Well, the long-awaited hearing at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal began today.
The news story is here: Niagara atheist takes school battle to tribunal
The back story here is that in 2009 Chouinard got a permission slip from the school asking if his daughter could be given religious material by the Gideons. At the time Chouinard complained. But the problems actually began further back in 2005 when his son attended a school where Bibles were distributed.
Well not long after, the school board decided to strike down their policy which only allowed the distribution of Gideon material and replace it with a policy that would allow for distribution of more religious material than simply the Gideons. This effectively made it even more offensive to Chouinard and those of us who do not want religious dogma promoted on public school grounds.
To counter this the Chouinards requested the right to distribute atheist and freethought material to children on public schools using the very same rules. One book to be distributed was by Dan Barker and I remember there was some talk of the FFRF even helping the Chouinards out by donating books. The point of this was not to indoctrinate young minds with atheism but rather to underline just how bad this policy was. Chouinard said,
“Public schools are there to educate children not to indoctrinate them,” said Chouinard, who has made a request to the board under its new policy to distribute Humanist literature to Nelles students for a one-year period. Rene said the application is a “test” for the board, and that he does not want material promoting “any religion or faith” available in the system. “(A school) is not the place to push religious ideology. There are churches and separate schools for that.”The thing is, the School Board deliberated on this and decided to decline Chouinard's request, based on a book that told them what was a religion and what was not. Clearly atheism is not. They used the Multifaith Information Manual to determine what constitutes a faith or religion.
To decide which religious texts make the cut, Niagara school officials are instructed to follow the Ontario Multifaith Information Manual, a periodically updated book detailing the beliefs, holy books and dietary restrictions of groups ranging from Hare Krishnas to Wiccans to Rastafarians.
As the manual does not include atheists, agnostics and all other non-believers, Mr. Chouinard’s books — Just Pretend: A Free thought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist — were handily rejected.Apparently, if you're a Wiccan or Rastafarian you're in luck, but atheists... no dice. Apparently, all publications distributed to children need to be religious in nature. So Chouinard was left with no choice but to go infront of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
And this position was re-iterated by the Board during the first day of the hearing.
After this policy, DSBN education director Warren Hoshizaki — the first in a chain to approve religious materials distribution — was also asked to consider the atheist publication suggested by Chouinard.
Based on board legal advice and the Ontario Multifaith Council’s manual, the book did not meet the criteria as a religious publication.And you know what's really ironic about this? The school board is claiming the whole point of this policy is to be as inclusive as possible!
“The policy we’re trying to reflect is inclusiveness,” the education director said. “It (lets) the students and their families have access to materials they may not have access to (otherwise).”
“It’s access, equity … and a reflection of the community.”As long as you're religious of course. And the religion you belong to is listed in this book...
Again, the news story is here: Niagara atheist takes school battle to tribunal