A school in Canada was forced to pay the atheist parents of a student nearly $12,000 in Canadian currency ($9,000 U.S. dollars) over decorations marking Christmas and Hanukkah.
A British Columbia human-rights body ruled in favor of the family in a lawsuit against Bowen Island Montessori School — the preschool required Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué to sign a letter agreeing to its cultural program before letting their young daughter re-register for classes.
“At its core, it is about a letter which held [a child]’s registration hostage to a demand,” tribunal member Barbara Korenkiewicz wrote in her decision, according to CBC News.
It started in 2014, when Mangel and Yasué learned of the school’s December plans, which included decorating elf ornaments and possibly lighting candles on a menorah.
Mangel, who was on the school’s board, wrote an email to other members saying it wasn’t appropriate for preschoolers to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or any other “religious/political event,” CBC News reported.
“I certainly hope that there will be no discussion of Santa Claus at BIMS,” he said. “I am absolutely against anyone blatantly lying to my daughter.”
The parents said their then three-year-old child “cannot consent to being involved in decorating military wreaths or Christmas trees or lighting Hanukkah candles.”
Mangel also put forth “atheist Christmas ornaments” that he said better represented the views of his family.
One of which depicted the World Trade Center, along with the caption: “Atheists don’t fly airplanes into buildings.”
Adding some perspective, the parents objected to celebrating Easter and Valentine’s Day as well, which they claimed is “too tied up in materialism and consumerism.”
The tribunal’s decision didn’t address the preschool’s decision to display holiday decorations, but as is often the case in today’s cultural wars, the incident boils down to a minority outside the mainstream looking to dictate their beliefs on the majority.
“What the decision provides is a level of certainty that is valued by the school, and we look forward to getting 100 percent back to our focus on the young people,” the school board’s president, Maria Turnbull, told CBC News.
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