Steve Tourloukis, Religion In Schools: Ontario Dad Wants Option Of Pulling Kids From Class Based On Religious Beliefs

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An Ontario father is taking his children's school board to court in a bid for advance notice on lesson plans that might contradict his Christian beliefs. (Alamy) | Alamy

TORONTO - An Ontario father is taking his children's school board to court in a bid for advance notice on lesson plans that might contradict his Christian beliefs.

Steve Tourloukis is asking Ontario's Superior Court to force the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board for a heads-up when topics such as marriage, family and sexuality will be discussed in his kids' classes.

It's discriminatory to deny him the religious accommodation when it is provided to people of other faiths, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Tourloukis said Monday at a news conference.

He dismissed the idea of educating his children — a son in Grade 4 and a daughter in Grade 1 — in the separate school system.

"Why should I send my children to another school?" he said. "I pay my taxes...I don't see why somebody else's discrimination should cause me, should influence where I send my children. Not in a free country. Not in Canada."

The Hamilton father noted that he teaches his children that everyone is made in the image of God and to love people who are different from them, but said this isn't about his religious beliefs.

"This is about a parent's right to know what is being taught in schools," Tourloukis said.

"My children are my own. I own them. They don't belong to the school board."

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board would not comment on Tourloukis' case. But John Malloy, the director of education, said religious accommodations are provided when they don't harm anyone else.

By way of example Malloy pointed to a situation in which a parent raises concerns about discussions in the classroom surrounding homosexuality.

"There may be a young child in that class who has two moms or two dads and that child has every right to speak of his experience," Malloy said.

"As well the child and his family who might have a religious belief that is struggling with that has the right to share their own experience.

"We need to create the kind of environment...where compassion emerges, we learn about each other, even if we're different."

Education Minister Laurel Broten said she believes in the province's "evidence-based curriculum" and it must be taught across Ontario.

"We are confident and stand by our curriculum and all boards across the province have religious accommodation protocols that they put in place at a local level," she said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said decisions about accommodations are up to the local school boards.

"That's why we have independently elected trustees," she said. "It remains their purview to make those decisions and to determine what the board can handle as far as accommodating the needs of parents and the kids."

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