Ricky Hood is the superintendent for the Eastern School District in PEI, the largest district in the province, and he’s cool with the Gideons handing out Bibles. Hemant has the scoop.
This morning I read in the CBC that your district – the largest in PEI – currently allows the Gideons International to distribute Bibles in your grade 5 classrooms. While I can appreciate your position – that the schools are allowing a service – I wonder if you have considered the actual ramifications of a teacher allowing another adult into their classroom. Your opinion, that “No students are held captive to [the Gideons]” seems to be at odds with reality.
Although I have no doubt that a teacher does not give instruction regarding Christianity in school, I would suggest (and extensive pedagogical research complies) that inviting someone to class is an implicit authorization of the Gideons and their chosen believe. Though Canada is not empowered with the constitutional separation of church and state that some countries are, we are entitled to our freedom of religion. This is so important that it’s in the second clause of the Constitution Act.
I therefore challenge you, as an administrator, to offer equal services to other religious and irreligious groups who wish to distribute their particular literature to Grade 5 students in your district. In the spirit of Canada’s constitutionally mandated freedom of religion (including the freedom to not worship at all) it should be no different than the Gideons service. If a group wishes to distribute the Torah, or the Koran; a copy of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion or perhaps a pagan worship book, I expect that your district would offer similar and equal time to those groups based on your current policy.
Given your duties as an educator to ensure all students are appropriately exposed to the variety of cultures and faiths in the world (and indeed, no faith at all), I hope that this would become a publicly available process that anyone would apply for.
I thank you for your time in reading this letter.