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

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

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

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

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read