Atheist Family Awarded Thousands After Complaining About Holiday Decorations


An atheist family in Canada whose child was barred from re-enrolling in her preschool after the parents objected to the inclusion of Christmas traditions in the classroom was awarded $12,000 Canadian dollars (approximately $9,000 in U.S. currency) in damages last week by order of a human rights tribunal.

Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué sued the Bowen Island Montessori School in British Columbia, just north of Vancouver, after the school asked them to sign a letter agreeing to the school’s multicultural curriculum, which included making Christmas ornaments in class, as a precondition for their daughter re-enrolling.

CNN reported, “The dispute began in November 2014 when the parents, who volunteered on the school board, complained about plans for the preschoolers to decorate elf ornaments.

“When other members of the school board suggested also including Hannukah activities during the holiday season, Mangel said he objected to any religion in the curriculum.”

Mangel is of Jewish ancestry and his wife is of Japanese heritage, and they are raising their daughter in an atheist home.

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In addition to the elf ornaments, the couple also expressed concern that the book “This is the Stable” about the birth of Christ was being read to the children.

According to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruling, a tense email exchange between Mangel and the school ensued over the next months.

In one email, Mangel included an attachment depicting “atheist Christmas ornaments.”

“One ornament simply displays the word ‘Skeptic.’ while another defines the word ‘Atheist’ as ‘(n) someone who believes in one fewer god than you do. (Seriously that’s all there is to it),'” according to the tribunal. “Some of the ornaments are more provocative. For example, one depicts the twin towers of the World Trade Center with the caption, ‘Atheists don’t fly airplanes into buildings.'”

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Carlos Henriques, a fellow parent at the school, pressed Mangel on how far his removal of all religious references from the classroom would go, asking if he objected to public schools singing the Canadian national anthem “O Canada,” because it includes the word “God.”

Mangel responded: “‘I’ll sue them too’ and then began doing the Nazi salute and marching around while he sung a different version of O Canada in which he substituted his own lyrics,” by Henriques’ account.

While the tribunal found some of Mangel’s reported behavior objectionable, it nonetheless awarded his child $2,000, and each parent received $5,000.

Tribunal member Barbara Korenkiewicz stated the case, “At its core, it is about a letter which held [the child’s] registration hostage to a demand.”

However, the tribunal also affirmed the private school’s right to include religious material in the classroom.

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Korenkiewicz wrote that to remove all religious references from the curriculum would rob the children of the opportunity to learn about other cultures and faith traditions.

Maria Turnbull, the school board chair, told Fox News over the weekend that the school’s curriculum is “multicultural,” and said BIMS was pleased the tribunal found it to be “appropriate.” She said the school wishes the child’s parents well and “hopes to get back to its mission” of teaching kids.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 3,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith