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BC Court of Appeal Upholds Resolution Declining Use of Books Depicting Same Sex Parent Families
September 21, 2000

The BC Court of Appeal has upheld a Surrey School Board resolution that declined to approve three books as instructional resources. The books depicted same sex parent families and had been proposed for use in kindergarten and grade one. The resolution ignited considerable controversy. In Chamberlain et al v. School District No. 36 (Surrey) it was struck down by the BC Supreme Court on the basis that members of the school board were significantly influenced by religious considerations. In overturning that judgment, the court stated:

“Ultimately this litigation has a certain Alice in Wonderland quality. Like the Cheshire Cat, the issues slowly vanish on close examination. The parties appear to agree that issues of sexual orientation do not belong in K-1 classrooms. In my opinion, the Three Books resolution is consistent with that objective and within the jurisdiction of the Board.”

The Court of Appeal found that the issue was one with moral rather than religious dimensions:

“Moral positions must be accorded equal access to the public square without regard to religious influence. A religiously informed conscience should not be accorded any privilege, but neither should it be placed under a disability.”

The resolution therefore did not offend the School Act requirement the schools be conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles, and was consistent with the requirement of the Act that “The highest morality must be inculcated, but no religious dogma or creed is to be taught in a school or Provincial school.”