When it comes to opining on Bibles and public schools, there will be people who will write careful, reasoned and logically cogent pieces discussing the issues involved. Lorna Dueck is not one of them.
Dueck's bio at the bottom of that opinion piece states that she "produces Listen Up TV, a spiritual perspective on the news, seen on Global TV and CTS." One would think that, with that sort of background, Dueck would be able to produce something meaningful and informative on the subject. One would, sadly, be utterly mistaken, as Dueck's piece is utter rubbish. Let's begin slowly:
When the dangerous work of free Bible give-aways in schools ...
Whoa! Time out. Apparently, we can't even make it through the first sentence without Dueck writing nonsense. No one is claiming that the Gideons Bible give-away program is in any way "dangerous," only that it's inappropriate given the allegedly secular nature of the school system. However, Dueck decides that hyperbole is the best approach and constructs a ridiculous strawman which she proceeds to whack the stuffing out of. It's not clear whether Dueck is being deliberately disingenuous or is genuinely this stupid but, no worries, we have the rest of the article to help us decide.
When the dangerous work of free Bible give-aways in schools starts making front-page news ahead of the opening of the House of Commons, or any great variety of world issues, it's a pretty clear sign that Canadians have a poor understanding of what the word "secular" means in our country, and how it applies to our schools.
Thankfully, all nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada defined "secular" for us in another school battle: Secular means religious people are part of the public mosaic in our land, too.
And absolutely no one said they weren't, Ms. Dueck. The issue here is the distribution of Bibles by a Christian group through the public school system, nothing more. Please try to focus.
The most recent tempest in a teapot is over the Gideon Society, a 6,000-member club in Canada. In their 60-year history, Gideons have circulated more than 20 million Bibles into public places across the land. Schools were part of that process until about 10 years ago, when we began importing a notion of secularism wherein agnostics and atheists rule, and where all religion is stripped out of public life.
Um ... sorry? Wherein "agnostics and atheists rule, and where all religion is stripped out of public life." What country is Dueck talking about and how soon can I move there? Once again, Ms. Dueck, focus. We're talking about a very specific issue -- Bibles and their distribution in public schools. Please, concentrate.
Now, a mother from Richmond, B.C., is applying her secularism to the public education system and has objected to her son's school newsletter giving parents the option of allowing their children to receive a free Bible.
OK, aside from the moderately idiotic comment about secularism, Dueck finally seems to get something right -- what the kerfuffle is all about. Perhaps Dueck is salvageable after all ... whoops, sorry, no:
I like the little Gideon Bible; it's the size of my Palm Pilot, comes with just the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs and has a sort of Yellow Pages up front where you can look up inspiration on a quick search, "Where to find help when . . . " It covers everything from looking for a job to retirement and all the life-hiccups in between.
Conveniently, it also covers the variety of circumstances under which you should stone people to death. Yessir, a real timesaver, that book. In any event, I'm sure you can appreciate the irrelevancy of what Dueck thinks of the Gideon Bible since it has no bearing whatsoever on the subject. Onward.
Should kids have the option to get a free one? Frankly, it's up to the parents to decide, not the school.
Why, yes, Ms. Dueck, it should be up to the parents, not the schools. And if the parents want their children to have a Bible, well, by God, there are these marvelous inventions called "bookstores." The way they work is that you give them money and (here's the best part) they give you a book of your choice in exchange. And the most amazing part of all that? The schools aren't involved, not even a little bit. Is that just too cool for words or what?
In Canada, parents are primary educators of our children, and we delegate authority to the schools to help us in that task (Regina v. Audet). We like it when they teach the classics, athletic ideals, technology, art, culture, and some don't even mind if Coca-Cola or Scholastic Canada step into the schools for their own commercial ends.
Oh, yawn. Boring and irrelevant.
So why banish the right to religious belief being part of public education? If we continue to remove the choice of parents to let their child receive any religious material in a school, then the noisy voice of a few will enforce their own belief system, in other words, secularism.
Ding ding ding ding!! Strawman alert! Actually, I'm not even sure what it means to "banish the right to religious belief being part of public education," but no one here is suggesting any such thing. Bible distribution via the public school system, Ms. Dueck. Please, I'm begging you -- try to concentrate on the actual issue. It would make you seem less mentally retarded, and I'm pretty sure that would be a good thing.
And as for that receiving "any religious material in a school," well, I think we've already established that it's not a level playing field, is it?
Mr. Beairsto said some school trustees raised concerns at the meeting Ms. Gepraegs attended about what would happen if a less mainstream religion, such as the Wiccans, also requested that their materials be distributed.
"If one of those odd things come up, we will talk to our parent groups and try to share a collective wisdom," he said yesterday.
Then things get thoroughly weird:
In 2002, the Supreme Court of Canada (Chamberlain v. Surrey District School Board) had to deal with the term "secular" because it was feared elected school trustees were imposing their beliefs in order to keep gay books out of early primary grades. As part of its deliberations, the court determined the term secular should not be read as excluding religion, because only religious believers would then be excluded and as a result, the beliefs of atheists and agnostics would be given privileged positions.
What the court was saying is gay books, Gideon Bibles, Hanukah candles, kirpans etc. -- all belief systems are part of public education.
Um ... huh? I'm not even sure what Dueck is trying to say here. That all of those topics are covered in public school classes? I'm pretty sure that's not true. And notice that, in order to make her case, Dueck has to (for the sake of fairness) include "gay books." Ooooh, I'm betting that's not going to make her popular in the communion line this Sunday. But then things take a bit of a strange turn:
The best writing on this is found in the McGill-Queen's University Press 2004 collection of scholarly papers, "Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society." The collection emerged from a conference co-sponsored by an Ottawa-based think-tank, the Centre for Cultural Renewal and the McGill Department of Religious Studies. In his piece in that volume, Considering Secularism, the centre's executive director Iain Benson examines how our courts have determined that the term secular should not be read as religiously exclusive. Quite frankly, that means Christian folk and their Bible options in public schools are Canadian, too.
"The Supreme Court of Canada did a very good job of saying we're all part of this society and determined that the phrase "secular principles" should be read to include religion, because the secular is a realm of competing belief systems, and atheism and agnosticisms are belief systems," says Mr. Benson.
I think we're going to have to return to this topic shortly to see what this Ottawa-based "Centre for Cultural Renewal" is all about but if its executive director Iain Benson seriously considers agnosticism and atheism to be "belief systems," then he's even stupider than Dueck, and I don't make that accusation lightly.
In any event, let's give Dueck the final deluded, illogical word:
Parents know that our children need a great many resources to navigate their way through the world, and if some choose a Bible as part of that education, it shouldn't be denied because of enforced secularism.
Since, God knows, if the Gideons weren't allowed to distribute their free Bibles through the public schools, those unfortunate Christian parents would be at a loss -- an absolute loss, I tell you -- as to how to ever get their hands on a Bible any other way.
I'm curious -- is it just stupid people that are drawn to Christianity, or is it Christianity that turns them into gibbering morons? I'm just asking.