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BOARD OF INQUIRY TO RULE ON LORD'S PRAYER

Released on November 26, 1996

A board of inquiry will sit for three days in December and January to
decide whether the Lord's Prayer and Bible readings can be recited in
public schools in Saskatoon.

Donna Scott, chief commissioner/director of the Saskatchewan Human
Rights Commission, said she anticipates that interested parties will
apply for intervenor status so they can add their arguments to those of
the commission and the Saskatoon Board of Education.

A former judge of the Court of Queen's Bench, Kenneth Halvorson, is the
one-person board. On Dec. 20, he will hear preliminary arguments on
procedural and legal issues as well as any applications for
intervention. On Jan. 9 and 10, he will hear evidence from a group of
Saskatoon parents and from the Saskatoon Board of Education No. 13.

In its complaint to the commission in December 1993, the nine parents
alleged that use of the Lord's Prayer and Bible readings in public
school classrooms violates The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. They
said that this practice violates their right to freedom of conscience,
contrary to Section 4 of the Code, and that their children are being
denied the right to enjoy an education without discrimination because
of creed or religion, contrary to Section 13 of the Code.

The Saskatoon Board of Education said it encourages teachers to open
the school day with the recitation of the Lord's Prayer or a Bible
reading. They said that this practice is allowed by Section 181(2) of
The Education Act and constitutionally protected by The Constitution
Act, 1867 as amended by The Saskatchewan Act, 1905.

The complaint was investigated by staff at the Saskatchewan Human
Rights Commission. The commission concluded that there is a
constitutional right to some religious instruction in Saskatchewan's
public schools, but that does not include Bible readings or the
recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Scott said this constitutional issue
will be argued before the board on Dec. 20.

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For more information, contact:

Donna Scott, Chief Commissioner/Director
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Saskatoon, Phone: (306) 933-5952

Donalda Ford, Assistant Director
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Regina, Phone: (306) 787-2530

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