We live in one world and, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, every world citizen is my neighbour. That means I am to be concerned about every one. Not only concerned, but to love them and to want the very best for them. So, in this blog, I write about neighbours and social issues, often by bringing in someone else's writing and then commenting on it from my Christian point of few.
Sunday, 10 June 2018
Post 228--Quebec Secular Fundamentalism
THIS POST IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. COME BACK A FEW DAYS FROM NOW. RIGHT NOW I AM WORKING ON POST 227 WHICH IS ALSO STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION. I WILL GET TO THEM OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS--I HOPE!
Graeme Hamilton: A secular fundamentalism has taken root in Quebec
Graeme Hamilton National Post March 20, 2018
Listening to politicians, it can feel as if Quebec is under assault from religious fundamentalists. But they have no quarrel with a secular fundamentalism that has taken root in the province
MONTREAL — Listening to politicians, it can feel as if Quebec is under assault from religious fundamentalists. The opposition Parti Québécois wants an observer to report annually to the National Assembly on “manifestations of religious fundamentalism.” The Liberal government has a working group to combat radicalism. The Coalition Avenir Québec proposes banning preaching that runs counter to Quebec values.
But those same legislators have no quarrel with a secular fundamentalism that has taken root in the province at the expense of religious rights. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a message to Quebec that its state-sanctioned secularism can go too far.
In a ruling affirming the right of Montreal’s Loyola High School, a private Catholic boys school, to teach its own version of a provincially mandated course on ethics and religion, the court offered a timely reminder to politicians.
“The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs,” Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. “A secular state respects religious differences, it does not seek to extinguish them.”
The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs
The ruling specifically applies to a small number of private religious schools in Quebec, but it resonates more widely at a time when governments contend with questions involving religious rights. Recently in Quebec, mosques have run up against obstacles over fears of religious extremism, and a Muslim woman was told she could not appear before a Quebec Court wearing her hijab. The federal government has taken a stand against the face-covering niqab, saying women cannot wear the garments during citizenship ceremonies.
Interference with a religious group’s beliefs or practices is justified only if they “conflict with or harm overriding public interests,” Justice Abella wrote.
In the Loyola case, the court found that there was no such conflict or harm. The dispute stemmed from Quebec’s 2008 introduction of a course called Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC), which begins in primary school and is continued during four of the five years of high school.
The ERC program resulted from the end of denominational school boards in Quebec and reflected a noble goal of inculcating “in all students openness to diversity and respect for others,” as the court put it. Students would be taught about world religions and ethical questions from an impartial perspective. That is fine and indeed appropriate for public schools but hugely problematic for Loyola, which has been run by Jesuits since its founding in the 1840s and is attended mostly by children from Catholic families.
The instructions from the Education Department were that Loyola would not be allowed to teach any part of the ERC program — even Catholicism — from a Catholic point of view. All religions would be on an equal footing. “In an effort to try to be pluralistic, it essentially won’t take a stand,” school principal Paul Donovan lamented when the course was introduced.
Thursday’s ruling states that Quebec’s refusal to allow Loyola to teach an equivalent course from a Catholic perspective has a “serious impact on religious freedom.” And there is an implication that the Education Department’s hard-nosed approach was born out of a suspicion of religious belief.
“The Minister’s decision suggests that engagement with an individual’s own religion on his or her own terms can simply be presumed to impair respect for others,” Justice Abella wrote.
All seven judges who heard the case agreed that Loyola should be allowed to teach a version of the course that reflects its mission as a Catholic school, but there was a difference over how far it could diverge from the official curriculum.
In a partially concurring opinion that argued for less restriction on Loyola, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Michael Moldaver wrote that it is enough for Loyola teachers to treat other religious viewpoints with respect; it does not have to treat them as equally legitimate.
“Indeed, presenting fundamentally incompatible religious doctrines as equally legitimate and equally credible could imply that both are equally false,” they wrote. “Surely this cannot be a perspective that a religious school can be compelled to adopt.”
John Zucchi, whose son was a student at Loyola when the ERC program was introduced and who was a plaintiff in the initial court case, said Thursday’s ruling provides crucial guidance. “This is helping the country to come to what I would call a sane form of secularism,” he said. “We don’t need to shut down one voice in the name of diversity and pluralism, but rather diversity and pluralism mean that all perspectives can be heard and be out in the public square.”