The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in this religious freedom case March 24, 2014. A decision was announced March 19, 2015.
The EFC intervened in the case to argue that government decision making must take into account the principles of life in a free and democratic society, including recognition of the religious freedom of individuals, religious communities and corporations / organizations established for a religious purpose. The EFC accepts that state has an interest in promoting the learning outcomes for students but argues the state cannot compel that those outcomes be achieved by requiring instruction that violates the religious freedom of the school community – students, teachers and parents.
Loyola High School and John Zucchi v. Attorney General of Quebec (hereafter, the Loyola v. Quebec case), a case originating in Quebec, addresses the issue of whether a provincial ministry of education can require a religious school to teach a course from a non-religious perspective; in particular a course about religion, culture and ethics.
In the school year 2008-2009 the Quebec Ministry of Education required that all school instruction in the Province of Quebec include the Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program. The course has as its objective the instruction of children in a manner that will promote “the development of attitudes of tolerance, respect and openness” thus “preparing them to live in pluralist and democratic society.” The course is not a graduation requirement. The Ministry of Education requires that the course – about ethical decision making and the role of religion in culture – be taught from a non-religious perspective.
Loyola High School is a private English-language Jesuit high school for boys located in Montreal, Quebec. Loyola is legally constituted as a not-for-profit corporation, established under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. In accordance with Ministry of Education guidelines, Loyola sought exemption from teaching the ERC program because it already taught a similar course in world religions and ethics, with the ethics component taught from the perspective of Roman Catholic instruction; although including the perspectives of major thinkers and viewpoints.
John Zucchi is a parent who, along with his wife and son, all Roman Catholic in their faith beliefs and practices, chose Loyola as Thomas’ school so that he could receive an education with instruction based in his religious beliefs. Zucchi also acts as a tutor to his son and objects to being required to provide instruction from a non-religious perspective.
In essence, the Ministry of Education is requiring a faith-based institution to operate for several hours each week from a non-faith based position in providing faith related instruction to its students. (Loyola also has its own webpage of materials related to the case.)
- See the EFC page on the S.L. v. Commission Scolaire des Chênes case where a parental complaint in regard to the potential damage the ERC could do was rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada on the basis that the parents could not demonstrate harm had occurred because the course had not yet been implemented.