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Quebec Court Backs Parents’ Choice of Religious Education for Children

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The parent’s right “to give his children the religious education of his choice, as well as the liberty of conscience, is prior to positive law,” the Quebec Court of Appeals has ruled in a reversal of a lower court decision involving religious teaching in the schools.

The decision was of special interest to the Jewish community since, under Quebec school law, the religious majority group in any school district has responsibility for education of all school-age children in its district. In the case that the high court acted upon, children of a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been ordered to leave a Roman Catholic school after they had refused to take part in religious instruction and practice. The father applied to the courts for an order requiring the school to readmit the children and exempt them from religious instruction.

The Superior Court at Ames rejected this application, holding that religious instruction was part of the school curriculum and must be taken by all students. The Court of Appeals reversed this ruling and granted the father’s application by a six to one decision.

Three of the justices called for amendment of the regulations governing the Quebec Roman Catholic schools since they contain no dispensation for religious training of non-Catholics who attend schools under Roman Catholic boards. They said the Roman Catholic Committee, in making these regulations “exceeded the powers given to that committee under the Act.”

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