BC Human Rights Tribunal (Canadian Press photo)

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

An atheist family who fought against religious holiday celebrations in the classroom has been awarded $12,000 by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, after their child was barred from re-enrolling at a preschool.

Tribunal member Barbara Korenkiewicz said in her decision Tuesday that the dispute centred around an agreement the parents were told to sign by Bowen Island Montessori School, which confirmed their “understanding and acceptance” of all parts of the school’s cultural program.

If they didn’t sign it, the school said their daughter could not return in the fall.

The dispute started in 2014 when Gary Mangel and May Yasue found out that their daughter’s preschool would be decorating elf ornaments and possibly lighting candles on a menorah during the month of December.

Mangel, who was on the board of directors for the school, wrote an email to fellow board members calling the plans inappropriate for the students “given their absolute inability to understand the religious and political symbolism associated with those acts,” according to the ruling.

“I certainly hope that there will be no discussion of Santa Claus at BIMS. I am absolutely against anyone blatantly lying to my daughter,” he said in the email.

Mangelsuggested students also make “atheist Christmas ornaments” to represent the views of his family. Ideas included one that says “skeptic” and another that would say “Atheists don’t fly airplanes into buildings,” with the World Trade Center.

Mangel said other religious or political events, including Remembrance Day, were also not appropriate. He and Yasue later said Valentine’s Day should also not be allowed, because it’s tied up in materialism and consumerism.

Email exchanges between the couple and board members continued for several months, according to the decision. The tribunal heard that a fellow board member found the emails “patronizing and aggressive.”

Mangel’s views on religion were also shared with a school administrator’s husband in person, the tribunal heard, including his thoughts on the use of “God” in Canada’s national anthem.

When asked what Mangel was going to do about O Canada, he said he’d sue the school. The administrator’s husband replied that his son also sings the national anthem at his public school.

According to the tribunal, Mangel replied “I’ll sue them too” before doing the Nazi salute and marching around while he sung a different version of the anthem. The tribunal heard that this made the other man uncomfortable.

Mangel told the tribunal that his actions were not politically correct, and instead a flippant “off the cuff” remark.

Despite Mangel’s actions, which Korenkiewicz called “beyond the acceptable,” the school forcing the parents to sign the agreement in 2015 was discriminatory of race, ancestry and religion.

“I find nothing in the evidence that could justify the refusal to register [the child] unless Dr. Yasue and Mr. Mangel essentially agreed that they would be significantly limited in their ability to raise issues about the cultural aspects of the BIMS program,” Korenkiewicz wrote.

She ruled that the school must pay the the child $2,000 and each parent $5,000 as compensation.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

UPDATED: Some states of local emergency suspended by ministerial order

Suspension applies to regional districts but not First Nations

A letter from Bella Coola doctors on COVID-19: ‘All our lives depend on your actions now’

“None of us are invincible; we can all get it and spread it without even knowing.”

COVID-19: Bella Coola RCMP close detachment front door access

The public is being asked to call 250 799 5363 for assistance

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

‘Community is amazing’: Williams Lake woman organizes drive-by birthdays

With self-isolation the norm due to COVID-19 children are missing out

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

Most Read