine parents instructing their children about the importance of adhering to their own religious beliefs in the morning, then telling them that there are a dozen other religions to choose from, all equally valid, in the afternoon. It's ludicrous for the province to argue that such a process respects freedom of belief.

The "government-knows-best" attitude that Quebec is displaying has been in existence as long as compulsory public education itself. Nineteenth century Prussia was the first to impose a mandatory curriculum to teach all children from ages five to 13 discipline, respect for authority and the ability to follow orders. Prussia sought to produce obedient citizens who would understand that the King is always just, and his decisions are always right. As the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte explained: "The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will."

Freedom of religion and conscience, parental authority, and family autonomy are bulwarks which protect all citizens from government coercion and intrusion. We dismantle these bulwarks at our peril.

-John Carpay and Karen Selick are executive director and litigation director, respectively, of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, which is assisting the Quebec parents with their constitutional court challenge.