Here’s a question for you: imagine that a Muslim school in, say, the north end of Montreal won a favourable court decision to peddle a Muslim-flavoured take on moral and religious education. You know, the usual: homosexuals are evil, women should be modest, pre-marital sex is sinful, and only men can have the privilege to teach the ways of god to the flock. What do you think the reaction would be here in Quebec?
I’ll answer that for you. The province, the same one that became apoplectic when a cabane à sucre deigned to serve pork-free baked beans to a Muslim group, would go absolutely nuclear. “In Quebec, we have laws that protect the rights of the child,” the spittle-inflected Richard Martineau would probably write. (Actually, he did.) “The United Nations convention on the rights of the child, for example, affirms that children ‘must be able to express their opinions on all questions that interest and concern them…’
“But as soon as the question is religion, pffffffft, our lovely laws and nice principles go by the wayside.”
The opposition PQ would denounce the government’s inaction in the face of a nefarious, ever-creeping tide of religious theocracy within Quebec’s educational system. The ADQ would be doubly aggressive in its denunciations, linking the increased religiosity of Quebec to higher immigration rates and a loss of ‘Quebec culture’ and the decline of the French language. The Liberals, stunned as usual, would probably call some sort of commission and, hopefully, push the whole thing off till after the next election.
Here’s the funny part about the above story: it’s all true! Well, except for one little detail. Replace ‘Muslim’ with ‘Catholic’ and you have exactly what happened at Montreal’s Loyola High School.
Loyola recently won the right to exempt itself from the province’s ethics and religious course, instead relying on a course with a significant “Catholic perspective”. I have no clue what that exactly means, but this much is for sure: it will teach that homosexuals are evil, women should be modest, pre-marital sex is sinful, and only men can have the privilege to teach the ways of god to the flock.
And the reaction? Remarkably subdued. The PQ disagreed with the court ruling, but couldn’t even bother with a press release. The Liberals quietly said they would appeal the court’s decision. The ADQ, meanwhile, agreed with the judgement, and said Jean Charest’s government was being “intransigent” toward Catholics. The chattering types, meanwhile, have been surprisingly quiet on Loyola’s imposition of religiosity on its charges.
So, it’s okay to flout the province’s much-ballyhooed secularism, as long as it’s the Catholic types who are doing the flouting.