Missed petition deadline halts religious instruction at some Manitoba schools

LANDMARK, Man. — Four Manitoba schools in a region with a large Christian population have missed an April 30 deadline to file petitions for having morning religious exercises next school year.

The Hanover School Division says the facilities affected include Green Valley School in Grunthal, Niverville High School, Landmark Elementary School and Landmark Collegiate.

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School board chairman Ron Falk says it’s the first time he can recall that religious exercises won’t be going ahead.

He says the board plans to look at whether rejected petitions can be accepted.

Pastor Paul Martens from Landmark Christian Fellowship helped collect signatures in Landmark, and says the day petitions were due, his wife arrived 15 minutes after the office closed, missing the deadline.

Falk said he is aware of the reasons for the missed deadline in Landmark, but not at the other schools.

The school board chairman said the deadline is imposed so school staff can get organized for September and groups can submit their petitions anytime during the school year. Each petition must have signatures from the parents of 60 students.

Martens says religion exercises are typically held for five minutes and could involve reciting the Lord’s prayer or a short Bible reading.

He said a separate petition that was required to continue religious instruction, which he described as a 40-minute curriculum-based teaching session, also failed to gather the required signatures.

He also said the petitions he worked on have enough signatures, and devotion time should not be cancelled based on a technicality.

Both men believe the missed deadlines are not a reflection of changing times or communities becoming more diverse.

Falk said the division has heard from parents who were shocked the exercises would not be continuing this fall. He said the board plans to look at whether rejected petitions can be accepted by the end of the month. (CTV Winnipeg)

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