Proulx Report (Gary Caldwell Responds)

Article excerpt

MR. WEINSTOCK TELLS US HOW HE AND the other task force members considered the republican and communitarian solutions to the so-called discrimination problem. The choice between the two is the following: the first consists in abolishing discrimination on religious grounds by banning all religions from schools; while the second consists in allowing all religions to have access to schools for religious teaching, according to the composition of the local community (where numbers permit). He then admits that in his mind only the republican solution could be envisaged, the communitarian solution being "merely a logical possibility, not one that we would seriously consider ... we probably did not dwell as much as we should have on its injustice."

In our protagonist's mind the only "just public school" system is one in which all schools are the same for everyone: the communitarian solution would constitute injustice if there remained a single pupil who was not of the faith being given access to school time for religious instruction, but was rather exempted from such instruction, being thus stigmatized and marginalized. For this reason, we must rather submit everyone to an obligatory universal neutral school.

Justice requires no less -- no matter that such a public system exists nowhere that we know of, especially not in the mother of all modern republics, France, nor in the greatest, America. In passing, I suggest that the last remaining dissident pupil in the logical extreme of the communitarian dispensation, marginalized in the library because the others were in religious education classes two hours a week (to invoke the current Quebec case), would probably emerge from the experience with more character and personal autonomy than most of the products of a republican solution.

Our republican protagonist goes on to argue that to free young Quebecers from religious intolerance and hatred -- scions of a society so intolerant that in over two centuries there is not a single recorded incident of an individual's having suffered bodily harm for reasons of religious persecution -- we must teach them tolerance via the "common religious heritage of mankind." It is not enough that they live and practise religious tolerance by experiencing cohabitation in the same schools (as is indeed the case in many English high schools outside of Montreal and Quebec City where Protestants, Catholics and Jews had their separate religious classes in the same schools). No, the practical experience of tolerance is not the way to go, it must not be allowed, in order to give the state-trained and appointed bearers of "humankind's shared religious heritage" the occasion to transmit tolerance pedagogically.

As for "humanity's common religious heritage," to which he refers repeatedly in his text, where is one to find it? …