Editorial: Religion, rights and common sense

A MorinvilleNews.com editorial

Never discuss religion, politics or sex – three topics to be avoided if one has an ounce of common sense. At least that was the wisdom of years gone by, wisdom largely ignored by newspapers even back in the day when large cumbersome print publications were viable concerns. It is wisdom ignored even more so in today’s publishing reality where newspaper stalwarts of years gone by have been forced to put celebrities and political scandals on their front pages to attract a younger demographic and dirt-craving public. Political, religious and sexual arguments take place in the public arena every day and refraining from such discussions in public is a tradition now abandoned by much of society.

There are many traditions we’ve clung to over the years, as a society, as a community, as individuals. There are others we have abandoned. You once were allowed to drive cattle up what is now 100 Avenue. You can’t now. Once it was common for your dog to ride in the back of your truck. You won’t be able to do that soon. You once were able to send your child to school in Morinville without anyone questioning if the school was Catholic or not. Of course, parents, teachers and students were more likely to be Catholic than not.

But that has changed. According to statistics provided by the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division (GSACRD) approximately 30 per cent of Morinville students are self-identified Catholics. Stats Canada’s most recent census indicates only 46 per cent of Morinville residents are Catholic and it is almost certain some of those identify themselves as such on the basis of cultural tradition rather than any particular adherence to the Nicene Creed.

And yet when challenged to provide a fully non faith-based education for children whose parents believe it is their legal right to a secular education in what is a public school (albeit a Catholic public school), GSACRD’s board unanimously voted to deny the request, arguing that a century-and-a-half old tradition and their mandate as a Catholic board prevented them from doing otherwise.

One-hundred and fifty years of history is no defence for their denial, being a Catholic school division certainly is. Asking Morinville schools to remove a crucifix, image of the Virgin Mary or faith-based instruction from the classroom is like asking a leopard to change its spots. However, Morinville schools are not separate schools, they are public schools.

What is being asked by the parents is not an alternate program or school through Sturgeon School Division or any other, but that Morinville’s public school division provides a non-religious education that teaches the Alberta School Curriculum and not the Separate Alberta Catholic Curriculum as is currently the case.

Regardless of whether or not one feels Ms. Hunter and her delegation’s requests are reasonable or whether one feels GSACRD’s decision to not grant the request is reasonable, common sense dictates that the final outcome will be decided in the education minister’s office or the provincial or federal courts. Wherever it is decided, it certainly will not be in the coffee shops of Morinville.

However, it is interesting that many people grumble that they have to drive their children to St. Albert to swim because Morinville does not have a pool, but they expect a parent not wishing religion in the classroom to simply suck it up or make the commute to where such an education is available, virtually anywhere else but Morinville.

The convenience of a home town swimming pool is not a right, but a free elementary education is a fundamental human right and one recognized by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. No one can deny that right and few could argue that Morinville schools are not providing students with an above acceptable education. Every provincial report indicates they are. What is at issue is whether or not that right to a free education includes an education completely free of religion for those students whose parents wish it.

Common sense dictates that Alberta’s education system should be able to provide an accommodation for these families seeking a secular education within their own community without depriving families who want or who are comfortable with their children’s curriculum embracing a Catholic focus. To do otherwise is to make the talk of inclusion so often spoken of in education and political circles little more than politically correct lip service.


Editor’s Note: We welcome comments on all our articles and editorials, commonplace or controversial. However, we insist those wishing to make comments, particularly on this or any other issue that has strong supporters on both sides of the argument, to do so respectfully. We simply will not tolerate attacks on individuals or their beliefs, be they religious or secular. Comment posts that do not follow respectful dialogue or that make unsubstantiated allegations will be deleted.

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  1. I agree that parents should have the choice, so let Sturgeon offer a secular program in Morinville.

  2. There are many families that feel their right to public education is not available in Morinville and Legal. Thanks for writing this article. Hopefully the Ministry of Education will sit up and take notice that only 30% of students are practicing Catholics. Perhaps it is time to overhaul the organization of the school districts in this area. Hopefully one day public education will be available in the area.

    Not to mention the job that are not available to non-catholic teachers. This is so called public education that excludes non-catholic teachers as well.

  3. I grew up and took all my schooling except for grades 10 and 11, in Morinville and I am Catholic. I recall in some of my grades there were non-catholics and was always jealous of them when they had the choice to go to morning benediction at the church! They had to stay in class during catechism but again, they didn’t HAVE to listen to what the teacher was saying. That said, things have changed a lot and Morinville students aren’t 99% Catholic anymore, and changes must be made. I would like to see a public school with catechism/religion classes held separately for Catholics. Make it an option, like typing. If parents or their children are that adamant about getting a religious education, then let them have the choice. The schools in Morinville are public, not Catholic, not “separate”.

  4. The fact that all four schools in Morinville are Catholic and that there is no secular alternative is obviously wrong. Regardless of your Faith, this lack of choice / enforced religious dogma is against common sense (as well as Charter Rights & Freedoms / UN Human Rights).
    So the system that operates these publicly funded, public schools will fix the problem, right? No.
    If we have an obvious problem and the system won’t fix it, then the system is broken. If the system is broken then WE need to fix it.
    Our twin Catholic / Protestant public school system is outdated and it is more expensive to run two duplicate systems. It is time to operate one single secular system with “op-ins” for all major Faiths.

  5. “Tradition” wasn’t a reasonable excuse when it was proven that the planet Earth really wasn’t flat, but a sphere. It wasn’t a reasonable excuse when it was proven that the planet orbits the sun, not the other way around.

    And it’s not an excuse now, when freedom of religion also must mean freedom FROM religion.

  6. For those who hate it that God is invited in our school, did you ever stop to think why you enjoy the school? Maybe the nice atmosphere is because of the Spirit of God!

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