It is important that I set the record straight surrounding media commentary on my proposed motion to review district practices related to mandated Religious Education classes. Contrary to what has been reported, I must relay that at no time have I ever suggested that religion is not an important component of Catholic Education nor that I do not agree that it should be taught. Clearly, religion is essential to Catholic Education and is foundational to our existence. What I did suggest, is that the district might benefit by exploring alternative means to encourage students to actively engage in religion class if we are to best enhance and grow student faith. My conviction, both then and now, is that religion should be inspired rather than tied to punitive measures; in our case, participation in graduation celebrations. I do not believe this mechanism accomplishes the ends that are intended.
What precipitated my motion was notice of a district high school student who was allegedly sick for 2 years. Although, he had completed all required credits to graduate he was unable to complete his religion class. Upon proof of illness to the district, the student was not provided assurance that the religious requirement would be waved such that he could graduate with his peers. With the student left wondering, I acted in the new year by way of a motion calling for the Board to explore alternatives to this practice. (Note: it is alleged that the requirement was waved for the student the week I submitted my motion)
Additionally, based on thoughtful review of differing legal interpretations and my own review of applicable provincial and federal legal statutes, it is my belief that mandating religion as a requirement to attend graduation celebrations may be contrary to the intent embedded within several constitutional Acts (Alberta Act, sec 17, School Act, sec 50(2), Alberta Human Rights Act, sec 4, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sec 15). As such, I believe this puts Catholic districts in a libelous situation. Hence, my rational is three-fold: to seek non-punitive measures to encourage participation in religion class, to ensure that the district is protected from unwanted litigation and associated costs, and to preserve a strong public reputation for Catholic schools.