September 25, 2011

Mandatory School Prayer in Alberta

AlbertaLike many secular progressives in the U.S., I look upon Canada with some measure of envy. They provide health care to all their citizens, while we still have families joining the ranks of the poor due to excessive health care costs. The Canadian cities I've visited were so much cleaner and felt so much safer than U.S. cities of comparable size. And of course, the Christian extremist menace which afflicts much of the U.S. seems far more scarce there. And yet, Canadian atheists will tell you that while many things may be better, some challenges remain.

Luke Fevin is an atheist living in St. Albert, Alberta, with his wife and three children. After finding what seemed like an ideal school for his children, Fevin discovered a surprising problem with Sturgeon Heights school and the rest of the schools in the Sturgeon School Division. From the Edmonton Journal:
At Sturgeon Heights, they began every morning with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer over the intercom. Even if non-Christian families wanted to opt out, they couldn’t, since the prayer was piped throughout the school. For Fevin, that wasn’t acceptable. He’d enrolled his kids at Sturgeon Heights on the understanding it was a secular school. No one, he says, had told him about the prayer policy. So last year, he began an effort to get it changed, not just for his kids, but for every family that might not feel brave enough to oppose long-established tradition.
According to the school's principal, Garnet Goertzen, the reason this public school begins each day with an explicitly Christian prayer is simple: they've always done so. Sound familiar?

The good news is that Goertzen suspended the morning prayer at Sturgeon. The bad news is that promoting Christianity with taxpayer dollars appears to be an explicit part of the Sturgeon School Division's policy, a policy which is now under review thanks to Fevin's complaint.

It is good to see someone like Luke Fevin willing to take on the system for the welfare of his family and countless others who fear consequences for speaking out. Speaking out in the face of injustice is never going to be easy, but that does not make it any less important.

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