OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments pitting parental rights in the education of their children against Quebec's mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture program.

The case has raised alarms across Canada among Catholic educators, who fear that relativism is threatening the right to a truly Catholic education.

The Ethics and Religious Culture program has replaced religious education in all Quebec schools, public as well as private, and is compulsory.

If parental rights are impeded, "that impinges on the rights to have a Catholic education," said John Stunt, executive director of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees' Association.

The association is one of seven interveners in the case brought against the Quebec government by a Catholic couple from Drummondville, who requested their two children be exempted from the program.

Mark Phillips, one of the two lawyers representing the parents, told the court the government insists the program is "about teaching tolerance and diversity."

In an interview after the court hearing May 18, Phillips said the parents have nothing against those objectives. But they fear the course is "a form of indoctrination" seeking to cultivate a worldview and a framework for ethics different from their Catholic faith.