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 in Schools. It aims to promote LGBTQ-inclusive education.
Religious conservatives and activists who view the curriculum materials as part of a "political cult" have been holding rallies and targeting Langley School District specifically, despite the program being in place in districts across the province and having received support from all levels of government and across the political spectrum.
A rally in support of SOGI 123 is being organized for September 26 by Langley Parents for Inclusivity.Read more
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 their children. One parent and both children have kept their names anonymous due to fear of reprisal.
The Bible class was listed as an elective, but almost all students enrolled. The complaint alleges that the few who opted out were harassed and discriminated against. One of the plaintiffs in the case had already suffered harassment.
In my research for the book I wrote in 1999, “School Prayer and Discrimination,” I explored what happens to religious minorities and dissenters when public schools engage in sectarian prayer and Bible reading.Read more
I knew Janz when we were at the University of Alberta. Since being elected to the EPSB, he’s spoken out vociferously about ending public funding to private schools.Read more
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 today that it would "not permit" the practice to continue. The BCHA argued in a November 29, 2016 letter, that the distribution violates the School Act's requirement that schools be "strictly secular and non-sectarian" and arguably also puts the district in breech of the Charter by promoting one religious viewpoint to the exclusion of others.
The BCHA had asked whether the District would allow other religious or atheist materials, including editions of Godless Comics, to be distributed, if it refused to cease distributing bibles.Read more
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 it suggests a state endorsement of a religious belief and discriminates against those who do not share that belief. Similarly, we’ve supported our allies in Alberta and Saskatchewan who are fighting to end the practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, which still happens in some public schools in those provinces.
At the same time, I’ve spoken in support of the importance of teaching about religious and secular worldviews in an objective way, as is mandatory in the Quebec curriculum. Our own polling has found strong support for the idea of teaching about religion and strong opposition to encouraging students to practice a specific religion.
Our ultimate aim is that individuals – particularly vulnerable children – should be able to practice any religion or none, free from coercion.
So naturally, we were concerned when we learned that a Port Alberni mother claimed her child was forced to participate in an indigenous spiritual ceremony at school and that she has since sued the district over it.Read more
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 update their policies and the ARC Foundation has committed to funding a new advisor position to support more inclusive policies at all schools.Read more
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 commitment to LGBTQ equality in BC schools.
In Alberta, the government is putting more and more pressure on public and private school boards to adopt policies to uphold the rights of LGBTQ students in the classroom.
A pastor who chairs two Baptist private schools in Alberta is refusing to follow a ministerial order that requires all schools to have a policy explicitly protecting LGBTQ students and staff. Instead the schools claim to have a "zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy" based on Christian principles.
The schools, like many private schools in Alberta and BC, receive significant funding from the provincial government.Read more
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, at the discretion of the superintendent.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
As far as we are aware, Abbotsford was the last public school district in BC that was distributing Gideon Bibles in classrooms. So this is a clear recognition that BC public schools should be secular and inclusive. It’s a sign to parents and students that they are welcome in Abbotsford whether they’re Christian, Muslim, Sikh, atheist or otherwise.
Despite this victory, the Government of BC continues to fund faith-based independent schools – a policy opposed by 70% of the public. The schools we fund as a province should be open and inclusive to students of all faiths and none.
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 who said they did not practice a religion or faith in the BC Humanist's previous survey in 2013. The number of people who believe in a higher power has dropped by 14% to 56%.
When asked "Do you practice or participate in a particular religion or faith?" 27% said yes, 69% said no and 4% were not sure.
When asked "Regardless of whether you participate in a particular religion or faith, do you believe in a higher power?" 56% said yes, 26% said no and 18% were not sure.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
Religion is on the wane in British Columbia. In its place is an increasingly secular and non-religious constituency that politicians and policymakers will need to pay attention to.
The poll also looked at different attitudes to government support for religious organizations.Read more
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 the teachers in the district distribute consent cards, provided by Gideon’s International, to grade 5 students. The District then distributes Gideon Bibles to each student who returns a signed card.Read more