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Religious (re)accommodation

April 28, 2017

There’s an old joke about how as long as there are math exams, there will aways be prayer in schools.

“Dear God, help me with this algebra.”

Many years ago, the public school system here in Ontario dropped the ritual saying of the Lord’s Prayer every day before class. I welcomed that. As a practising Christian, I don’t want people who don’t share my faith to be forced to repeat a prayer that is deeply meaningful to me, but not to them. In a public school system, everyone should feel welcome and valued.

The place for religion is at home, in the church, the synagogue, the mosque, the temple.

That said, there are some times when the calendars of various faiths intrude on the calendars of some schools. On Ash Wednesday, for example, as an Anglican, I would take my kids out of school for the morning – which they are permitted to do without being marked as absent.

And there are faiths that require adherents to pray throughout the day. I believe those children should be accommodated – but carefully. Just as non-Christians should not be required to recite the Lord’s Prayer, so  other faiths should conduct their prayers in private.

Students who need a place to pray should be accommodated in their own private classroom. Not in the cafeteria; not in the gym. Not in a place that inconveniences the rest of the student body.  And if they are in a public school, all the human rights rules apply. Girls are equal to boys. They should not sit in the back or be excluded if they are on their period,

Now shall we discuss how religious accommodation works in the Catholic school system – where prayer is a requirement?

Fodder for another post.


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