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.

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

Just Posted

The West Shore Firefighters Association dropped off a cheque on Nov. 28 for the Goldstream Food Bank. (Photo contributed by View Royal Firefighters Association)
West Shore firefighters give food bank a big boost

Four departments collaborate on initiative for Goldstream Food Bank

The Digital Divide–Community Technology Help Desk program looks to provide vulnerable Victoria residents with access to technology. (Black Press Media)
Technology lending library and help desk now available in Victoria

United Way Greater Victoria hopes the program will help close the digital divide

More than 46 per cent of Vancouver Island residents reported worsening health during COVID-19 in a province-wide survey released Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Islanders’ mental health takes heavy hit under COVID-19: survey results

COVID-19 SPEAK survey collected results from nearly 400,000 B.C. residents

The Capital Regional District and Island Health advised against swimming in or drinking water from Elk and Beaver Lake Regional Park after a toxic blue-green algae bloom was reported on Dec. 5. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD warns of toxic algae bloom at Elk/Beaver Lake

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Most Read