Jun 152012

We recently received an email expressing some anger at the change to the public school system in Morinville. It probably isn’t an isolated sentiment, so we have decided to reply to it publically (names removed).

I’d like to take opportunity to congratulate your society for turning our town of Morinvilleon its back.
I’m sure you are feeling smug about your accomplishments of assisting a handful to purge God out of our school, an amazing school that my girls proudly attended years ago.
I believe this decision to disrupt our town was based on principal and NOT the greater good of our students, our citizens.
Imagine 1800 students that were once content, now displaced to serve but a handful. Disrupted kids – bigger picture – disrupted town.
I imagine that our teachers are MOST excited to work in drafty portables. Crammed schools result in a significant compromise to the students – they no longer experience the support they once remembered.

Teachers overworked and unhappy do not invest in their students. This WILL ultimately affect the morale and sense of community in our town.

A faith based town, once pioneered by my ancestors, built around a CHURCH. This was our heritage.
You have taken a piece of it.

Thank you for your message. The pain and angst you feel over this situation is very clear.

We too are members of neighbourhoods and communities, we have families, many of us with children in schools. We sincerely understand your frustration for the families and the children being asked to move schools to facilitate this solution.

Your letter, however, seems to blame us or the ‘handful’ of families for this situation. We respectfully suggest that this blame and anger is misplaced.

We are all lucky to live in this wonderful country we call Canada. Together we collectively agree to accord certain rights to each other, whether part of a majority or minority, we have a shared platform of values which we accord EVERY member of our communities.

Such rights include freedom of religion and equally, freedom from religion. We also agree that all should be treated equally. That is part of why this country & our communities are such a great place to live. It is this respect and generosity of spirit toward our neighbours, regardless of differences that makes us Canadian.

The problem itself in Morinville was a simple one. Members of your community wished their children to have a secular education. Whether it was one or ten or one hundred or one thousand is irrelevant (and neither will we know the true number for some time, as factors involving coercion, convenience & reluctance to change all play a role. What is certain is that the new school will be full in a very short number of years). Those families had a RIGHT to request a secular Public education for their children. They are not wrong for that. The Public school division at that time (GSACRD) had a legal and moral obligation to fulfill that requirement and declined to do so. If you want to look at those responsible for the outcome of this situation we would suggest looking at a Public School Board that choose to ignore the laws of our Province and to deny children in their care their rights. All it would have taken, for this issue to quietly go away, was for GSACRD to provide a method for opting-out of all religious instruction.

Secondly, Alberta Education is ultimately responsible for how our school system is run and for shaping the ‘solution’ to this problem. Not us. Not the parents who simply asked for their children’s rights to be met and the school system’s legal obligations to be fulfilled. If you don’t believe this was the correct solution then surely it is Alberta Education that you should be addressing with your concerns – and your angst.

Lastly, it is a simple statement of fact whether you like or not that Canada, Alberta & Morinville are changing. The numbers and the percentage that believe specifically in Christian dogma are dropping. People who may be ‘spiritual’ without ascribing to any particular religion are increasing. People (religious or otherwise) that believe in secularism are increasing. People of non-belief are increasing. It is inevitable that this change is also going to be seen in your community. Morinville is no longer predominately Catholic, just as it is no longer predominately French-speaking. The challenge for all of us in this change is how we treat each other within our communities.

Do we embrace those of different beliefs or do we reject and ostracize them? Do we learn from each other or do we judge and condemn? Do we show compassion and empathy? Do we share and accommodate? Ultimately, do we respect each other? These are not questions separated by beliefs. These are the shared values that make us Canadian and that make communities work.

We wish you, the families concerned on all sides and the community of Morinville the very best as you try to mend from this emotional and difficult period, and that this transition is as painless as possible. We believe if the parents and leaders in the community light the way, the children will follow and the pain and rift can heal sooner.

Society of Edmonton Atheists

2001 Census Data. http://www12.statcan.ca/english/profil01/CP01/Details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=4811068&Geo2=PR&Code2=48&Data=Count&SearchText=morinville&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&Custom=