Parents attended a Division Board Meeting in Winnipeg to discuss changes that have caused much concern. They were there to have their voices heard on the matter of religious clubs in their local schools. With the current laws regarding public schools, a petition of 25 signatures is all that is necessary to allow religious groups access to school facilities for activities. This was mandated in the Public Schools Act.
Lisa Naylor, a trustee on the board, motioned to change the way the current form is worded. Naylor believes they should have more power over who is allowed onto the schools premises for club activities.
Some worried parents who disagree with amending the current law believe that children who participate in religion classes or clubs should not be treated any differently than children who do not. Ralph Friedenberger one of the worried parents said. “A chess club. It’s there for him right… It’s just a bunch of like-minded guys, girls, same age who want to do something they enjoy.”
This discussion was brought up with the Winnipeg School Board after the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) submitted their petition to use space at the Greenway School. While the CEF is claims to have a presence on nearly 40 schools in Manitoba, the organization claims it does not recruit children and wants to assuage parents of any worries.
However, those who agree with Naylor’s motion say that religion has no place in Manitoba schools. They’re main concern is that such groups will use their position in schools to influence and recruit students. “They get kids to spread the word so that at recess or right after their instruction, they’re told to go tell kids what they’ve learned”, said a member of the Humanists, Atheists and Agonistics of Manitoba, Antonio Governo.
Glenda Bourque, another parent, answered such accusations claiming that “Nobody forces their children to go, if a child is asked to attend they have the right to say no.” The CEF reassures parents that they don’t recruit students. Mike Babinsky of the Winnipeg School Division Board, agrees with the CEF.
The vote on Naylor’s motion will take place on May 4th. If the it passes, the province will decide if the wording should change to be more strict when dealing with religious organizations’ access to public school facilities.