Canadian Supreme Court to decide if govt can force Catholic school to teach contrary to its beliefs

ADF-allied attorney files brief in defense of private high school
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Attorney sound bite:  Brett Harvey

OTTAWA, Ontario — An Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney filed a brief Monday with the Supreme Court of Canada in defense of a private Catholic high school being forced to teach a government-mandated ethics and religion course that includes teaching contrary to Catholic belief. In January, the court granted other denominations the right to intervene in the case in defense of the Catholic school.

The school did not ask to be exempt from teaching the mandated class but only to make modifications to problematic portions so that the school can teach the course in good conscience.

“Faith-based educational institutions should be free to live and operate according to the faith they teach and espouse,” said Gerald Chipeur, Q.C., of the Canadian firm Miller Thompson LLP, one of nearly 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “If the government can force Loyola High School to violate its faith, then the government can do the same to others.”

In July 2008, the Quebec government introduced a new program, “Ethics and Religious Culture,” which it requires to be taught in all public and private schools. The program presents all religions, including Wicca and pagan rites, as equally valid. The government is also prohibiting teachers from expressing a preference for any particular faith, even at private, religious schools.

The Jesuits, a Roman Catholic order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, runs Loyola High School. The school provides education that is publicly faithful to the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church.

The brief filed Monday explains that the religious nature of a school “precludes teachers and administrators from abandoning their faith for one class or one hour during the school day, without fundamentally changing the character of the school. The Supreme Court of Canada has specifically recognized this reality in connection with Catholic schools.”

The brief also explains that “the Supreme Court of Canada expected government decision makers to respect the views of religious organizations: ‘The diversity of Canadian society is partly reflected in the multiple religious organizations that mark the societal landscape and this diversity of views should be respected.’”

“This school does not object to educating students about the diversity of faiths and what makes each faith distinctive, but the government should not require a Catholic school to tell its students that the Catholic faith is no more valid than a myriad of conflicting faith traditions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “All faith-based institutions must be free to speak and act consistently with their faith.”

Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding for the brief filed in the case, Loyola High School v. Attorney General of Québec.
  • Pronunciation guide: Chipeur (CHIP’-yur)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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