Religion in BC public school concerts

Going through my emails, I thought I’d share a story with you from someone who wrote to us a few months ago, concerned about religious content in a concert put on by their child’s public school. I have removed or changed any identifying information.

I am writing to you after reading your latest blog post on the Chilliwack School Board meeting. I wanted to write to you, as I am seeking a policy that requires holiday concerts and activities in our District to adhere to strictly secular principles, however I have found the whole process to be quite daunting.

I have a child who attends a local elementary school. This past winter I had concerns over a song choice for my child’s grade 4 class to sing in the annual “Christmas concert”. The song contained traditional Christian lyrics, including the words – holy night, angels, Son of God and Christ on earth.

The song choice prompted me to read over the BC School Act, which I am sure you are very familiar with, specifically section 76. It confused me how the BC School Act plainly states that “All schools and Provinvial schools must be conducted on strictly secular and nonsectarian principles” yet the school was distributing these religious lyrics and encouraging the children to sing them.
I contacted our school’s principal who stated that the majority of families in the community are Christian, therefore the school is fine with adhering to that particular religion when planning holiday concerts. That the school is not “teaching” religion, but that there is a grey area, which enables them to “participate” in religious activities.

However, by choosing traditional Christian songs, instead of songs secular in nature, the school is creating an exclusive environment for the children. An environment that does not promote religious tolerance, but that of religious superiority and exclusion. My school and district are leaving the children of other faiths or those of no faith with two options, either praise a Christian God via Christian songs, or sit out. My son chose to sit out of this years concert, which he otherwise would have liked to participate in, because he was uncomfortable with the religious song choice.

Children have the right to attend public schools in British Columbia free from religious influence and indoctrination, where their religious and non-religious views are respected, regardless if they are a minority. Creating a policy around holiday concerts would eliminate the grey area. Replacing traditional Christmas concerts with secular holiday concerts would then create an inclusive environment for future years, as British Columbia, and our district, continue to grow more diverse.

I want to thank you for the work you do on behalf of secularism. I have attached the lyrics and would appreciate any input, suggestions, or support in regards to my letter and concerns. I live in a very tight-knit religious community and frankly I am scared to take this any further on my own, as any attention would be likely be met with backlash.

This isn’t the only letter I’ve received like this and I will try to share others with you.

Our Secular Schools campaign will be continuing this fall as we seek to raise awareness of concerns like this and the desire of all parents and children to be included in their schools. Please consider donating to our campaign to help keep BC schools secular.

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