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Did a Canadian human rights tribunal just classify atheism as a religion?


ONTARIO, CANADA: The Ontario Human Right Tribunal (OHRT) has just ruled atheists need protection under the human rights legislation like other faiths such as Christianity, Muslims and Buddhists.

The Tribunal made this decision in response to a complaint by Rene Chouinard, an atheist, who wanted to distribute a book called “Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children” to children attending schools in the Niagara School Board (NSB). The book treats God as a mythical creature.

The NSB has a policy allowing faiths to release material to school children, it is completely voluntary as parents must give prior permission before children can receive materials. To this point, only the Gideons had taken advantage of this policy and distributed red letter Bibles.

Chouinard approached NSB to allow his book to be distributed, but the school board turned him down stating atheism was not a religion. In response, Chouinard took his complaint to the human rights tribunal stating atheism was in fact a creed.

Dictionary.reference.com defines a creed this way:

creed

noun

1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.
2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.
3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.
4. the creed, Apostles’ Creed.

The OHRT agreed with Chouinard that atheism was the equivalent of a religion, and that he had been discriminated against due to his beliefs.

In the commission’s October 13, 2013 decision, associate chair David Wright said, “Protection against discrimination because of religion, in my view, must include the applicants’ belief that there is no deity.”

Though the Niagara School Board recently adjusted its policy stating it would allow distribution of materials of groups listed in Ontario’s Multifaith Information Manual, the OHRT ordered the school board to change its policy allowing atheistic religions to distribute their materials.

It gave the school board six months to comply.

If atheism has been declared a religious belief, will Churches eventually face legal challenges for not hiring individuals simply because they don’t believe in God?

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