Church and State

Written by Harold McNeill on January 22nd, 2018. Posted in Editorials, Tim Hortons Morning Posts


church-and-stateChurch and State Street: The Canadian Experience

Canada has made considerable progress over the past 150 years (mainly within the past 100 years) in advancing individual rights, particularly those of women, children, visible minorities and in areas involving lifestyle.
Yet, in every community across the country, there exists a safe haven for discriminatory practices not allowed in any other part of our society. In addition, the freedom to practice that discrimination is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is an unusual situation in which a more accepting set of human values is applied to those considered non-religious than is applied to Christians, Muslims, Jews and other faith-based organizations.

Link Here for a 2014 historical perspective on Church and State

A Continuing Conflict Zone In Canada

As Canada continues along the path of finding a balance between Church and State, we clearly have much rocky terrain yet to negotiate.  There is little doubt an open debate would be useful, but if the current flashback and heated rhetoric over the wording of a government funding application is an example, the time has not yet arrived. It is unlikely any current government, Liberal, Conservative or NDP would dare open the discussion as an election issue.

Hence, it will be left to the occasional bold government action and the courts to draw the line as did Trudeau in 1969 when the Liberals removed abortion from the Criminal Code, then again in 1982 when the same government brought home the Constitution and developed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since that time a series of court, parliamentary and legislative decisions, at the provincial and federal level, have helped to push forward individual rights, particularly those affecting women, children, visible minorities and the LGBTQ community. While women have made considerable gains, many barriers still stand in their path as they march towards equality with men. (For an earlier article on the subject link to Women’s Suffrage.)

The most recent furore arising over a wording change in an employment grant application, suggests how close to the surface the conflict remains. While there is no question religious groups provide good work in many areas, they continue to reserve the right to discriminate in all manner of ways, particularly with respect to women. Over my adult life, I have observed first hand both the good being done within the community by religious groups, but have also witnessed the harm caused when that discrimination is practiced in the most unseemly ways.

One other divisive debate that has wandered through Parliament over the past several decades is one word in our National Anthem, the word “son’s.”  That word has recently removed and replaced by “in all of us command” (here is an earlier post, “In all thy son’s command.”

The Current Debate

In a recent front-page article in the National Post, a reporter, John Ivison goes so far as to state a grant application will be denied unless the applicant “supports abortion.” How quickly the debate takes on an inflammatory tone. Even Fox News and right-wing religious groups in the US have jumped on the bandwagon and neither is very subtle. In the instance of Post article and others, Ivison is not reporting, he is attempting to mould public opinion.  (A bit of background on the Alberta chapter of Mustard Seed is posted in the footer).

Even though the courts and four out of five Canadians uphold the “reproductive rights” of women, it is a clause that, for most of our history, was not even worthy of being given a second thought. As a result, women were forced (and in some places still are) into the shadows where many have suffered grievous injury or died on the altar of a belief system.

One only need follow the path taken with almost every discriminatory practice to see it is a path littered with bodies and that it is most often religiously based. Over the past twenty-five years, there has been a tsunami of reports brought forth from a time when women and children had little or no power.

Today, as old issues are slowly settled, new ones take centre stage, particularly those where women, men and children, were abused by sexual predators.  Even in the current reproductive rights conflict (it’s not a debate), people seem to forget women and men are still free to follow their religious conscience. While no woman can be forced to have an abortion, she can be coerced into not to having one by constraints placed on her by her religious belief.

In this sense, theist and mono-theist groups can discriminate to their heart’s content in any number of ways as that right is protected by the Charter of Rights, Religious Freedom. Following is a short list of approved discriminatory practices:

… reproduction (birth control and abortion),
… clerical inequality
… employment conditions
… student selection in faith-based schools and universities
… gender orientation
… dress codes (veils and other headdresses)
… marriages (gay, arranged, divorced)
… blood transfusions, vaccinations and other medical treatments,
… shunning, excommunication, etc.
… segregation by race, gender, status and other explicit means

This is just a short list of discriminatory practices, where sanctions for transgressions are often far greater than in any part of the provincial, criminal or civil law.   No other business in Canada could practice any one of the above, let alone multiple items on that list, without being hauled before the courts.  It would not matter how altruistic were their overall motives.

As to the current subject of fund applications, the government is unequivocal about religious organizations parking their discriminatory practices at the boundaries of their belief system if they wish to access public funds. That being said, many religious groups across Canada still receive massive tax breaks (property) and other grants (e.g. hospital and school systems). The following article focuses on the subject as it applies in Australia (link). Alberta still funds a large faith-based hospital system in which discriminatory practices are allowed.

The best path for religious groups to follow in order to retain their Charter right to discriminate is to wholly separate themselves from debt forgiveness and accepting public funds. Individual professional groups (e.g. doctors and lawyers) will also need to address these issues within their own organizations.

In the footer is an excerpt from an article by Dr James C. (Jim) Wallace posted on the Web Site hosted by David Anderson, Conservative MP, for Cyprus Hill/ Grassland (AB).  Link here to full series of articles from the 4th Parliamentary Forum on Religious Freedom.

Here is a further article on the subject from Australia: It’s not just Islam, most religions are discriminatory,

Harold

Excerpt from the Article by James C. Wallace.

In Canada, we have only had 32 years for the Supreme Court to rule on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, thereby, to create the superstructure for religion in Canada. With each Supreme Court case, with each opinion interpreting the meaning of freedom of religion in Canada, the relationship between religion and state becomes more settled and secure.

Perhaps in the coming years, a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on religion-state relations will create that singular metaphor, that all-encompassing archetype that embodies the fullness of Canadian values in the same way that Justice Hugo Black did for the United States back in 1947.

Perhaps the resolution of the Quebec constitutional question will bring renewed clarity about who we are as two peoples in relation to religion.

Perhaps Canada will proudly maintain its multiplicity of religion-state models even as we pride ourselves in our multicultural mosaic.

Background on the issue. This is the headline in the Calgary Sun that lead of this attack on Trudeau.

Mustard Seed

Link to Article

The first I heard on this issue came from the Calgary Sun article as reported by Licia Corbella, acting on comments by Mustard Seed CEO Stephen Wile. Here is his complaint:

“The Mustard Seed doesn’t take a position on abortion, but with the government making this a requirement for funding, it’s trying to force us from a neutral position to an affirmative position on abortion, and we’re not prepared to do that,” said Wile from his Calgary office.

“We’re not willing to support the government’s position in order to get the funds, it’s just not worth it for us.

“It seems,” added Wile, “like the government is saying, ‘The issue of where you stand on abortion is more important than the work you do and the people you serve,’ and that’s really sad. At the core of who we are, we’re really against fear and hate, and unfortunately, the government is taking a position that instead of decelerating division, it’s accelerating it.”

Here is a further bit of background suggesting Mr. Wile’s motives may not be as pure as he suggests.   First, currently posted Mustard Seed job applicants are required to attest their support of the Mustard Seed Profession of Faith which, from my reading, comes mightily close to that of the Catholic Church. Not exact, but it comes close.  

Going back just a bit further in time, in 2o10 the Alberta Government, under the leadership of Premier Ed Stelmach, awarded the Mustard Seed $12,000,000 ostensibly to build housing for the homeless. A worthwhile endeavour indeed, but did that come with any liturgical strings attached? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Now skip forward a few years to after to after a time when Premier Stelmack stepped aside from leadership of the Alberta Conservative Party.  Guess what position he now holds? No less than Chairman of the Board of Covenant Health, a parallel hospital system in Alberta by the Catholic Church.

In recent years that hospital service has run headlong into conflict with recent court decisions regarding women’s reproductive rights and right to assisted dying. Here is one article:  If Covenant Health cannot obey the law, they should not get public money.

Does this mean the Mustard Seed is not a worthy charity? Of course not, but let’s be clear about where the Mustard Seed sits on women’s rights. Are they neutral? That remains to be seen as right. For starters, they could just remove the faith requirement from their job application process.

Harold

 

 

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Thanks, Lynn. It appears there was a problem with the comment system. Cheers, Harold

  • lynnmcneill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Hi Harold – looks great!

  • Maurice Smook

    August 13, 2016 |

    Hi Jillian,

    I don’t know if you are still checking this site but I had to respond again. February of 2017 it will be 72 years since this battle occurred.

    What caught my attention about this incident was on the Go Deep Documentary that aired on the History Channel. First of all I never known that this battle having ever occurred.

    According to my grade 3 teacher WW2 had never occurred. That grade 3 teacher stated that the WW2 and the holocaust was all propaganda. All of my classmates they believed her. I hate to say this but all I knew was that soldiers shooting at each other.

    I almost was expelled from school. My

    Mom my Dad my brother and my Uncle would have been arrested for propaganda. I paid the price. It was ironic a grade 5 teacher told me that Smooks are all commies. Dad was Conservative.

    All the Smooks that I known are all Conservative. If I had the money I would have loved to sue those two teachers.

    As I said I never heard of this Battle. If it were not for that program I would have never had known.

    I started to do more researching to find out more about the history of this battle. The narrator of Go Deep mentioned the names of the pilots who died that battle.

    I missed 20 minutes of that program but the camera crew had the camera’s pointed towards the sign with the names of the deceits. That is how I known.

    According to the narrator There are three who are still missing. W.J. Jackson, Harry Smook and A. Duckworth. A couple of months ago the staff of Go Deep have located Harry and A. Duckworths aircraft. This is on you tube. Harry and A. Duckworth craft is approx 650 feet deep in the Fjord. The individual who is heading this expansionary mission made it known he will not rest until all three of the missing pilots
    will be retrieved. I am sure that A. Duckworth’s kin are hoping for the same.

    What really puzzles me is that I have sent emails to the Smooks. Not one ever replying. I presume its the same with you. Sad. Dad rarely spoke about his family. It appears there is a big secret of the Smooks. I too assume Harry is a kin to my Dad. Harry maybe a 4th 5th cousin to my Dad. I too would like to know. Harry and A. Duckworth served and died for our country. The other is W.j. Jackson – who is also still missing – having died for our Country.

    In conclusion I still ask myself why is this a huge secret.

    If you are still checking this site please contact me. Maybe we may be kin.

    Take care.

  • Valerie Heuman (Roddick)

    June 19, 2016 |

    Having just returned to the Okanagan Valley from a weekend in Pibroch, I am delighted to have stumbled on your blog to see the picture of the main street. My aunt and uncle Peggy & Gordon McGillvery owned and lived in the old Post Office on the North east corner of the main intersection and my brother Adrian currently lives south a bit backing on the School yard. We are Sheila’s cousins and still have a close connection to the town.

  • Sheila(Roddick) Allison

    May 19, 2016 |

    Hi. So fun to find your blog. I remember going to school with you and Louise. I loved my childhood in Pibroch which incidentally was named by my grandfather Aaron Roddick. I will never forget the night the garage burned down. Nice to see the landmark photo before the big fire!

  • George Dahl

    April 12, 2016 |

    What a great site. I’m trying to locate a woman named Sally Jennifer who was from the Cold Lake area back in the early sixties. I met her when I was stationed at Namao air base in Edmonton. I was serving with the USAF 3955 air refueling squadron from rhe fall 1963 till the spring of 64. Sally was 22 at the time I was 21. Sally was my first love. I had orders to ship out to South East Asia and we lost contact after that.
    If any of you know the where abouts of Sally I would like to get reacquainted with her. She is First Nation, Blackfoot I believe. She is Catholic and may have attended a Catholic school in Cold Lake.
    Thank You in advance, George Dahl

  • dave armit

    March 23, 2016 |

    good old fashioned police work done by good old fashioned policemen……….in regards to mr cain..i learned a few years ago that he was born on the same day in the same hospital that i was..my father was a close friend of the cain family…!!! interesting..d a

  • Joyce McMenamon

    March 1, 2016 |

    Haha, love it! We should probably eat rats and rabbits rather than beef. Also I’ve noticed that there are a lot less pests where dogs are not kept on leashes.

  • Kari

    February 27, 2016 |

    Thanks for a wonderful trip down memory lane Dad!!! That was an amazing trip and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to share that experience together!
    ❤️

  • Ann and Herb

    January 17, 2016 |

    Love the new music – one of my most favourite ever- and love the story. Thank you for keeping us forever young in the photo! It is such a gift to know a person who writes so joyously and respectfully of his family and friends. It fills our hearts to know that you count us among them.

    A & H