Who Gets to Educate Our Children?
Christian schools are one of the great blessings we enjoy. They educate our children in accordance with the Reformed faith taught in the homes and in church. In this way, parents assert their God-given right to educate their children in the fear of his name. Yes, this is a God-given right and obligation that no one can take away from them. Parents are to impress God's will and ways upon their children.
Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Deuteronomy 6:7; also, e.g., 4:9-10.
Parents are to "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). After all, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverb 1:7). This comprehensive claim means that all subjects of inquiry should be taught from a biblical world-view. Only then is true knowledge possible. To that end, parents use Christian schools. It is their God-given right.
One would think that such a basic right would be readily understood as natural and fair. The children belong to the parents and not to the state. However, at the moment the prerogative of parents to educate their children as they wish is under judicial threat in Canada with possible farreaching consequences also for Christian schools.
The Loyola Case – Some Background
Back in 2008 the Quebec Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sport mandated that beginning with the 2008-2009 academic year all students in the province must take a course called "Ethics and Religious Culture." 1This program runs from grade one to the end of high school and deals in a supposedly neutral way with world religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, aboriginal spirituality, and even atheism. According to legal provisions in place, Loyola High School in Montreal applied for an exemption from this course and requested that the school be allowed to teach all the competencies, content, and goals of the program using a structure and methodology that was more in keeping with its Jesuit and Roman Catholic identity. Many of these educational exemptions are granted each year. The Minister however refused this request and informed Loyola that the program could not be taught from a confessional (Roman Catholic) perspective.
As a result Loyola took the matter to Quebec Superior Court which sided with the school. This court concluded on June 18, 2010 that the decision to refuse Loyola's request was invalid because it assumed that a confessional program could not achieve the goals proposed by the Ministry program. Loyola was free to teach its own version of the course. However, the Quebec government appealed and the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the Superior Court's ruling in a judgment issued on December 4, 2012. On February 1, 2013, Loyola then turned to the Supreme Court of Canada seeking permission to appeal this latest ruling. On June 13, 2013, this court granted the school this permission and it will hear this case on April 24, 2014.
The Issues at Stake
This is an extremely important case. Loyola, a privately funded Roman Catholic school, rightly contends that their religious freedom was violated when the Quebec ministry imposed on the school a pedagogy, a manner of teaching this course, that was against its principles. The Quebec Attorney General has gone on public record saying that religious institutions such as Loyola do not even enjoy freedom of religion. Only individuals have this freedom. Therefore, in the view of the Attorney General, the state can restrict the religious practice and belief of such institutions as much as it wishes.
It is obvious that if this type of thinking receives official legal standing in Canada then also the freedom of Reformed schools to teach according to biblical principles and worldview is at risk. Andre Schutten, the legal counsel of the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA), has noted that:
With this ruling, the Court set a precedent whereby the government can compel any school (including unfunded Reformed schools!) to set aside its religious beliefs and values in order to teach certain subjects. Can you imagine our Christian teachers having to teach covenant children that the Islamic, Buddhist, or Wiccan worldviews are as acceptable as the Christian worldview? Or can you imagine our teachers discussing ethics and morals (not just ethics in business or politics, but in social and legal issues as well, such as abortion or homosexuality) from a position that is "religiously neutral"? Perhaps this is too strange to imagine, but that is what this case stands for ... for now. 2
Homeschoolers will also be Affected
Because so much is at stake, ARPA has set plans in motion to lead an intervention at the Supreme Court to argue for the principle that governments must recognize the paramount role of parents in the education of their children, especially in subjects such as religion, ethics, and sexuality. ARPA is working with Christian schools in this intervention. As a Reformed community we need to stand up for our God-given right and responsibility to educate our children according to his will and in the fear of his name. Please make this a matter of prayer that ARPA may be allowed to intervene at the Supreme Court and that this court will uphold parental rights in education and will protect our freedom of religion from the increasingly long grasp of the state that wants more and more power. Also, if you have not already done so, consider contributing to ARPA by getting involved locally or by contributing financially. Their excellent website will help you get going!
The events in Quebec show that we cannot take our current freedoms for granted when it comes to educating our children. We must be very vigilant against any government that is eager to take over the parental task. Recent news out of Germany shows what could happen.
A German Nightmare
Early Thursday morning, August 29, 2013, a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family's residence near Darmstadt, Germany, forcibly removing all four of the family's children (ages 7-14). The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.
This report from the Home School Legal Defense Association website also tells us that the children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children "anytime soon."
The legal basis for this action is a law from the time of Hitler who introduced criminal penalties for failing to send children to school. He wanted to claim the children and so mould and indoctrinate them according to his Nazi designs. According to legal counsel Daniel Blomberg, this law is now being enforced "to forcibly conform German children into government-approved cookie-cutter citizens, regardless of their religious heritage, and in fact precisely to destroy their religious heritage."3
Who would have thought that this flagrant abuse of state power was possible in Western Europe? And yet it is happening today.
But this statism is also found closer to home. Just south of the border, the Obama administration refuses to grant asylum to the homeschooling Romeike family with their five children. (They have six now.) They had fled persecution from their homeland, Germany, in order to have the freedom to educate their children according to their Christian convictions. But the current American administration wants them deported. Should that happen, they will then face the horrors that the Wunderlich family have gone through.
The tendency in our days is for the state to assert more and more control over its citizens in all areas of life. This is particularly troublesome in education when the government directs how certain courses are to be taught in all schools, whether publicly or privately funded, even if Christian parents find the mandated so-called neutral approach objectionable and against their cherished beliefs. The events in Quebec show that also in our country there are government circles that are determined to mould children after their preferred image and in this way to shape the future population of the province. Christians especially should resist with all the resources available to them the grasping of the state for this type of totalitarian control and social engineering. The children belong to the parents and not the state. May the work of ARPA and others who are active in this area be blessed. May our country be spared the current German horror.