School Board of Toronto Suburb Seeks Changes in Teaching Religion

A new direction in the contentious issue of religion in Canadian schools is indicated by the school board of the Toronto suburb of North York which has instructed its director of education to meet with parents, teachers and clergymen to deal with the question.

Ontario law governing public schools differs from the American practice in that it provides for religious education in the schools. Canadians who seek to raise a barrier between the state and religion in the school find themselves ranged against the nation’s constitution and traditions.

The difficulty has been that Ontario Jews and many others are not satisfied with the nature of the course on religion offered in the schools, and find it too nearly Protestant in its denominational character. The law provides for Jewish parents to have their children excused from religion classes, but many find it embarrassing to take advantage of this provision.

The North York school authorities intend that an entirely new course which would meet the needs of all religious groups, and would not merely provide instruction in Protestant Christianity, should be drafted. It is for this purpose that the board had convened interested persons to assist in the drafting of such a course.

The Toronto Star came out with an article suggesting a revision of the law to drop religious education in the public schools entirely and instituting instead a course for high schools on the comparative study of religions, reasoning that by high school age children have developed some reasoning ability.

Father George Gordon, head of the English-speaking Jesuits of Canada, stated that Canadian Jews who are seeking to undermine the teaching in the schools of the universal fatherhood of God–and the practical appeal to that fatherhood–are making a “grave error.” He appealed to Jews to help in exorcising “the demon of anti-Semitism from those Christian hearts where it exists.”

He related this opinion to the recent editorial to the American Catholic magazine “America” which also warned that Jewish attempts to uproot religious teachings from the schools are bound to feed anti-Semitism. “If ‘America’ has issued a caution, isn’t it just possible that it could be a mark of true friendship?” he asked.

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