Freedom of religion and conscience lies at the heart of a free and democratic society. While the principle of religious freedom is taken for granted, difficult issues arise when deeply held religious views and practices collide with other important state interests. The courts have been asked to pronounce on a number of controversial issues involving religious freedom. A dominant theme is the judicial tendency to protect vulnerable minorities in this area. Sunday closing laws imposing the religious values of the majority have been found to offend the Charter guarantee, as have policies involving school prayer, religious instruction and the prohibition of wearing religious objects. As with other Charter guarantees, however, difficult questions arise when the state is asked to take positive measures to ensure the better enjoyment of a protected freedom. For certain religious groups, religious education is fundamental. While there seems to be little question that the Charter protects the right of religious minorities to educate their children as they see fit, the courts have been unsympathetic to the claims that religious freedom requires state support for religious schools in the absence of a specific constitutional right to denominational schooling.
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