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Debate over Muslim prayer heats up PDSB meeting

Last Updated Jan 10, 2017 at 11:39 pm EDT

A heated debate over religion in schools saw once person thrown from a meeting at the Peel District School Board (PDSB) on Tuesday.

A revised operational procedure, allowing Muslim students to use their own sermons during Friday prayers, was received by trustees — sparking debate.

While the Muslim community applauded the decision, many other community members said religion has no place in schools.

The Peel school board brought forth a new procedure in the fall requiring Muslim students to choose from six pre-written sermons during their Friday prayers — meaning students could only use sermons approved by the board.

The Peel Board said this was to create consistency across its schools.

However, students said it violated their right to religious freedom.

“It’s easier to relate to another student, another peer, who can speak to the circumstances of other students who are of the same age and of the same context,” one student explained. “That’s far more inspiring to students who are listening than someone who may be older and not understanding the same context as a teenager lives in, in regular life.”

So the Peel Board reversed its decision, allowing Muslim students to once again write their own sermons, and presented it to trustees on Tuesday. But not before several community members voiced their concerns about accommodating religion in schools.

“The reason why I would strongly object to this is, by nature, Canada is a diverse country and there are different ethic groups that are here,” Krishna Kavoori, whose five-year-old child is in the Peel District School Board, explained. “If each one of us keeps asking for time to pray during the school day – there’s only five learning days – it’s going to be difficult.”

The meeting got so heated that one community member speaking out against religious accommodations in schools, was ejected for causing a disruption.

The disruption halted the meeting for about 15 minutes, but was quickly reconvened.

The rest of the meeting continued without incident.