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Catholic mass exemption for students may 'become an issue'

An Ontario court ruled this week that students at Catholic schools don't have to take part in religious aspects of school life, such as attending mass.
An Ontario court ruling this week has confirmed that Catholic schools can't require high school students to attend religious classes or mass. The ruling comes after a father in Brampton objected to his son being forced to attend religious services at his Catholic school.

An Ontario court ruled this week that students at Catholic schools don't have to take part in religious aspects of school life, such as attending mass.

Some say the ruling calls the publicly funded religious school system in Ontario into question.

The Ontario court ruling comes after a father in Brampton objected to his son being forced to attend religious services at his Catholic school.

The ruling clarifies a section of the education act that allows parents to seek exemptions for their children from religious aspects of publicly funded Catholic high schools.

“I think it calls into question whether there will continue to be anything distinct about Catholic education,” said Justin Trottier, a spokesperson with the Canadian Secular Alliance, a group that promotes secular education.

“In which case, is it worth preserving?”

But the chair of the Sudbury Catholic school board said faith-based teaching is delivered throughout the curriculum in Sudbury's Catholic schools — not just during religious studies classes or religious ceremonies.

“We are a Catholic school. And I think it is important to note that all of our faith teachings permeate every aspect of our catholic school learning environment,” Jody Cameron said.

Cameron noted the Sudbury Catholic board has not typically had many requests for exemptions from religious aspects in its schools.

“Historically we haven't had requests such as the one that happened in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic school board. So it hasn't been an issue for us today,” he said, adding that he isn’t surprised by the ruling.

“Maybe this will shed light on that and it will become an issue.”

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