Public Funding of Faith Based Schools

With the provincial election just a few weeks away, the question of public funding of faith based schools is again a major issue. John Tory, leader of the opposition Progressive Conservative Party has promised, if elected, to initiate such a plan - a rather obvious effort to attract the vote of Ontario's large and diverse group of ethnic minorities. He is supported by lobbying groups, principally Jewish and Muslim some of which, surprisingly, are working in coalition.

Although faith based schools enjoy tax exempt status, currently only Roman Catholic separate schools are fully funded, a policy dating back to the British North America act, Canada's founding document, of 1867 to protect the Catholic community from Ontario's Protestant majority that Confederation established in Ontario. This is seen by minority religious faiths as unfair and. indeed, Canada's policy has been condemned by the U.N. Human Rights Committee as unfair as well. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the funding of Catholic schools only does not represent a breach of equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedom. Therefore, Mr. Tory's proposal is not constitutionally mandated.

However, despite the Supreme Court's decision the status quo is inherently unfair. Conditions have changed since 1867 when the only religions in the country were Protestantism and Catholicism. Today, by definition, Canada is a multicultural country. Toronto has been designated, again by the U.N., as the most multicultural city in the world. Fortunately, there are two obvious directions to take to address the problem of unfairness - fund all faith based schools or fund none of them. Unfortunately, Mr. Tory has chosen the wrong direction.

While acknowledging the question of cost ($400,000,000 by Mr. Tory's own estimate) which the province can not afford and the question "Do faith based schools produce divisiveness in society? (I think they do)) there is one question that begs an answer: Should school-age children be subjected to religious instruction at all?

Psychologists and child experts have suggested that the forcing of religion on the young, impressionable and trusting mind of a school age child is akin to child abuse. In his book The God Delusion Richard Dawkins quotes psychologist Nicholas Humphrey:

"Children, I'll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas - no matter who those other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no God given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children's knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow path of their own faith"

Aptly described as a "culturally sanctioned mental disorder" religion has no place in publicly funded institutions. If it belongs anywhere, it is in the home, church, mosque or temple. The Ontario public school system offers a free education of the highest standard to all children living in the province financed by provincial taxpayers. If parents, for cultural and/or religious reasons, feel they must send their children to a faith based school, as is their right, let them pay for it.

1 comment:

BEAJ said...

Great post. I focused on a few of your points in my most recent post as well.