Montreal

Loyola High School seeks religion course exemption

A private, Jesuit Catholic school for boys in Montreal has asked the province for permission to opt out of a mandatory religion course that comes into effect this fall.

A private, Jesuit Catholic school for boys in Montreal has asked the province for permission to opt out of a mandatory religion course that comes into effect this fall.

Administrators at Loyola High School sent a letter to the Education Ministry requesting that their school be exempted from "Ethics and Religious Culture," a mandatory course that replaces moral and religious education classes from Grade 1 to Grade 11.

The course will focus on academic instruction on ethical, religious and cultural matters, including Quebec's Catholic and Protestant religious heritage as well as other faiths present in the province such as Judaism, native spiritualities, Islam and Hinduism.

For Loyola, the content of the course is redundant and raises important questions about parents' freedom of choice in matters of religious instruction, said principal Paul Donovan.

"At the very best, it was redundant. And at worst, potentially, a source of conflict. There is a sense [that] parental rights are being challenged," he told CBC News.

"For us, it was almost a matter of social justice to say no. We aren't going to put those numbers on our report cards without at least voicing an objection to it."

The school had a problem with the government imposing a course in which teachers are told how to talk about religion, he said.

The Liberal government has called the new course a "significant turning point" in modern Quebec history.

It introduced a law legislating the course in 2005, a few years after Quebec schools moved away from denominational boards.

Protestant and Catholic school boards were dissolved in 1998 and replaced with linguistically based ones.

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