Friday, December 19, 2008

Quebec's undermining of religious rights

ethique Seven high school students in Granby, Quebec, have been handed one-day suspensions in the past week because of their decision to boycott the mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture course on the grounds that it violates their freedom of conscience. They are likely to be expelled if they continue their actions. According to Barbara Kay in Wednesday's National Post,

The ERC curricula are mandated to introduce students to Quebec's rich diversity of religious tenets and "facilitate the spiritual development of students so as to promote self-fulfilment." Since when does the state "facilitate" spiritual self-fulfilment? To parents who take religion seriously, this is a chilling intrusion into what all democratically inspired charters of rights designate as a parental realm of authority.

ERC was adopted by virtual fiat, its mission to instill "normative pluralism" in students. "Normative pluralism" is gussied-up moral relativism, the ideology asserting there is no absolute right or wrong and that there are as many "truths" as there are whims. There were no public consultations.

The program is predicated on the worst possible educational model for young children: the philosopher Hegel's "pedagogy of conflict." As one of the founders of the ECR course, put it, students "must learn to shake up a too-solid identity" and experience "divergence and dissonance" through "le questionnement"....

Reading ERC manuals and activity books, one finds a superficial mishmash of trendy theoretical platitudes whose cumulative effect will be to convince children that belief is fungible, and that all religions -- including pagan animism and cults -- are equally "true." The curriculum is strewn with politically correct material that openly subverts Judeo-Christian values. In many of the manuals, ideology and religion are conflated. Social engineering is revealed as the heart of the ECR program; in the most recently published activity book, for example, Christianity is given 12 pages, feminism gets 27 pages....

Paganism and cults are offered equal status with Christianity. Witches "are women like any other in daily life;" "Technologically [the Raelians] are 25,000 years in advance of us." And considering that of the 80,000 ethnic aboriginals in Quebec only 700 self-identify with aboriginal spirituality (the vast majority of ethnic aboriginals are Christian), aboriginal spirituality (falsely equated with environmentalism) is accorded hugely disproportionate space and reverence.

In this ERC monoculture, only similarities between religions are permitted, to further the jolly illusion that all religions are merely variations on a single theme of brotherly love.

We, at The Voice of the Martyrs, applaud the actions of these students. We are encouraged to hear the words of 16-year-old evangelical student Jonathan Gagné to his mother, "Mom, I am still standing, and I'm going to keep standing and fight this to the end." We believe that the state has no right to mandate religious education, force students to learn the content of other religious and to deliberately seek to undermine the religious convictions of those who refuse to accept a relativistic view of truth. It is the right and responsibility of parents to train their own children according to their own religious beliefs, not those of the state. Religious courses, if offered, should be optional or alternatives provided. But the state must not mandate what religious content will or will not be taught to children, especially against the wishes of their parents.


Matthew said...

I'm not so sure this is a great idea. Wouldn't the Gospel be better served by these students staying in class and standing up for their beliefs? I think that the church looks like a bunch of whiners when we complain about being "forced" to learn about the content of other religions. You say, "It is the right and responsibility of parents to train their own children according to their own religious beliefs, not those of the state." If the parents who are upset about this are teaching their children rightly, I don't see what the big deal is.

What if Christian principles were being taught? Would we object so strenuously then?

Matthew said...

Let me clarify quickly that I am very uncomfortable with the content being taught and I don't think that it's the best thing for the state to do at all. I think that students should learn about major world religions & ideologies, but in a manner that is as objective as possible without imposing a relativistic viewpoint. But boycotting it seems kind of immature-- I took a similar class in college and some Christians in my class turned their chairs to the back when it came time to learn about Islam. Rather lame, IMO.

Glenn Penner said...

I probably felt the same way before I had kids. Now they are grown, I am glad that we took seriously the need for them to both stand on their own and remain steadfast and to protest with and for them when necessary. It is not either/or. This kind of protest is not something thatpeople typically enter into lightly and without trying to influence before taking this step. To suggest that they have taken this step within trying to influence is probably unfair, I suggest.

And yes, if Christian teaching was being forced upon non-Christians, I would hope that we would object to that too. As the early church father taught, force (or complusion) is no attribute of God's. Neither should it be that of His people. Nor is it, when they are practicing Christianity consistently.

rose mawhorter said...

With regard to Matthew's questions I want to say that the big problem is that some parents recognize that their children are not healthy enough to be spoonfed garbage day in and day out. I agree with Glenn that for some healthy people staying to challenge the class will be good but for others it could be terrible. Also, this is not just being taught the content of other religions. The class comes with a bias. If a student refuses to write essays about how all roads are equal they will likely be penalized. This pressure to submit to the ideas of the teacher is intense. Parents and students need to be able to choose what is best for them.

You also asked if we would have the same issue if Christian principles were being taught. I am opposed to forcing my beliefs on people or forcing them to listen. If the school offered this terrible propaganda as an optional class and a class on Christianity as optional I would be still be opposed to the former and in favour of the latter. Offering people the truth is always good and offering people lies disguised as truth is always evil. We are not comparing apples to apples here.

Matthew said...


I hope that I wasn't trying to suggest that it was a step taken lightly, and I'm sorry if that's how it came off. These students and their families are taking a stand on principles and you're probably right; these students probably tried to influence within the class first. I admire their courage, but I'm still not convinced that they're right.

Yet if you look at the history of the church and its relationship to education, we can see that the church took its bat and went home when the oppressive tide of liberalism and relativism first rose in academia and educational institutions in the early 20th century rather than trying to engage and speak up. As the church "insulated" itself from bad ideas, it lost its place to speak against them.

Now, we are dealing with high school students here, which is something of a different story. Still, I feel like my original point holds-- to me, it rubs me with a bit of rebellious, childish streak to say that if you say something in school that I disagree with, I'm not going to participate at all. Especially when the kids who have the principles to recognize that this relativism stuff is nonsense are the ones who are least likely to actually be affected by the content of the teaching.

Again, I think the class is a bad idea and the content ought to be different. But I just don't feel like boycotting is the right way to go about it.

Glenn Penner said...

The protest really has more to do with letting school authorities know that their actions are wrong, don't you think, Matthew? I don't think that isolation is the real issue here. Yes, Christians (not all, and certainly not "the church" in its totality) have tended to retreat from serious intellectual discussion, but there also has to be a time when Christians stand up to government and say, "You have assumed a role in society that you are not entitled to." The resulting actions may have to take the form of civil disobedience rather than dialogue.

When one deals with the issue of civil disobedience, Christians rarely agree as to what is the most appropriate method. Our call is to be careful with the labels we use to describe those we disagree with. And, of course, keep in mind that Christians have often been described as rebellious when they refuse to submit to unjust actions of a government who starts to take on responsibilities that they are not entitled to, like I think is going on in this case.

I do enjoy this discussion, Matthew. Thank you for continuiing to push for the truth here.

Matthew said...

You make some good points, Glenn, and while I'm not completely convinced that civil disobedience is totally called for in this case I've certainly found the discussion enlightening. I guess I didn't see it from a "civil disobedience" standpoint before. Probably my own experience in college that I mentioned has colored my views on this subject.

Thanks for your kind words and for your thoughtful blogging. This is really, in my opinion, one of the most underrated blogs in the Christian blogosphere.

Glenn Penner said...

Thank you, Matthew. I always enjoy a good discussion with a thoughtful blogger.

Jeff T said...

An interesting discussion. In addition to whether students should remain in class, I would ask whether it would make a difference?

I ask, because I don't think it would be an equal discussion. Would it be a real discussion, or a "slap-down"? Can an average Christian high school student debate a teacher who's trained to deliver a curriculum that was designed by professionals?