Quebec parents seek choice on religious education

  • October 30, 2008
{mosimage}MONTREAL - Close to three-quarters of Quebec parents want the right to choose between a secular Ethics and Religious Culture program and denominational religious instruction for their children, suggests a new poll.

The poll by Leger Marketing on behalf of the Catholic Parents Association of Quebec was released Oct. 28. It found that 72 per cent of those surveyed agreed that parents should have a choice between denominational religious instruction and the new non-denominational course all Quebec schools — public and private — are being told to provide for students.
Among those without children, 68 per cent agree with being given the choice, said a press release containing the poll results.

The requirement that children be taught the Ethics and Religious Culture program has generated considerable debate in Quebec. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, has argued that the course treats Catholicism — the historical religion of Quebeckers — as being on par with every other faith. He added that the course deals with religion solely on an academic level and does nothing to instil virtues in the students.

There are at least two legal challenges to the provincially mandated course, which schools began teaching this fall. Loyola High School in Montreal is taking the Quebec education minister, Michelle Courchesne, to court for denying the private school an exemption from the religious culture program. In Drummondville, a group of parents is taking the local school board to court for refusing to allow the parents’ children to be exempted from the course.

The Leger survey also showed that 26 per cent of those polled do not think parents should have a choice over religious education. Another five per cent expressed no opinion.

Jean Morse-Chevrier, president of the Catholic Parents Association, said in a press release that she was “pleased that people agree that parents should be able to choose a religious and moral instruction course for their children at school which does not conflict with their own faith.”

She added that, “the simplest way to answer the diversity of opinions about this course is to follow the collective wisdom expressed in this survey and to also allow denominational religious and moral instruction in schools.”

The survey also found that young people (aged 25 to 34) favoured a choice in religious instruction by 80 per cent. For those older than 34, the proportion in favour ranges from 66 per cent to 73. There was also a gap in attitude between francophones and non-francophones, with 71 per cent of the former in favour of choice for religious instruction and 63 per cent of the latter favouring choice.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 9 and Oct. 14 with 1,076 people. The margin of error was 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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