Any group of children that’s required to pray during the school day should be accommodated in public schools, says a former education minister.
In fact, says Kathleen Wynne, the Toronto District School Board already has “religious accommodation” — which is why up to 400 Muslim students at Valley Park Middle School in her Don Valley West riding — are allowed take part in Friday prayers in the school cafeteria.
“We have had religious accommodation in our schools for many years,” Wynne told me in an interview Thursday.
“I started school in 1958. Jehovah’s Witness students left when the Queen was played,” she said.
“We are simply providing space,” added Wynne. “It’s a practice that’s making us stronger. It’s exactly the opposite of John Tory’s approach in 2007.”
In the last election, voters resoundingly rejected PC leader Tory’s proposal that faith-based schools receive public funding.
At Valley Park, girls sit behind the boys and girls who are menstruating must sit behind everyone. Non-Muslims are not allowed into the cafeteria while the prayers are happening.
Wynne would not say whether she considered it inappropriate for such a practice to continue in a public school, but pointed out that many religions discriminate in the way they’re practised.
“I have a problem with many religious practices, but that’s beside the point,” said Wynne, now transportation minister. She pointed out that as a woman, she could not be a Catholic priest and as a lesbian, she would not be allowed to be “out” within many Christian churches.
“Our schools are organized around the accommodation of the Christian faith,” Wynne told me.
“You don’t have to take Good Friday off school to go to church because the schools aren’t open on Good Friday,” she said.
She added the school calendar was dictated by the needs of Christians...Sounds like she thinks that's a bad thing. Don't worry, Kathleen, if we continue to "accommodate" the faithful a la the Toronto District School Board, in due time Christian needs will be about the last thing anyone will have to worry about accommodating.