Nova Scotia

Preacher who passed out Christian pamphlets at Halifax school loses appeal

Nova Scotia's Court of Appeal has thrown out a case from a preacher who handed out religious pamphlets at his son's public school.

Sean Bonitto accused Halifax Regional School Board of violating charter rights

Sean Bonitto claimed it was his charter right to hand out religious pamphlets to anyone who wanted to receive them at his son's school. (CBC)
Nova Scotia's Court of Appeal has thrown out a case from a preacher who was told to stop handing out religious pamphlets at his son's public school.

Sean Bonitto and his son handed out pamphlets to students 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 court notes, "one-quarter of its students are Muslim."

"Their message was that anyone who does not accept Christ will go to hell," reads the court's written decision.

Bonitto was asked to stop, which he said violated his freedom of religious expression under the charter.

Officials with the Halifax Regional School Board argued Bonitto's pamphlets violated its policy on maintaining neutrality on issues such as politics and religion.

Justice Pierre Muise dismissed the lawsuit back in 2014, but Bonitto appealed.

In a written decision released Wednesday, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal.

"Mr. Bonitto's message is that non-Christians will burn in a sea of flames for eternity. The board's witnesses held the view that elementary students, especially non-Christians, hearing this on the steps would entertain an unsettling distraction from their class work," reads the decision. "That view makes good sense to me."

Bonitto has been ordered to pay $5,000 in legal costs to the school board.

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