June 13, 2011

OTTAWA — Quebec’s ban on God, prayers, songs to Jesus and religious instruction in subsidized daycares discriminates against religious believers, says the Catholic Civil Rights League.

The league has expressed support for Jewish and Catholic parents who are appealing to the Quebec Superior Court on grounds the ban violates the constitution by infringing on religious freedom.

“Quebec is leaning toward suppression and discrimination against believers of any religion,” said Jean Morse-Chevrier, Quebec director for the league and chair of the Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec.

The ban is similar to Quebec’s mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture program, she said. “In effect, in the name of respect for diversity, the government is abolishing true diversity more and more in educational programs.”

The ban, announced last December, went into effect June 1. It gives broad discretionary power to nursery inspectors to determine which practices are religious and banned, and which are cultural and permitted, according to the league.

About one in 20 subsidized daycares in the province are run by religious denominations.

Those offering religious instruction or activities must phase it out or risk having their provincial subsidy suspended, reduced or cancelled altogether.

“Parents who want some religious content in daycare or nursery school pay the taxes that make Quebec’s childcare subsidy possible,” said league executive director Joanne McGarry.

“To us, this is yet another attempt by the provincial government to remove religion at all levels of public life.”

Catholic daycares run by religious sisters will no longer be allowed to sing songs to Jesus, pray to him, or even say grace together before meals.

Jewish-run daycares will not be allowed to teach about Passover or Old Testament stories such as Noah’s Ark if God is mentioned.

Though a manger scene or a Christmas tree might be allowed for cultural reasons at Christmas time, the story of Jesus’ birth may not be explained.