Public Schools in Manitoba Are Wasting Time with Prayer

Even in Manitoba, Canada, public schools are expected to be secular. (Though, for some reason, if 75% of parents sign a petition to have religious exercises in school, they can have them.) The department of education has guidelines that schools are supposed to follow.

However, lawyer Chris Tait has found violations all over the place:

The Lord’s Prayer is being read over the intercom by the principal or in classrooms by teachers.

Schools allow parent councils to organize petitions for religious exercises through the schools, and in a few cases, directly help organize them.

Parents receive yes-or-no ballots and are told they must fill in and sign forms if they do not want their children to pray in a supposedly secular school.

And there are even schools in which non-praying students are expected to stand quietly in their classrooms while their classmates recite the Lord’s Prayer all around them.

More than 20 Manitoba school divisions are violating the province’s guidelines on religious exercises, said Tait…

“I think it’s very deliberate that they ignore (the guidelines),” Tait said. “They’re on a project to push through a religious agenda. They’re getting people to co-operate that aren’t of the Christian faith.”

The government is lazily sitting back, not pursuing any of these violations.

I suspect if enough parents complain, though, the schools might start to listen. It all starts with a brave individual or two willing to speak out against this religious indoctrination and waste of classroom time.

(Thanks to everyone for the link)

  • Aaron

    I grew up just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba. Even in high school, we were expected to recite the Lord’s Prayer and occasionally had in-class Bible readings at the start of the day. At the time, I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal. Looking back, it’s hard not to be disgusted.

  • Mark

    I grew up in Winnipeg as well and seem to remember it in elementary school, but not in junior or senior high.

    As this is an election year in this province we could try to vote for this to be enforced. The problem with this is that there are only two real choices. The Conservatives, whose power base is in rural Manitoba where most of the schools in violation are. Then there is the NDP, who, after 10 years in power combined with a disasterous flood season and a new leader, probably won’t get back in.

    sigh~

  • Lisa M

    I just read this in the WFP this morning as well. I also grew up near Winnipeg, and by habit still check the local news (I’m in Edmonton now). I’m surprised to see that Hanover SD was following this to the letter! But impressed. I grew up in the HSD, and I also remember saying the Lord’s Prayer in early elementary, but not after that. It’s actually kind of a misconception that the area is still so conservative. It is somewhat, but I had never really even heard anyone seriously defend young earth creationism until I was 18. I was taught evolution in my private christian high school. Now if only the other divisions would follow! Thanks for covering this Hemant.

  • Dorothy

    it is true that religious exercises can be held if enough parents request them, but ONLY for those students whose parents request them, and only outside of regular class time. This didn’t seem like too bad a compromise 20 years ago when the law was written, but in some schools parents are pressured/coerced to sign, which takes us back to square one.
    I remember the Chris Tait case well and it was pretty nasty. I managed to find this quote from an old newspaper article in which Chris described his experience: “In response to my attempt to quietly and peacefully opt out of mandatory prayer, my family received 180 harassing and threatening phone calls, 80 angry letters (half of them unsigned) and death threats. Employees of the school division circulated a petition against me. The headlights and grill on our car were smashed, and graffiti about communists was scrawled across the windshield. A black cross was painted on the highway in front of our farm, and scrap iron was placed in our hay fields to damage our machinery. These are the same people who tell us they were bringing morality to the schools.”

  • Suzanne

    I was really suprised to hear this. I figured all the schools in Manitoba were like the ones I went to in WSD 1. There were no prayers in any of the (very multicultural) schools that I attended. I just don’t get why praying on their own time (or quietly to themselves during school) isn’t good enough.

  • Katie

    I’ve lived in Winnipeg my whole life and the most religious thing that I’ve ever seen in our public schools was low-key Christmas plays and a prayer at graduation (given by a student).

    Many of these instances of prayer in schools are restricted to the surrounding small towns that have a large Mennonite population. In Winnipeg, it doesn’t really happen.

  • mike dave

    I went to elementary school in Brandon Manitoba in the 70s. Endured mandatory lords prayer, bible reading every day, Gideon bibles handed out every year. I thought about god and religion even back then and decided it was ridiculous never looked back.

  • Inver Stone

    It doesn’t help that our Prime Minister is a god soaked idiot.

    Not likely that the government will do the right thing here (outside of immense public pressure).

    I grew up in NF and also had to recite the lord’s prayer each morning. The golden rule was posted in every classroom and credited to jesus…no mention of confucius strangely.

    Inver

  • L

    Yup, I grew up in Winnipeg and went to largely Mennonite public schools. The Lord’s Prayer was a daily fixture in the classroom. I can’t imagine how much grief my classmates would have given me had I tried to opt out — already since I was one of the few kids who didn’t go to church, other students would come up to me and angrily ask why I didn’t believe in God, invite me over only to end up proselytizing and dragging me to their church youth groups, etc. It’s ridiculous to make religious participation an “opt-out” thing in public schools rather than “opt-in” — we had optional religious ed at lunch hour, surely that was enough.

  • Sivi

    Another thing to remember is that we don’t have the same degree of church/state separation written into our laws as the States does. At least, to the best of my knowledge.

    One thing a lot of people note is that for historical reasons, there is a Catholic school board in parallel to the public school board (although many people go to them, and they need to follow provincial curriculum guidelines). Up until recently, the public school system was essentially the Protestant school system.

    It’s one of those weird things, where we have less “in writing” legal protection than the States, but tend to have more “in practice” protection. We don’t seem to have the same church/state issues in schools here, at least not in anywhere remotely urban.

    All of the above is my occasionally informed opinion, not backed-up fact.

  • BornAthiest

    I grew up in Southern Ontario and have lived here for my entire life. I went to public school.

    When I was in elementary school we had Christmas plays and concerts, including musicals about Mary and Joseph (I was Mary.) I sang the songs and played the part, but none of it meant anything to me. It was just fun!

    I remember some church people coming to the school to hand out the new testament and knowing (even being about 7) that I didn’t want anything to do with it and that I shouldn’t go to the assembly. I wasn’t forced. (I kind of wish I had gone now because I like collecting books)

    We also sang O’Canada every morning followed by the recitation of the Lords Prayer… which I did because I liked to participate, it was fun to memorize a poem and it sounded cool when everyone said it together! It didn’t mean anything to me then.

    We were never (NEVER!!!) forced to participate in anything religious. I was never bullied or ostracized for not praying, or talking about god, or going to church. I think it was because almost my entier class didn’t go to church. Looking back on that now it seems strange compared to the experiences of many others. I guess I was lucky.

    Then I got to High School where students would read a quote every morning on the PA instead of the prayer. Once and a while something religious would show up and by the time I had reached grade 10 or so I had clued in to what the god stuff stood for, and every time they said it in the school the office would get angry notes, and blatent protest in the halls, not just from me.

    I had figured out that church and state separation was too important for me to casually participate in the god stuff anymore. It may be fun, but I was supporting something that was hurting my friends, and my family (I have gay family members, and gay friends) not to mention getting annoyed and having someone else’s beliefs pushed in my face!

    Perhaps Manitoba is different, but it isn’t an estimation of what Canada is like in general. Religion in my schools was essentially non-existant.

  • Chrisguest

    I live in Starbuck, one of the towns mentioned, and I didn’t even know this still happened until my daughter was in school for 2 years. The school does not advertise that they do this, I just happened to walk in one day with my daughter’s forgotten lunch as it was being announced on the PA system.  I was shocked.   100% participation occurs because a 5 year old won’t know what the heck is going on and won’t rebel.  If it’s not advertised to the parents and it happens after the bell rings, when for obvious reasons parents are not usually in their child’s classroom, how is a parent supposed to know this happens?  I live in Canada and foolishly thought that this meant religious freedom in schools. The closest thing to an announcement about the Lord’s Prayer practice that I saw was a paper this year at the post office petitioning for the Lord’s Prayer in school and I remember refusing to sign it and explaining why (that I was not against religion, I just didn’t think it was fair in a country with such diversity to only practice the beliefs of one religion in a school).  100% participation is simply not true.  In a small town with 3 different church denominations, it is obvious to me that nobody knows the answer, yet somehow because these churches all believe in a Christian God on some level or another, this prayer is okay.  In Canada, as a parent, I should not have to go to the school myself and risk my daughter being blatantly outcast or secluded because her family is not of the Christian faith.  Public school is a place to learn about the world,  it is not a place to try and convert kids.  If I went to work and tried to convert people on job time, I would be fired, perhaps sued for harassment.  I, as an adult, am expected to respect other peoples’ beliefs.  Why is it different for schools?  In Canada, students should be taught to respect other people’s beliefs.  I want to be clear that I am not chastising the Christian faith.  If people feel strongly enough about their faith that they want prayer in morning classes, attend a church school.  I have attended both public and private schools in my youth and never felt a problem with prayer at the private school.  I guarantee I know at least 20 other people in my class at the public school that would have felt that their beliefs were not respected had it been made mandatory there.

  • Chrisguest

    I live in Starbuck, one of the towns mentioned, and I didn’t even know this still happened until my daughter was in school for 2 years. The school does not advertise that they do this, I just happened to walk in one day with my daughter’s forgotten lunch as it was being announced on the PA system.  I was shocked.   100% participation occurs because a 5 year old won’t know what the heck is going on and won’t rebel.  If it’s not advertised to the parents and it happens after the bell rings, when for obvious reasons parents are not usually in their child’s classroom, how is a parent supposed to know this happens?  I live in Canada and foolishly thought that this meant religious freedom in schools. The closest thing to an announcement about the Lord’s Prayer practice that I saw was a paper this year at the post office petitioning for the Lord’s Prayer in school and I remember refusing to sign it and explaining why (that I was not against religion, I just didn’t think it was fair in a country with such diversity to only practice the beliefs of one religion in a school).  100% participation is simply not true.  In a small town with 3 different church denominations, it is obvious to me that nobody knows the answer, yet somehow because these churches all believe in a Christian God on some level or another, this prayer is okay.  In Canada, as a parent, I should not have to go to the school myself and risk my daughter being blatantly outcast or secluded because her family is not of the Christian faith.  Public school is a place to learn about the world,  it is not a place to try and convert kids.  If I went to work and tried to convert people on job time, I would be fired, perhaps sued for harassment.  I, as an adult, am expected to respect other peoples’ beliefs.  Why is it different for schools?  In Canada, students should be taught to respect other people’s beliefs.  I want to be clear that I am not chastising the Christian faith.  If people feel strongly enough about their faith that they want prayer in morning classes, attend a church school.  I have attended both public and private schools in my youth and never felt a problem with prayer at the private school.  I guarantee I know at least 20 other people in my class at the public school that would have felt that their beliefs were not respected had it been made mandatory there.


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