Canadian Supreme Court Rules Against Exemption in Religious Freedom Case

Posted on | February 22, 2012 by Annalee Seath, J.D. |

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Feb. 17 that Quebec’s controversial Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program does not violate the religious freedom of Catholic parents who sought to exempt their children.

The decision drew disappointment from the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF), and Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) in what the League is calling a denial of parental rights.

Taking a more cautious approach, the Canadian Conference for Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said in a released statement that it will carefully study the decision.

“If the Bishops decide the ruling may raise questions that extend beyond provincial responsibilities, they will discuss any such concerns at their regional episcopal assemblies and possibly also at the meetings of their national assembly.”

While the Court found that the “Drummondville parents,” known as L and J, did not adequately prove harm to their children, it left open the door for future challenges showing additional evidence of infringement on religious freedom.

The ERC program was implemented in Quebec in 2008 for elementary and secondary students and is viewed as a compromise between the traditional confessional approach to religious education and a secular values curriculum. While Catholicism and Protestantism are highlighted due to their culturally important role in Quebec’s religious heritage, Judaism, Native spirituality, and other religions are also studied.

According to the ERC’s website, it seeks to promote dialog and “is intended to help students develop a spirit of openness and discernment with regard to the phenomenon of religion and to enable students to acquire the ability to act and to evolve intelligently and with maturity in a society that reflects a diversity of beliefs.”

At least 2,000 parents have asked to have their children exempted.


More News Articles and Information on the ERC Program:





Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.


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