Ministry publication comes under fire

Vancouver, Canada - Education Minister Shirley Bond is defending a ministry publication that identifies a Scientology website as a potential resource for teachers to use while preparing lessons about human rights and social justice.

The Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) website is identified as a "supplementary resource" in a teaching guide developed by the ministry as part of an effort to make the K-12 curriculum gay-friendly. It's also mentioned in the guide for a new elective course called Social Justice 12.

In an interview, Bond insisted that mention of the YHRI website does not constitute an endorsement of it or the Church of Scientology. It was included on the advice of teachers who helped develop the guides, but it will be used in the classroom only if approved by teachers and local boards of education.

The website describes Youth for Human Rights International as a non-profit corporation that promotes tolerance and peace. It makes little mention of its affiliation with Scientology, although it identifies the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King as "great humanitarians of the 20th century."

Patti Bacchus, chairwoman of the Vancouver board of education, said inclusion of the YHRI "is kind of alarming." She suggested the ministry should have applied the same critical-thinking skills that schools are urging students to use.

Bond said the guides list many websites, and others could also be considered controversial. Teachers will use their professional judgment in deciding which ones to use, she said.

Susan Lambert, vice-president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, suggested the YHRI website and Scientology could be used in discussions about non-mainstream religions.