I am not sure what subjects Ray Sheen taught or still teaches that he gets so much wrong about the nature of a free democracy, but I would like to point out that there is a fundamental difference between a bunch of school kids voting whether to play soccer or football and which of those children will have their fundamental rights suspended by a choice made by their classmates’ parents. Mr. Sheen says in his letter of June 10 that he never saw any social cost being paid by pupils who declined participation in their school’s religious rituals. This may be due to his very presence that kept the majority in line, or to his not actually looking hard enough.
The Supreme Court, which is charged with protecting the fundamental rights of everyone in this country, has determined in a number of cases that stigmatization from non-participation in state-sponsored prayer is harmful. Allowing non-believers to sit out the prayers forces them to self-identify and thereby open themselves up to hurtful stigmatization. This can occur without violence or harsh words. In February of this year, a mildly autistic Florida boy invited all of his kindergarten classmates to his sixth birthday party. There were no responses. The boy’s pain was not the result of bullying but exclusion. Had his parents not complained through social media the teacher might have remained oblivious.
What Mr. Sheen is affirming is not the democratic principle of majority rules but the willful abuse of children’s rights through the “tyranny of the majority”, something the Supreme Court rightly finds contrary to the fundamental rights as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.