By Melissa Vileneuve
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The battle continues over the Lord’s Prayer at Dr Hamman Elementary School in Taber. After two years without it, the school will bring back the morning tradition in the fall, and not everyone is happy about it.
The Horizon School Division board of trustees unanimously passed the motion at their meeting on April 21.
The Dr. Hamman School Parent Council had sent out surveys asking whether parents would be in support of the motion to reinstitute the prayer. At least 70 per cent of surveys needed to be returned with at least 70 per cent of those in favour.
According to administration, 140 families responded out of 175. From the responses, 12 families said they did not want the practice in their school.
A decision to end the prayer was made in 2013 after the board fielded several complaints from parents.
The controversy shone a national spotlight on the issue of religion in public schools.
The board created a policy last year which would allow parents to choose whether their children participate in the prayer.
The options include having the child step out of the classroom during the prayer, or remaining in the room but not participating.
Superintendent Wilco Tymensen has said the board believes in religious tolerance and wants to acknowledge diversity, but they want to be receptive to the desires of the community.
He also stated the board has a legal obligation to maintain a safe and caring environment for all students to ensure they aren’t ostracized for non-participation.
Glenda Richards is an advocate for the Dr Hamman Children’s Equality Group.
She has worked as an advocate for human rights issues for a number of years.
The group’s mandate is against bullying, and Richards said they’ve received overwhelming support.
“We don’t want those children to be segregated.”
“My concern is for these kids, and any children who enroll who are also non-believers.”
They are running a public awareness campaign through social media and in connection with larger groups throughout Canada, including the Society of Edmonton Atheists.
She said that group is pursuing legal action, and she believes they’ve been successful removing the Lord’s Prayer from other Alberta schools in the past.
Once the new Minister of Education is sworn in, Richards said she will approach him/her about the issue, which appears to come under the “bullying” mandate within the Department of Education’s current procedures.
“This issue will come under that as well because these children are being ostracized because of their non-participation.”
The Dr Hamman Children’s Equality Group has taken preliminary action with the Human Rights Commission, and Richards said they will pursue court if needed.
Alberta is the only province where the right to say the prayer is guaranteed by legislation. She said while Canada may have been built on Christian beliefs, it is also built on First Nations.
“The funny thing is it’s being removed everywhere else… It’s about diversity. It doesn’t matter what your religion is…why do they not do the Blackfoot prayer? Why not the Muslim or the Hindi prayer? With multiculturalism comes diversity, and with diversity we cannot flex our public display for what scholars call ‘Christian privilege.’”
Richards said she has been in touch with the Horizon School Board, but that they’re not interested in their cause.
Richards believes the survey was deceptive because the school board knew the majority would want it, and thinks that was their way to get it reinstated.
“They were still not considering the people that didn’t want it,” said Richards. “I have nothing against people sending their children to Christian or Catholic schools. If you want religion for your children, please pay the money. In a public school, you can’t have the government indoctrinating children into religion.”