Only ‘silent’ prayers are allowed in Quebec schools as province moves to ban prayer rooms

Québec City –

Quebec’s education minister said Wednesday it will soon be forbidden to have prayer rooms in the province’s public schools.

Bernard Drainville told reporters in Quebec City he had learned from at least two Montreal-area schools that had permitted students to gather for prayer.

Drainville said he would issue a directive to all school service centers, adding that prayer rooms in schools are not compatible with Quebec’s policy of official secularism.

The minister, however, isn’t prohibiting prayer altogether, saying that students who want to pray should do so “discretely” and “silently.”

“There are all kinds of ways to pray,” Drainville said. “I can’t ban prayer. I ban prayer in classrooms. Now, if someone wants to pray silently, that’s their basic right.”

Drainville’s position had hardened since Tuesday, when he said schools could not reserve rooms for a single religion and had to ensure prayer spaces respected gender equality.

But he changed his mind after the Parti Québécois called for stronger measures from the Education Department.

Pascal Bérubé, the PQ member for Matane-Matapédia, reported Wednesday that a third school in Vaudreuil, west of Montreal, had opened a prayer room. He later introduced a motion in the legislature that was passed unanimously, stating that places of prayer in public schools run counter to state secularism.

“If we accept what is happening, (…) it becomes jurisprudence, and there will be requests elsewhere,” Bérubé said, adding that people can pray quietly. “No need to have a room outfitted out for this purpose,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2023.

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