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Court Favours School Board Over Parental Religious Rights


The six-year battle on what children are taught at school versus at home was appealed to the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice. The ruling says inclusion and equity come before individual religious accommodation in public schools.

On Wednesday, November 22, the Court dismissed a case by Steve Tourloukis, a Greek Orthodox father of two who went up against the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) over whether his two children could be exempted from learning about issues against their religious beliefs. These issues would include topics of moral relativism, environmental worship, instruction in sex education, and discussion or portrayals of homosexual/bisexual conduct and relationships and/or transgenderism as natural, healthy or acceptable. The HWDSB had offered to accommodate Tourloukis by exempting his children from the Healthy Living human development and sexual health program. However, they would not inform him when these topics may be discussed in the other parts of the curriculum.

Steve Tourloukis speaks out in front of the Sopinka courthouse in Hamilton in June, 2016. Photo courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator.

On the contrary, two of the three justices at the appeal court stressed the importance of parental rights in education“Dismissing this appeal does not, however, give the s. 169.1 of Ontario’s Education Act program a clean constitutional bill of health,” said the majority decision was written by Justice Peter Lauwers. “Were there evidence that the s.169.1 program undermined a parent’s ability to transmit religious faith, together with a refusal to provide accommodation, the result might well be different.”

Tourloukis has received major support from groups like Campaign Life CoalitionChristian Legal Fellowship, and Public Education Advocates for Christian Equity (P.E.A.C.E.) Ontario. The case has incurred over $100,000 in legal fees and is soliciting donations to help with rising costs. Other parents facing similar issues regarding their children's curriculum are urged to document evidence and appeal.

Do you agree or disagree with the Court's decision? Do you think parents or the state should have primary authority over children's education? Share your thoughts.

By Thor Villagomez

Banner image courtesy of iStock.

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