Support Secularism in Chilliwack Schools

Controversy has erupted in Chilliwack after Richard Ajabu protested his school board’s policy that explicitly permits the distribution of Gideon Bibles to Grade 5 children (with permission slips produced by the Gideons).

The Board recently reviewed the policy in a closed-door meeting and decided to uphold it.

I put on a press release yesterday evening, stating that the BC Humanists consider this policy to be discriminatory and it should be immediately revoked.

Update: The Chilliwack Times does not have an editorial board.

See the permission slip given to parents on the right (click to enlarge).

The Chilliwack Times Editorial Board published an unsigned editorial against the distribution of the Bibles and published one supportive letter (on the 23rd).

However, the Times has just published a wave of pro-Bible letters, some of which are quite antagonistic (and some quite racist comments that assume Richard is an immigrant and visible minority due to his surname Ajabu) toward Richard. See the following (there’s quite a few), with choice quotes.

What are we so afraid of?

Have to ban everything

let’s be fair, our children have almost been forced over the years to attend native Canadian ceremonies and religious incantations.

Live by our standards

[Muslims, Sikhs and other religious people] chose to come to this country. I don’t remember inviting them, but that is not what we’re talking about. When you come to another country you live by their standards, and if by chance you don’t happen to agree or like what is happening, well you have to live with that or go back to your own country.

Bible ban just stokes the fire

Go back to your original home

Why is this irritating Mr Ajabu’s mind? I must say, that Hindu, Muslim, etc. rituals are irritating Christian minds as well.

Christians developed this country, not Hindus, Muslims, etc.

Mr. Ajabu has only one honest solution: Go back to his home country, practice his religion over there.

Doesn’t sound like tolerance

I am happy that we are predominantly a Christian nation and that Gideon Bibles are still presented in some schools. This does not make me intolerant towards other faiths and cultures but rather reinforces the strength of our culture which has made room for them.

Richard is feeling justifiably discouraged by his community, so I’d encourage you to write him a personal letter of support (either leave it in the comments here or email me and I will forward it to him), and write to the Chilliwack Times (especially those of you who live in the Valley) at

Thanks for your support in this campaign. We stand united against Christian bigotry in favour of a secular, pluralistic society.


Ian Bushfield
Executive Director
BC Humanist Association

If you support the work that the BC Humanist Association is doing, please consider making a tax-deductible donation through

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BC Humanist Association
400 – 3381 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4R3

Comments on: "Support Secularism in Chilliwack Schools" (28)

  1. I think our education system needs to spend a lot more time teaching what “secular” actually means and driving home the fact that Canada is a secular nation. I am encouraged by Canadians like Richard, who stand up to would-be theocrats in the face of ignorance and hate.

  2. Donna Williams said:

    Dear Mr. Ajabu,

    I wanted to take a moment to commend you for speaking up against the distribution of the Gideon’s Bibles in your School District. What they are doing is wrong, and against the BC School Act. It took a lot of courage for you to bring this up publicly, and I support you 100% for doing so.
    I am an Elementary School teacher, and a parent of two boys. If I had been placed in your position, I would have done the same. I have already spoken against opening prayers at our Professional Development school events. Some things need to be kept secular, and educational events are one of them. We all come from different backgrounds.
    It is everyone’s right to have their religion or no religion, but that is not the argument here. It is the preference of one over many. I saw a copy of the pamphlet that was distributed, and agree that it is definitely promoting Christianity.

    Anyway, keep your head up and I hope you are able to feel good about bringing this to the attention of the media. I thank you!!!


    Donna Williams

  3. Dear Mr. Ajabu
    What has happened in Chilliwack is a travesty and a clear violation of the rights of every citizen. I am amazed the BC Department of Education has allowed this to take place anywhere in any school. Thank you for showing the courage to bring this to light and for your bravery in enduring the incredible racist comments coming at you from the loving christian community. It is at times like this that they show their true colours. If there is anything we can do to assist you please let us know.
    Best Regards
    Bill Ligertwood
    Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought

  4. Peter Northcott said:

    Dear Mr. Ajabu:
    Well done!

    As a retired teacher, I agree that religious proselytising in our public schools is wrong. Public schools, free of religious indoctrination are key to the development of a pluralistic society, where freedom of religion and freedom from religion are valued.

    Have you approached the Chilliwack Teachers’ Union (Association?) on this subject? You might find teachers prepared to join you in your initiative.

    Peter Northcott

  5. […] he has support from our community. So if you’d like to write him a note, just leave it at Ian’s site, email him directly, or write to the Chilliwack […]

  6. […] he has support from our community. So if you’d like to write him a note, just leave it at Ian’s site, email him directly, or write to the Chilliwack Times.(via British Columbia Humanist Association) […]

  7. Shawnee Rios said:

    Mr. Ajabu,

    Thank you for standing up for what is right and fair in your local school district. The hate you are receiving is no more than Christian love and their belief that they have more rights than anyone else. You give us all hope that one day their force of religion will be met with a steel wall and a community that is no longer afraid to say “Enough is enough!” Children should be able to attend school without having someone else’s belief forced down their throats. Again, thank you!

    Shawnee Rios

  8. Richard you are doing what is right. i’m sorry you live in a place where that is considered legal… I Live in the States… i assumed canada has a separation of church and state

    may the flying spaghetti monsters not protect you or grant you any wishes ( but i hope the court system will side in your favor if you decide to push the issue further)

  9. William Steele said:

    I take heart whenever I hear of someone like you, Richard Ajabu. Thank you for taking the time and effort to oppose this ridiculous backwards looking policy in Chilliwack.

  10. J.C. Samuelson said:

    Mr. Ajabu,

    Thank you for taking a stand. It’s unfortunate that the road less traveled is the one guided by sound principles, but you are on that road, and as a result I am encouraged.

    You are not alone in this. We are with you.

  11. I have no problem with people handing out their religious stories so long as they publicly proclaim that the stories are humanly produced fiction and that there is no evidence that their god exists. Otherwise take your iron age beliefs back to your cave.
    Well done to everyone who stands up to these fanatics.

  12. L Stevenson said:

    Mr Ajabu,

    What I love about Canada and BC is its openness to all ideals and beliefs. That’s why reading about your efforts in Chilliwack and the backlash you’ve received is sad, disgusting, and disheartening. Canada seems to pride itself on the fact that it’s not like America, and yet here we see the same close-minded intolerance from other members in your community.

    I support your efforts. I support your message. I hope that you will not take the negative response to heart and know that there are a great many people standing behind you in this.

    Keep up the good fight!

  13. Kim Mcardle said:

    I am 5th generation Canadian. I am an agnostic atheist and a secular humanist. I’m not sure where exactly these people would like me to go home to. Thankyou for putting up a fight.
    @kimmcardle Zetetica on twitter

  14. K Sawatzky said:

    I’m a BC resident and I just wanted to say to Mr. Ajabu that I support him in his struggle to stop the Gideons proselytizing at our elementary schools. Furthermore, I want to apologize to him for a bunch of white, redneck hicks’ comments that attempt to make him feel unwelcome. I have no idea when his family came to Canada (was it last year or 10,000 years ago?) nor do I care. He has a right to protect his daughter (and stand up for all children) from all of this. I wish him good luck and strength.

  15. […] BCHA is also passing along words of encouragement for Mr. Ajabu, and I encourage you to add your voice. This is a man who has faced the scorn of his […]

  16. […] Ajabu  by signing this petition, and by emailing words of encouragement to Mr. Ajabu through the BC Humanist Association […]

  17. John Spraggs said:

    I’m only a 3rd generation Canadian and I see no reason to favour one faith over all others and no faith at all. It embarrasses me to see our religious racists showing their intolerance like this.

    They act as if the existence of people who do not believe their particular myths is an affront to them personally. In a way it just shows how difficult it is to for them to dismiss their own doubts.

    Take heart, Mr. Abaju, and thank you for speaking up.

  18. I support you in your “crusade” to uphold a secular society. Religion poisons everything. Here’s to a future where logic and reason reign supreme.

  19. Kathy Cruickshank said:

    Thank you Richard for speaking up. I can’t believe this is still an issue and I can’t believe that we’re still talking about this. Please keep this issue in the media and we will do what we can to support you. So much for religious freedom or freedom from religion.

  20. KJ Vandenberg said:

    Mr. Ajabu,

    Based on the letters to the Editor in the Chilliwack Times, one could easily assume that you have no support in the Chilliwack area. Please understand that there are many of us who do support you, and it was unfortunate that the letters did not come out from both sides of this issue. I suspect that it is because when the issue first came to light, the paper printed some very well-written arguments in your favour and perhaps we simply assumed it didn’t need any further discussion, since it seemed so obvious (to me at least) that you were right. While the school board’s decision to keep the status-quo upset me, it completely disheartened me to see the ignorant and bigoted remarks directed at you in the paper. I understand that you’re not interested in fighting, and if my family was the one threatened or bullied, I would feel the same way. I just want you and your family to know that you are not alone, and there are many of us that support you, and regardless of your religious or cultural views, consider you a true Canadian, since this country is a great multicultural nation!

  21. Dale MacDougall said:

    Richard, don’t despair. You are correct and you have the support of many people. It shames and embarrasses to see such comments and behaviour from Canadians.

    I currently live in the southern US and I’m used to seeing the religiously intolerant attack people who have common sense but it saddens me to see it happen in Canada. I expect better of my home and native land.

    Keep up the good fight.

  22. Richard – Keep your head up and stay strong. There are alot of people supporting you and rooting for your success.

    Aaron Arnold – Quincy, Illinois USA

  23. Tim Andersen said:

    Richard-I commend you for having the fortitude to stand up for what is right.My daughter just started kindergarten in Sardis Elementary and I was shocked and almost sick to my stomach to hear the people in charge of educating our children are sending religous propaganda home with them.School is for learning,not brainwashing.Its time for Chilliwack to evolve.

  24. Darwin Toivo said:

    A nod to you Mr. Ajabu for your willingness to stand against the tide. It’s funny that they chose to give out Gideon bibles to fifth graders. I mean Gideon in the book of Judges chapters 6 to 9 reportedly murdered thousands for worshiping “false gods” like Baal. I say reportedly because thankfully there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of Gideon. However there is a great archeological site in Lebanon dedicated to Baal called Baalbek that I highly recommend everyone to visit when things you know calm down in the Middle East!! (Not likely to be anytime soon)

  25. Ray Blessin said:

    Mr. Ajabu,

    I am reminded of a sign carried by more than one person demonstrating against the movement to restrict women’s access to medical procedures – It works for this as well.


    Stay strong Richard.

  26. I stand with you. As a former student, and now parent, in the Abbotsford school district I feel your pain. People need to know that some religious teachers display outright bias against students whom they know are not religious. There is an underlying fear of certain teachers finding out such things about my children. It exists, I see it and hear it. My children keep tight lipped on our family’s choice to opt out of religion, so as not to become blacklisted. Lets move forward.

  27. Norm Keller said:

    I believe that much of the support for distribution of religious materials in schools come from those who believe that their religion is a good influence. Setting aside whether this is correct, it is very difficult to engage these people in considering that others may have grounds to disagree. Without the perception of valid grounds for the other side of an issue, there will be no desire to find accomodation.

    Those whose ox is doing the goring at present in terms of dominating any issue generally fail to appreciate that this may be a temporary condition, following which their own interests may suffer more than has been gained.

    The US founding fathers placed separation of church and state into their constitution because this was prevalent in the original states at the time of the development of the US Constitution.

    Of course those who believe that the instructions of the all knowing god are wispered into their ear are unlikely to accept other views. No sarcasm is intended in this statement as, if true that a god is instructing these people, it would be base insanity for them to proceed in a different manner. We differ as to which god, what is the message, and/or whether a god is involved.

    Find a resolution here?

  28. Mr. Ajabu

    Allow me, along with so many others, to apologize for the rude, racist and hateful comments that have been unfairly directed at you by the many christian zealots!

    These intolerant (and intolerable) christian jihadists, simply and sadly, cannot allow the rest of us to live our lives as each of us chooses, but rather, insist…make that, demand…that we live our lives according to their archaic, fossilized superstitions.

    No longer mere christian solders, they have proudly radicalized into christian stormtroopers! Forcing, demanding, threatening that everyone must embrace such pathetically hateful nonsense!

    Such vicious proselytizing in public schools, in any country, among any people, under the guise of any religion, is quite simply…child abuse!

    I live in the American South, where it is (probably) even more extreme, where any lack of absolutely fanatical faith is grounds for total ostracization…or worse! I suppose, in both of our great countries, we have been infected with a most hideous disease; that of faith versus fact, of belief versus reason, of dogma versus truth. How sad in this day and time…especially among supposedly intelligent people.

    Fortunately, there are many kind, thoughtful, intelligent, freethinking folks rushing to your defense, as we should. I can only hope that I would have the courage to have stood up, as you have done.

    I salute you, Sir!

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