Photo Credit: English Spectrum
An atheist family won in a recent discrimination case against Bowen islan Montessori School in British Columbia, Canada.
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal awarded $12,000 to the family based on a school’s actions where they “kicked out” a student’s parents. Bowen islan Montessori School (BIMS) treated the couple differently because of their atheistic views. It was labelled discrimination by the BC Human Rights Tribunal because the school, as stated by the BC Human Rights Tribunal, “…treated them differently from every other parent at the school, and sought to suppress their expression of concerns about the nature of the curriculum that were grounded in their race, ancestry and religious beliefs.”
That is to say, discrimination for lack of belief in the prevailing mythology. The parents are Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué. The child was enrolled in 2014 and Mangel sat on the board of directors. Then the school wanted to know the way in which to celebrate the holidays properly.
One person recommended “clay elf ornaments.” But Mangel rejected this idea, as this, to him, promoted a Christian holiday. One asked if a Hanukkah activity may be better. But Mangel rejected this too.
Mangel was rather rude in the email correspondence:
I don’t think it’s appropriate to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other religious/political event at preschool (including Remembrance Day). [My child] is three years old… [and] cannot consent to being involved in decorating military wreaths or Christmas trees or lighting Hanukkah candles. Having the kids do these things seems inappropriate, given their absolute inability to understand the religious and political symbolism associated with those acts. As Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) has written, there is no such thing as a Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, etc… baby/toddler/child. They are simply too young to be making these sorts of decisions.
Other board members argued the important of a “cosmic education” through the inclusion of different religious imagery included in the school’s curriculum, as this was important to the philosophy of the Montessori folks at the school.
Mangel stated that there should be “atheist Christmas ornaments.” Things escalated from there as Mangel wanted none of the celebrations while the board wanted as many as possible or, at a minimum, the major traditions to be represented.
No one changed their minds and the discussion was similar to a “reality TV show,” according to Mangel.
Things really came to a head when “Mr. Mangel responded, ‘I’ll sue them too’ and then began doing the Nazi salute and marching around while he sung a different version of O Canada in which he substituted his own lyrics.”
The arguments continued over the holidays. Then the school wanted the atheists to sign a contract that stated that “Multiculturalism, including the observation of a wide variety of celebrations is important to us.”
The atheists refused to sign it. Then the school took this as a basis to not re-enroll the daughter of the atheist parents. The atheists being belligerent was not the legal complaint but, rather, the response to the signing, i.e., the refusal to sign it.
BC Human Rights Tribunal member, Barbara Koenkiewicz, stated, “I find nothing in the evidence that could justify the refusal to register [the child] unless Dr. Yasué and Mr. Mangel essentially agreed that they would be significantly limited in their ability to raise issues about the cultural aspects of the BIMS program.”
The school was ordered to pay $5,000 per parent and $2,000 for the child/daughter.