CCLA Before Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on Bible Distribution in Schools

The CCLA is intervening in R.C. v. District School Board of Niagara, a case proceeding before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in St. Catharines on February 5 and 6, 2013.  A parent of a child in the Niagara School Board, R.C., complained to the Human Rights Tribunal about the School Board’s policy of allowing the distribution of Gideon Bibles to students in Grade 5, with parental consent.  CCLA has been involved in this issue in a number of school boards arguing that the practice of allowing a religious organization to proselytize to students through the school is inconsistent with freedom of religion and the right to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Even where policies allow for the distribution of materials by various religious groups (as does the amended policy in Niagara), this presents problems as it involves the school board in determinations about what constitutes a religion and which texts can be distributed.  Moreover, very few religious organizations have the resources to offer free texts to all students at a particular grade level.

CCLA believes that schools can and should teach about religious beliefs and practices, but no school should impose beliefs on students or suggest a preference for one religious group over another.  The policy of allowing Bible distribution in schools with parental consent requires that parents or students make a statement of faith to a public school board, and this is inappropriate.  CCLA has intervened in the R.C. case to put forward arguments to ensure that provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code are interpreted in a way that respects the values enshrined in the Canadian Charter.  

Read CCLA’s written submissions to the Tribunal here.