School Shouldn't Have Barred Child With Atheist Parents: Judge

Gary Mangel, Mai Yasue didn't want holiday decor in school; school said daughter couldn't come back
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2018 9:08 AM CST
Atheist Family Wins Dispute With Daughter's School
An atheist couple has won their case.   (Getty Images/archideaphoto)

It began with a dispute over classroom holiday decorations and ended with a preschool keeping a student's registration "hostage to a demand." That's according to a judge on the BC Human Rights Tribunal in Canada, ruling Tuesday that the Bowen Island Montessori School erred in its reaction to Gary Mangel and Mai Yasue, atheists whose 3-year-old daughter was enrolled in the school in 2014, per the CBC. The trouble started that November, when the couple found out the school would be decorating for Christmas and Hanukkah. Mangel, who's on the school's board, fired off an email to other board members saying he didn't think it "appropriate" to celebrate those events, or others with religious or political undertones, in school. That's because of kids' "absolute inability to understand the religious and political symbolism associated with those acts," he wrote.

He also warned that he hoped "there will be no discussion of Santa Claus at BIMS. I am absolutely against anyone blatantly lying to my daughter." An email exchange continued through the spring, and in June 2015, Mangel and Yasue were asked by the school to either sign papers OK'ing the school's "multicultural" curriculum, or their daughter couldn't return in the fall. In her ruling, Barbara Korenkiewicz found that decision discriminatory based on religion. But Korenkiewicz noted Mangel's own "unacceptable behavior," including an email to the school board that contained "veiled Islamophobia"—a picture of the World Trade Center with the caption "Atheists don't fly airplanes into buildings"—and a mock Nazi salute he performed. Per Korenkiewicz, Mangel and Yasue will get about $3,700 each in compensation; their daughter will get $1,500. (There's an anti-atheist bias, per a study.)

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