By S.K. Lawrence
Valley Park Middle School in Toronto has become the subject of an ongoing controversy because of the school’s accommodation of religion within their public institution. Reports have shown that 80-90 per cent of students attending Valley Middle Park are Muslim. That seems to be the justification for allowing a Muslim students to miss class for a weekly 30-minute prayer service with an imam.
Many parents of the non-Muslim students have raised concerns about this. The Canadian Hindu Advocacy, the Jewish Defense League, and surprisingly even the Muslim Canadian Congress were opposed to this activity to be allowed within a public institution.
The Muslim Canadian Congress feared that instructions from the wrong imams could lead to radicalization. Other arguments presented pointed to the fairness of accommodating the dominant religion over other religions and the exclusion of non-Muslims in prayer services.
Ron Banerjee of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy argued that if the public school system is to allow a particular religious group to practice their faith within school hours on school property, there is nothing stopping every other religion from demanding the same thing. “If they all demand these types of privileges, it just simply won’t work,” he said.
Until 1982, Christian prayers had been common in Canadian schools and were regularly recited in the early morning instruction hours. Many argues that this was a form of religious indoctrination and was unfair for children of other faith as well as for those without religion. Prayer was considered in violation of the Charter of rights and Freedoms because it was thought to hamper students choice of religion.
What are your thoughts on prayer in the public school system?