Secular Schools

Schools should be free from religious indoctrination and should welcome students of all faiths and none. This is consistent with Section 76 of the BC School Act, which states that all BC public schools “must be conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles”, and court rulings across Canada that have found mandatory religious exercises violate Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our polling has found that nearly three-quarters of British Columbians do not want public schools to encourage students to practice a specific religion.

Abbotsford School District (SD 34) maintains the practice of distributing Gideon Bibles to students. We believe that this is an improper use of public resources to push one religious worldview onto students. The current policy in the districts permits the distribution of religious materials but this privilege is used only by Protestant Christians. Such a policy discriminates against smaller religions and shields students from those worldviews that do not proselytize. We are seeking to have this policy repealed.

From parents and teachers, we have heard that other public schools in BC continue to promote Christianity. For example, one elementary school requires all students to perform religious Christmas carols during their annual concert, which is held at a local church. In another case, the annual Spring Break concert focuses exclusively on Bible stories. Finally, some parents have expressed concern about the quality of teaching of evolution in high school biology due to strong creationist influences. In each of these cases, people are afraid to speak out for what they believe in due to potential social backlash from their communities.

Finally, we oppose the continued funding of religious independent schools. These schools receive up to 50% of the per-student funding of local public schools, yet are able to discriminate against students and staff who do not subscribe to the school's religious beliefs. For example, Pacific Academy in Surrey receives nearly $6 million in public funding yet prioritizes registrations for students who speak in tongues. In another case, Little Flower Academy, a Catholic independent school in Vancouver, refused to renew the contract of one teacher when they learned she was a lesbian. Defenders of the independent school system cite choice, but these schools provide no choice for students or teachers who are not wealthy, heterosexual, and Christian. British Columbia should not be funding segregated religious indoctrination.

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Latest news


On First Nations ceremonies in BC classrooms

The BC Humanist Association affirms that in a secular country like Canada, the state has a clear duty of religious neutrality, meaning it must neither endorse nor prohibit any belief or non-belief. As part of our Secular Schools campaign, we have fought against the distribution of Gideon Bibles in public schools as...

BC Government to require all schools to protect LGBTQ students

Echoing calls by the BC Humanist Association last week, Education Minister Mike Bernier announced yesterday that all public and independent schools in BC will have to make explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policies. Districts have been given until the end of the year to...

Will BC stand up for LGBTQ rights in religious schools?

Update (Sep 8, 2016): The Minister of Education has announced that all public and independent BC schools will now have to include specific protections for LGBTQ students in anti-bullying policies. The BC Humanist Association wrote to BC's Minister of Education today to ask whether BC's government is willing to show a...

Bible distribution ends in Abbotsford School District

Following a request by the British Columbia Humanist Association in March, Abbotsford School District Superintendent Kevin Godden has confirmed that “the district will no longer distribute the Gideon Bible or other religious materials to students.” The District has maintained a policy of distributing materials from external groups, including Gideon Bibles,...

Religious and Secular Attitudes 2016

Update (Aug 22, 2016): You can download the full results here. Seven in ten British Columbians are non-religious and over a quarter don’t believe in a higher power according to a new poll by Insights West commissioned by the BC Humanist Association. This is an increase from the 64% of people...

Humanists to Abbotsford superintendent: End bible distribution or permit atheist comics

In a letter to the superintendent of the Abbotsford School District during spring break, the BC Humanist Association (BCHA) called for the distribution of Gideon Bibles and other religious materials in public schools be stopped.  The BCHA calls the practice unconstitutional and in violation of the BC School Act. Each year...

Schools need to do more to improve children’s religious literacy

Editor's note: This article is specific to religion in the British education system. For information about the state of religion in British Columbia's education system, see our Secular Schools campaign. By Tariq Modood, University of Bristol British society is in serious need of higher levels of religious literacy. The potential for misunderstanding,...

Fighting for secular schools in small town Saskatchewan

Robert McMann gave us permission to share this story about challenging an attempt to insert prayers into schools by the Lloydminister Public School Board in Saskatchewan. My story has to do with the prayer in public schools conversations, debates, rage, et al that was being discussed here around a month...

Bishop pressures parents to overrule students' rights to HPV vaccine

A Bishop has told parents that Prince George Catholic Schools will not obey government rules that allow students to consent to getting the HPV vaccine. Rev Stephen Jensen also tells parents "abstinence is the only healthy choice." The warnings came in a letter from the Bishop that was attached to HPV...

Low HPV vaccination rates in Fraser Health region highlight danger of religious influence on BC schools

Several Christian schools have the lowest HPV vaccination rates among their Grade 9 students in the Fraser Health region, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun. The Sun obtained vaccination records for schools in the region which covers Burnaby to Hope. Just 61% of Grade 9 girls received the vaccine in...

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