Children pray in public-school classrooms during school hours throughout Manitoba -- apparently in violation of provincial rules that the department of education says it will not enforce.
The Lord's Prayer is being read over the intercom by the principal or in classrooms by teachers.
Schools allow parent councils to organize petitions for religious exercises through the schools, and in a few cases, directly help organize them.
Parents receive yes-or-no ballots and are told they must fill in and sign forms if they do not want their children to pray in a supposedly secular school.
And there are even schools in which non-praying students are expected to stand quietly in their classrooms while their classmates recite the Lord's Prayer all around them.
Every one of these actions violates Manitoba's guidelines on religious exercises in secular public schools, says Dauphin lawyer and atheist Chris Tait.
But the province says its only recourse is to remind school divisions about guidelines -- after that, it's up to individuals to take their complaints to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission or the courts.
It was back in 1986 that Tait was suspended several times for refusing to stand during the reciting of the Lord's Prayer in his MacGregor Collegiate classroom. That led to a historic 1992 court case in which the Court of Queen's Bench struck down mandatory school prayer in Manitoba.
More than 20 Manitoba school divisions are violating the province's guidelines on religious exercises, said Tait. He filed Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act applications to school divisions and provided the results to the Free Press.
"I think it's very deliberate that they ignore (the guidelines)," Tait said. "They're on a project to push through a religious agenda. They're getting people to co-operate that aren't of the Christian faith."
Education Minister Nancy Allan declined a request to be interviewed. An aide to the minister bumped inquiries to David Yeo, director of the education administration services branch.
The province reminded school divisions of the guidelines in a meeting last fall, Yeo said.
"The issue whether prayer should exist in public schools is a controversial one. The Public Schools Act permits it," Yeo said. "Ultimately, school boards are legally autonomous entities."
When the province gets a complaint, it reminds the school division about the guidelines, but beyond that, it's up to individuals to pursue complaints with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission or with the courts, Yeo said.
"School boards have the responsibility to implement it appropriately. The recourse is to the commission," Yeo said. "At the end of the day, it's the finders of fact which can issue a remedy. That's the commission or the court."
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Manitoba atheist whines that regulations against prayer in school aren't being enforced
As usual, the lone atheist demands that everyone must conform to his desires; in the words of Vox Day, "most atheism is little more than a juvenile psychological disorder" ("Godlessness is more than a-theism," May 25, 2011). As reported by Nick Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press on June 24, 2011: