Preacher battles school board in court over pamphlets
Sean Bonitto accuses Halifax Regional School Board of violating charter rights
A Nova Scotia preacher says the Halifax Regional School Board is violating his charter rights by preventing him from distributing pamphlets at his son's public school.
Sean Bonitto, who has been battling the board for more than three years, is taking his case before a justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia this week.
"The long story short, they rejected the distribution of religious literature," Bonitto said outside court.
As part of his ministry, Bonitto offers pamphlets to anyone he meets. His son was also offering pamphlets at Park West School in Clayton Park. The school is in a culturally diverse neighbourhood and houses nearly 800 students from Grade Primary to Grade 9.
"The reality was they said, 'We don't want you to hand out any religious literature on the public school grounds at any time,'" Bonitto said.
"So we objected to that of course. We said that's against our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Bonitto and his wife met with officials from the Halifax Regional School Board and the school to discuss their concerns. But after more than three years, the case is now in court.
Officials with the Halifax Regional School Board say Bonitto's pamphlets violate its policy on maintaining neutrality on issues such as politics and religion.
Under questioning by a lawyer for the board, Bonitto said only Christians who believe in Jesus Christ will get into heaven. He said he has shared that position with people of other faiths.
The Halifax Regional School Board also objected to some of the violent content in pamphlets Bonitto distributed, including references to bullet-riddled bodies. Bonitto questioned why, if that content was objectionable, the board allows copies of Harry Potter and Twilight books in school libraries.
"We weren't asking the school to take our tract and use it to distribute amongst everybody," Bonitto said.
"We were just saying that we as individuals should have the right to offer religious literature to anybody who would like to receive it."
The judge is expected to reserve his decision.