Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Interpretive Faith

"An exemption cannot be withheld on the basis that Loyola must teach Catholicism and Catholic ethics from a neutral perspective."
"To ask a religious school's teachers to discuss other religions and their ethical beliefs as objectively as possible does not seriously harm the value underlying religious freedom. These features of the ERC [ethics and religious culture course] Program are essential to achieving its objectives."
"But preventing a school like Loyola from teaching and discussing Catholicism in any part of the program from its own perspective does little to further those objectives while at the same time seriously interfering with the values underlying religious freedom."
Supreme Court of Canada ruling

"Every single judge is entirely behind the idea that Loyola as a Catholic school should be allowed to teach its religion and its  ethical system without ceasing to be who they are, kind of thing."
Mark Phillips, lawyer, Loyola High School, Montreal
Loyola High School
Loyola High School, a private boys school in Montreal founded by Jesuits, aims to teach with a Catholic perspective. The school sought an exemption from Quebec's wider curriculum on ethics and religious culture. (CBC)

"I think more than anything there was a question of principle behind this and the idea of saying that you cannot be Catholic for whatever period of time during the day [when you're teaching the ERC course], that's where the problem was that the government should mandate that."
Paul Donovan, former principal, Loyola High School 

"However, it is important to underline that the Supreme Court confirmed the validity of the ethics and religious culture course, even in private religious schools."
"The course will always be taught in all Quebec schools."
Francois Blais, Quebec Education Minister

How realistic is it really in a free and democratic society to expect that a religion -- any religion -- can be expected to teach impressionable young people who attend religion-mandated school courses that their religion is no different in essence than any of the world's other religions. It is a nice, cozy thought that all religions should be regarded as having equal validity to the people who worship at their altars and believe them to be exceptional, but this is not the way that religious ideology works.

People do believe in exceptionalism; it is why, after all, there is such a wide range of religions reflecting cultures, traditions, heritage and customs that 'fit' all the parameters of a larger social contract giving human groups comfort in the belief that their religious traditions express a closer contact with god, than do others and in a manner they are most comfortable with. That people should be familiar with the basic tenets of other religions to be informed is another matter altogether.

So the idea behind Quebec's compulsory ethics and religious culture course as enacted by the province's Education Department is a sound one, but not as it was mandated, that the course be taught in a strictly secular, neutral manner, by all schools, even schools that have their own religion-mandated values and principles. And so because the province insisted that this be the case, Loyola, a private Catholic boys' school went to court for an exemption.

And the Supreme Court ruled in their favour in the sense that the ERC course which equates all world religions and ethics through the lens of secular distance goes a tad too far in interfering with a religious institution's freedom to teach its own religion in a manner consonant with its faith. Though the major objective of the course is to ensure that people recognize other religions and give equal respect to all in pursuit of a common goal, its outcome as mandated, would have neutralized the Catholic message.

A course teaching other religions, doing so in an even manner with no favour to one over the other, nor criticism of one against the other in an objectively secular manner makes sense in a public atmosphere absent a religious bias but somewhat less so in a religious institution which has a most definite religious bias, as how could it not have given the divisions in the substance of thought and belief between all the various religions?

If each religion is to be given its just due within a secular society that at an intellectual distance respects each equally, then each should be respected sufficiently to acknowledge that it will teach its own religion from its own perspective, then go on to teach about other religious beliefs from that neutral perspective so favoured by the Education Ministry.

The entire point of the exercise was to ensure that young people growing to maturity in a pluralistic society not be taught that one source of ethics, one religious devotion is inferior to another; merely different in approach to a broader, common belief in religious faith.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet