There has been an on-going debate in Alberta about the Lord’s Prayer and I wrote about it some time ago. Recently, parents in Busby, Alberta voted to keep the Christian prayer in the public classroom. To me this is preposterous – not because I’m an atheist and secularist, but because one cannot simply vote away one’s rights. In other words, everyone has freedom of conscience and religion so it would follow that the state cannot favour one religion over others or force religion on unbelievers. It is not possible to remove this right so the vote has no meaning.
In this CTV discussion with Luke Fevin, founder of A PUPIL – Alberta Parents for Unbiased Public Inclusive Learning and David Garbutt, Assistant Superintendent of Pembina School Division, Luke Fevin points out that keeping the Lord’s Prayer in the public classroom denies the fundamental Canadian right of freedom of/from religion and likens voting on such a thing to voting on whether some students can use a school water fountain or not. He also points out that people with minority beliefs (or unbeliefs) feel coerced and stigmatized, which means a vote is never really representative of how people feel. Not really getting his point, Mr. Garbutt suggested that those who felt threatened should call the RCMP (kind of the opposite of what a coerced person would want to do). Mr Garbutt also suggested that there could be a special room for the students to go to if they wanted to be led in prayer – clearly he doesn’t understand that the kids who don’t go into this special room will be stigmatized and coerced to conform to the majority; this is no solution.
I can appreciate the Assistant Superintendent’s position: he needs to address the concerns of everyone and he is bound by old legislation (Alberta’s School Act) that specifically permits the Lord’s Prayer in Alberta Classrooms) but why not make things simple and allow a moment of silence in which one can say the Lord’s Prayer, another prayer, or sit in quiet contemplation? After all, as Luke Fevin pointed out, these acts are from a century ago. A century ago, women weren’t considered people (in the legal sense) and you had to be a property owner to vote. Canada has changed, and for the better so it’s time to get with the 21st Century in Alberta and accept what the Human Rights tribunal in Saskatchewan found – forcing the Lord’s Prayer is constitutionally unsound.