Secular Schools

Humanism has a long commitment to everyone's right to an education free from indoctrination. Our commitment to secularism says that we support everyone's freedom to believe and practice their faith or not and that the government should not endorse or inhibit any belief.

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 70% of British Columbians oppose government funds going to private religious schools and over 80% do not want public schools to encourage students to practice a specific religion.

Following our campaigning, public school districts from Abbotsford to the Cariboo have ended the longstanding practice of distributing Gideon Bibles to students. This is an improper use of public resources to push one religious worldview onto students.

Yet we have heard from parents and teachers, that Christianity continues to be privileged in some public schools in BC. 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, an 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.

Meanwhile, as our public schools become increasingly multicultural and as we work toward reconciliation with indigenous communities, we anticipate there will be challenges to navigate ensuring that every student's freedom of, and freedom from, religion is respected.

Finally, we oppose the continued funding of sectarian 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.

We also support efforts to work toward one, secular school system in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Do you support our work? Donate to the Secular Schools campaign.

Latest news


Religious conservatives vs SOGI education in Langley

The BC Humanist Association today wrote in support of the SOGI 123 resources being adopted by the Langley School Board. SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity and was created for BC teachers in partnership with the Ministry of Education, the BC Teachers Federation, nine school districts and Out...

Bible classes in schools can lead to strife among neighbours

By Frank S. Ravitch, Professor of Law & Walter H. Stowers Chair of Law and Religion, Michigan State University A federal lawsuit was filed recently against the Mercer County, West Virginia Board of Education, challenging a Bible program in the elementary schools. The plaintiffs are the Freedom From Religion Foundation and two parents and...

Can more religion in schools be a path to secularism?

In a blog post and coverage in the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) Chair Michael Janz is asking whether his schools should be able to open a Catholic Faith program. Post by edmontonjournal. I knew Janz when we were at the University of Alberta. Since being elected to the EPSB, he’s spoken...

Humanists celebrate end of Bible distribution in SD 27

The BC Humanist Association (BCHA) joins teachers and the President of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers' Association (CCTA) in celebrating School District No 27 decision to end its policy of distributing Gideon Bibles to grade 5 students in the district. In a phone call in response to the BCHA, SD 27 confirmed...

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...

See more secular schools posts.



Created with NationBuilder Creative Commons License