Alberta Minister of Culture Lindsay's Blackett's new bill overhauling the Alberta Human Rights Code says:
11.1(1) A board as defined in the School Act shall provide notice to a parent or guardian of a student where courses of study, educational programs or instructional materials, or
instruction or exercises, prescribed under that Act include subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation.
(2) Where a teacher or other person providing instruction, teaching a course of study or educational program or using the instructional materials referred to in subsection (1) receives a
written request signed by a parent or guardian of a student that the student be excluded from the instruction, course of study, educational program or use of instructional materials, the
teacher or other person shall in accordance with the request of the parent or guardian and without academic penalty permit the student
a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction, course of study or educational program is taking place or the instructional materials are being used for the duration of the part of the instruction,
...and etc. Yesterday, one of my readers noted in the comments that:
Actually, after reading the legislation a bit more carefully, it's quite topic specific. Topics like science remain science, and the creationists would have to prove that the science curriculum is in fact a religion that they disagree with.
It's got a lot less wiggle room in it than Morton's bill had in 2006.
...which is to say that if, for example, there was a class devoted to the history of Buddhism, a Catholic parent might have their child pulled from it according to the new act. And, if so, then the legislation merely codifies what is already happening in Alberta schools. As Paula Simons writes in the Edmonton Journal:
Schools already send home permission forms that parents must sign before their children take classes in sex education. Parents can already pull their children from school programs that deal with religion. I pulled my own daughter from the classroom when the Gideons came to hand out New Testaments.
Yet Premier Ed Stelmach stated yesterday, and Blackett confirmed, that "parents would have the right to opt out of evolution classes".
So how does this square with the relatively narrow wording of the bill? Will the portion of biology class devoted to evolutionary theory get defined as a religion that it is possible to disagree with?
Can of worms indeed.