CANADA: CHILDREN are no longer to listen to the Lord's Prayer at the start of the school day, on the grounds that it could cause them psychological harm.
The ruling, from the Human Rights Commission of Saskatchewan, brings to an end a century-old practice. By sanctioning the reciting of the Lord's Prayer to pupils, the Saskatoon school board has relied on "antiquated thinking" that offends the religious and multicultural guarantees in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to Mr Justice Halvorson.
The case began six years ago when Rosanna Langer launched a complaint on behalf of her daughter who was then in kindergarten. Ms Langer charged that her daughter was being discriminated against because she was Jewish and that the options of not standing for the prayer or leaving the class were not an answer.
Supporting the Saskatoon school board, the Province of
Saskatchewan argued that the recitation of the Lord's Prayer was protected by the Canadian Constitution.
This was because the agreement which brought the province into Canadian Confederation said that the schools would have a "religious character".
In addition, the province noted that the Education Act authorises the Lord's Prayer or some other Bible reading.
Mr Justice Halvorson ruled that these arguments were not strong enough to justify the discrimination in having the prayer of one religious group as an authorised part of the school day.
He accepted the arguments advanced by B'Nai Brith Canada, that forced recitation of the Lord's Prayer could be psychologically harmful to both the minority and the majority groups.
"The minority may feel a lack of self esteem fostering identity crises and rejection of their faith. Even the majority dominant group can suffer adversely. A feeling of superiority can lead to school-yard bullying, demeaning of others, and later, even totalitarianism," said the judge.
This decision follows similar ones in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.