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No prayers in Saskatoon schools.

Saskatoon -- On July 27, retired Judge Ken Halvorson--acting as head of a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission panel--ruled that the practice in Saskatoon's schools of beginning the school day with the Lord's Prayer was contrary to the Charter of Rights. The Saskatchewan Act of 1905 established the religious nature of the schools; the province's Education Act authorized the use of the Lord's Prayer or Bible readings; but the judge declared that the Charter ruled them out.

Nine Saskatoon parents filed the complaint which initiated the action nine years ago; one of them, Carl von Baeyer, a clinical psychologist at the University of Saskatchewan, is a Unitarian who believes in "tolerance" and "religious freedom". The decision, he said, brings the province into the 20th century and reflects a new, more diverse reality.

The objector who had the biggest impact was Karen Mock, national director for the Jewish League of Human Rights of B 'Nai Brith Canada. In accord with the secular Jewish objections to Christian symbols in public places everywhere, she objected to the practice of reciting the prayer in public schools as "offensive from the point of view of an educator, a psychologist, and from a human rights perspective." Thereupon the judge suggested that non-Christian students forced to endure the Lord's Prayer could suffer so much damage to their self-esteem that it might provoke an "identity crisis".

In the August 16 edition of the weekly newsmagazine Western Report, Nathan Greenfield ridiculed Karen Mock's ideas as Halvorson expanded on them. Not even human rights lawyers, Greenfield said, have found ways for the state to nurture such subjective psychological states as "self-esteem" or "identity". But now Halvorson has enshrined them into law; henceforth French-Canadians will want Montcalm's defeat forgotten, the Metis will object to references to Riel's mental instability, and kids who have their English grammar corrected will complain to the Human Rights Commission.

Moreover, the judge said, "Even the dominant group can suffer adversely [if allowed to say its prayers]. A feeling of superiority can lead to school-yard bullying, demeaning of others, and later even totalitarianism." Only a captive of political correctness, Greenfield observes, could say that reciting the Lord's Prayer might lead to totalitarianism! Didn't most of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who fought against Hitler's totalitarianism, he asked, grow up saying prayers in school?

As Greenfield points out, Halvorson did two things in his ruling. First, he interpreted the Charter's guarantee for freedom of religion also to mean freedom from religion. (Editor: See a similar judgment from Judge Mary Saunders in Surrey, B.C.; CI, Sept., '99, page 11.)

Second, he went out of his way to attack the political attitudes and morality of the 80 per cent of Canadians who continue to identify themselves as Christians.

We certainly need to pray for better judges. Meanwhile, let Saskatonians reject the ruling and continue to pray.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CSAS
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Previous Article:Fr. Paul Marx retires.
Next Article:Canadians and population.

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