BC Human Rights Tribunal (Canadian Press photo)

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.

Just Posted

Ashcroft hospital emergency closed sign, 2016. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Ashcroft Hospital emergency department closed this weekend

Closure due to unexpected limited physician availabiliy, says Interior Health

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek with the 3,000 jade boulder, which is now on secure display inside the shop. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Massive jade boulder returns to Cache Creek store six months after daring heist

The 3,000-pound boulder was stolen on Dec. 19, 2020 and found abandoned in the bush a week later

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read