The Human Rights Tribunal in Canada’s Ontario province has agreed to review a situation where an atheist is demanding permission to hand out books on “free thought’ to fifth-graders.
According to a report in Canada’s CNews, Rene Chouinard has been trying for years to force the local school board to allow him to distribute “Just Pretend: A Free Thought Book for Children” or “Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist” to fifth-graders.
Now the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hold a hearing on the arguments, and it already has agreed to allow the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Canadian Civil Liberties Association in be part of the arguments.
The fight staged by Rene Chouinard and his wife, Anna, began after they were approached about allowing their daughter to be given a Bible from Gideons International.
The international ministry is allowed to distribute Bibles to fifth-graders but cannot give to students unless they have a signed consent form from their parents, the report said.
The Chouinards refused to sign the form for their daughter, and they subsequently unsuccessfully sought permission to distribute “Just Pretend.”
Rene Chouinard said his ultimate goal is to have “religion” completely removed from the schools.
In the meantime, the plan for the hearing “is a solid decision by the tribunal that is good for society,” he said in the report.
Tristin Hopper at the National Post explained that Rene Chouinard, of Grimsby, Ontario, never really intended to distribute atheist literature, but just wanted to create an issue with the school.
It was after Chouinard launch the fight in 2010 that the Niagara schools, where his children attend, drafted an open policy that allows students to be given Qurans, Bibles, Torahs and others – if their parents approved.
Brett Sweeney, a spokesman for the school board there, told the National Post that most religious texts are available, but only with that signed parental permission form.
The Post report said school officials consulted the Ontario Multifaith Information Manual to decide what to allow to be distributed. They said the manual doesn’t include unbelievers, so the “free thought” books were rejected.
Rene Chouinard explained on his own website that he was raised Catholic “but my parents migrated to the fundamentalist movement … after my father was seriously injured; I think they were looking for a miraculous healing – mostly from the type of ‘Christians’ who make their living making those types of promises.”
He said it didn’t take him long to “see through that nonsense.”
“I fairly evaluated religious claims, both the nonsense miracle claims and the more mainstream apologist analysis, and I have honestly concluded that, regardless of honorable intent and heartfelt beliefs, there simply is no bases (sic) for belief; and lots of evidence against the claim of a theistic deity (i.e. there is no god!).”
The Bible League of Canada said, “The secularization of Ontario’s public schools stands in contrast to the original intent of founders of the province’s educational system. In the 1944 edition of the ‘Programme for Religious Education in the Public Schools,’ issued by the authority of the Minister of Education, it states ‘In the Programme of Studies for Grades I to VI of the Ontario Public and Separate Schools, it is pointed out that ‘the schools of Ontario exist for the purpose of preparing children to live in a democratic society which bases its way of life upon the Christian ideal,’ and further, that ‘the school must seek to lead the child to choose and accept as his own those ideals of conduct and endeavour which a Christian and democratic society approves.'”