OTTAWA – “The Supreme Court’s decision in Loyola is a strong affirmation of religious freedom and fair balancing of the interests of the province in setting curriculum outcomes while defending the freedom of religious schools to teach the curriculum from their unique religious perspective,” says EFC President Bruce Clemenger. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) was an intervener in this case.
The court ruled that:
- Requiring Loyola to teach Catholic doctrine and ethical beliefs from a neutral perspective violated the religious freedom of the members of its community
- “Respect, tolerance and understanding are all required … however, ensuring that all viewpoints are regarded as equally credible or worthy of belief would require a degree of disconnect from, and suppression of, Loyola’s own religious perspective and that is incompatible with freedom of religion.”
- “A secular state respects religious differences, it does not seek to extinguish them.”
Although the majority opinion didn’t directly rule on communal religious rights the minority wrote:
- “The individual and collective aspects of freedom of religion are indissolubly intertwined.”
- “The communal character of religion means that protecting the religious freedom of individuals requires protecting the religious freedom of religious organizations, including religious educational bodies such as Loyola.”
As an intervener, the EFC had argued that provinces must respect the religious beliefs of students, parents, teachers and their communities. “The EFC is pleased to see the Court affirm ‘that an essential ingredient of the vitality of a religious community is the ability of its members to pass on their beliefs to their children, whether through instruction in the home or participation in communal institutions’,” says Clemenger. “The blanket refusal of Quebec to allow exemptions and to compel religious schools to teach curriculum in a way that violated their religious beliefs has been found unconstitutional.”
The Loyola case resulted from a Quebec Ministry of Education requirement, beginning in the school year 2008-2009, that all school instruction in the Province of Quebec include the Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) curriculum. 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 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 a Roman Catholic perspective (also including the perspectives of non-Catholic major thinkers and viewpoints). The Quebec Ministry of Education declined to grant an exemption.
For more information or an interview contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(613) 233-9868 x332