TORONTO (JTA) — Jewish and Catholic parents in Quebec have gone to court to challenge a government ban on religious instruction in government-subsidized day care programs.
In a legal challenge filed Tuesday, the parents say that the province’s policy violates their rights to freedom of religion guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Under the new rules, which came into effect June 1, subsidized day care centers may celebrate cultural aspects of religious holidays, but may not teach "a belief, a dogma or the practice of a specific religion."
Teaching religious songs will be off limits, as will crafts with a religious connotation.
Sandy Jesion, a plaintiff in the case whose daughter attends a subsidized Jewish daycare in Montreal, told the National Post newspaper that the Bible’s story about the flood "is not a problem, but the fact that God spoke to Noah and told him to build the Ark is religious, and under the directive, you can’t do that.”
The directives are especially troublesome for Jews, said Danielle Sabbah, president of the Association of Child Care Centres of the Jewish Community, representing 17 day care centers serving 3,000 children.
"The problem is that in the Jewish religion, traditions, culture and the religious aspect are mixed together," Sabbah told the Montreal Gazette. She said that Jewish children could be told the Biblical story of Moses but not about the 10 plagues inflicted on Egypt. "We cannot have anything that mention miracles or acts of God," she said.
The policy would leave it up to inspectors to determine when the line between culture and religion is crossed.