Separation of Church and State

Written by Harold McNeill on May 13th, 2014. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials



May 2014, Late one night Stephen Harper and Peter McKay run away from the Supreme Court…

February 2018 (2018)
For a 2018 update on this subject link here to Church and State

This post will trace the evolution of our secular system of government and attendant public institutions. By remaining fully secular, these organizations allow all Canadians to remain free from religious rule and teachings, yet many are under constant pressure to revert to a more religious based system. It was difficult finding a way of criticizing without the criticisms being seen as a rant rather than a rational discussion. Hopefully, I have succeeded, but suppose that will depend upon the perspective of the reader. 

June 11, 2014: In a significant move BC Lawyers, by a vote of 3210 to 968, directed their benchers to reject an application for accreditation made by Trinity Western University for their new Law School. (Link)

May 15, 2014, 11:00 am. This is an Edited version of the original poster of May 13, 2014, at 12.29 pm.  Mostly cleaning up the structure with some subject matter moved around. There has been no alteration of the original direction and intent of the post.

A smattering of news reports over the past several weeks focuses on the challenges faced in maintaining a balance between competing interests in our pluralistic society. This week, PMO staff found the Prime Minister wandering around kicking chairs and punching walls after the Supreme Court yet again struck down one of his carefully crafted pieces of legislation. It is largely because of this Court of Last Resort that we are able to maintain a balance in our society. While the Prime Minister may rant and rave about this ‘activist’ court interfering in the business of Parliament, we should all be thankful it is there to protect our rights in cases where ideologically driven legislation fails to meet the standards set by our Constitution and Charter of Rights.

For his part young Trudeau choose to open Pandora’s Box with his directive about accepting only Pro-Choice candidates (if you please!). It seems Justin, God bless the little guy, has inherited his Daddy’s tendency to ‘never let a sleeping dog lie’, and as for little Stephen, he completely forgot his Mommy’s message about ‘not poking a hornets’ nest with a stick’. These items make for an interesting read, but, standing alone, are just stories about a couple of gifted and privileged boys playing politics in hallowed halls of Ottawa. Neither item would prompt me to write an in-depth post, but the next certainly did as that item, in my opinion, is an emerging challenge to our secular system.

Note: June 18, 2014: A recent article regarding issues surrounding the Covenant appears in the Vancouver Sun. Written by a former staff member at TWU, it provides a personal perspective. The link at: Who would Jesus discriminate against?”

The Covenant

For that item, we jump to the West Coast and take a peek at that bastion of high moral standard, Trinity Western University.  It seems “The Covenant” they so carefully crafted is the only thing that keeps TWU students and faculty from sliding into a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). I cannot imagine the debauchery that must go on in secular Universities.

The President of TWU went further by stating:

2014 AD        “We are not prepared to throw over the values that have been traditionally held in the Christian community and in the communities of many faiths just because society has changed its sexual ethic.”  (Bob Kuhn, President, TWU, as reported in the Times Colonist, May 7, 2014, p. A7).

Changed from what? From the good old days? The day’s when fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves, could be killed without a second thought? I think you stepped over the line with that little tidbit. To be fair Bob, your belief system has changed it’s ‘ethic’ thousands of time over the past 2000 years. Your book hasn’t, but the ethic has. It’s funny, but after an extensive search of the TWU Web Site, I could not find your quote so assume cooler heads prevailed and it was deleted. Never-the-less, the damage was done.

As with Stephen and the stick and Justin, the sleeping dog, I expect Bob never gave much thought to how his message might resonate – in Bob’s case, across the past 2000 (and 14) years of history. Let’s take a look:

The History

1500   AD       Persecution (Witches, Scientists, Atheists, Agnostics, etc.)  “We are not prepared to throw over the values …” (the Illustration of Joan of Arc Being Burned at the StakePersecutors)

1200   AD       Inquisition     “We are not prepared to throw over the values …   (the Inquisitors)

1000   AD       Crusades      “We are not prepared to throw over the values …    (the Crusaders)

  500 AD           Killing of Heretics        “We are not prepared to throw over the values …”   (the Oppressors)

Of course, in this modern world Bob would never consider killing people who did not fall in line, but over the past 2000 years, when in a position of absolute power, the willingness of religious leaders to have people killed because they did not behave or believe as directed, was demonstrated every day of every week of every year.

To be sure, non-religious leaders and their followers also killed, but at least they did not claim to be doing so in the name of a peace-loving God.  To me, killing, then claiming it was done in the name of God, is just wrong. It is only within the past two or three centuries these barbarous practices have been curtailed – curtailed, but not eliminated, as we note in many hot spots around the world. However, we are slowly making progress.

The use of the Old and New Testaments, followed six centuries later by the Koran, to control what people said, did and believed, began to lose favour in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as the scientific method and new philosophical ideas gained in strength. Leading thinkers and their following began to push back, but it would take three or four centuries to bring about significant change. Many of these leading thinkers were forced to recant and if they choose to stand firm, death was often the outcome. Their persecutors probably stated as they lite the fire: “We are not prepared to change our values…

A Time of Rapid Change

This time of great change (mainly during and following The Enlightenment) flowed into the modern world as new systems of governing were built upon democratic, secular principles rather than religious principles. In Canada, since the 1980’s, we have Charteralso underpinned our system with a Constitution and Charter of Rights.

We also have a Criminal Code that presumes innocence until proven guilty and, supporting this, Provincial Statutes to complete the legislative side. All this is combined with Civil and Criminal Case Law (precedent) that slowly evolved from English Common Law that had its beginnings back in the Middle Ages. In order to regulate the system, we have an independent judiciary that works to apply the law in an even-handed manner as well as to keep it relevant in an ever-changing world.

Finally, the Supreme Court of Canada stands as the final arbiter against those who seek to degrade the system in favour of ideological ends. While the Federal Parliament and Provincial Legislatures can change old laws and make new ones, they must be mindful of the overriding strength of the Constitution and Charter of Rights. What seems to pique Prime Minister Stephen is that he does not like is having the Supreme Court looking over his shoulder as his majority government works their legislative slate of hand.

To see how this battle can quickly go sideways when religion walks in, look no further than the United States, a country that is pummeled from every side by religious groups seeking to have their particular belief system become the dominant force in Federal and State affairs (3). At the Federal level, the Evangelical Moral Majority became that force in the 1980s, but due to numerous sex and money scandals, the group fell out of favour (5).

Fire and Brimstone to a New Age

Today, TWU is part of the New Age Evangelical team who recognized the ‘fire and brimstone’ sermons of TV Evangelists, would no longer suffice. As we can observe in the United States, secular institutions in many States (Texas is but one example), find themselves pushed to the wall as New Age Evangelical leaders seek to insert Christian principles into education, law and politics. (4)

The six-part PBS Series, God in America, traces the four hundred year battle as American religious groups fought (often against each other) to have their particular brand become the dominant force in American political and institutional life.  To this point, Canada has not followed suit, but strong Conservative leaning Evangelical groups, such as TWU, stand to wait at the gate for the right moment to surge forth in Canadian education, law and politics. A young Barack Obama in a YouTube Video gave a stirring lecture on the need for a clear separation of Church and State. It was a rough copy, but is still easy to follow.

In Canada over recent years, we see clear traces of this in areas where Conservatives hold the reins of power and in Alberta, that staunch bastion of religious conservatism, continues to push the limits in many institutions, particularly those in the area of education. A recent decision by the St. Albert Catholic School Board regarding a ‘transgender’ person is but one example. Alberta Case (May 11, 2014, National Post)

For President Kuhn and the leaders of other religious based schools — if you are not prepared to keep restrictive religious beliefs ‘in-house’, or if you flout laws that guarantee equality (as in the Alberta case) within our society, you can rest assured resistance will continue to flow your way. Secular organizations such as Law Societies, Teacher Association’s and leaders of other public institutions, would be well advised to push back hard, particularly against those who require the signing of a Covenant. (1)

Why a Covenant when the Bible will do?

Be honest Mr Kuhn, the Covenant you so carefully crafted has nothing to do with maintaining the ‘morality’ of your students and faculty – you and they already have the Bible as your guide. Just point your students and faculty to the relevant verses (see the short list in the footer) and if they thought there was room to fudge, those few verses should disabuse them of the idea.

No, creating the Covenant is your way of skirting the real problem with your Bible (as it is with the Koran) – the books openly promote sexism, racism and discrimination even if a good many Christians and Muslims do not. Can you imagine having your lawyer go to the Supreme Court and reading the sections below as part of your justification for acting as you do? No, you certainly could not do that for as you say: “We are prepared to throw over the values …”

I have also read many of your other “supporting documents” and think everyone taking part in the writing must have taken tap dancing lessons. They bobbed, weaved and equivocated on all the central issues and never once did they refer to any of those Biblical verses in support their argument. You would think that is the least they could have done in an institution of higher learning. (link: TWU Response to Law School Issue)

You might try being as honest a young homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered person or an unmarried couple trying to find their way in the world. No, instead you shut them out with a finely crafted Covenant (6). The Covenant is nothing more than a means to restrict membership to a narrow group of like-minded individuals (assuming they don’t lie on the form) who share an equal distaste for certain groups. Not a very auspicious start for an honest Christian life would you say? If your faith is not strong enough to stand against a ‘sinful and immoral’ society, it is not much of a faith is it?

By way of comparison, a friend, who taught for two years at the Khalsa Sikh School in Surrey (not far from your own), did not have to sign a Covenant about her beliefs or her willingness to follow a restrictive moral code. For that matter, the school administration, teachers and parents were happy to have her in the classroom as a means to create balance in their world. She respected their beliefs and they, hers.  A few years later she applied for a job at a Christian School but found that school required her to sign a restrictive Covenant. She could not, in good conscience, sign that agreement although she needed the job.  All she had to do to get the job, and likely what a lot of your students and faculty have already done, is lie.

It seems likely, the only students and teachers who take your Covenant fully to heart will be those diehards who have already buried themselves so deep they cannot help but see the rest of society as anything other than hopelessly lost in an immoral world beyond redemption. When those students move outside the confines of your sheltered institution, how could they possibly shed themselves of their righteous, discriminatory attitudes?   “We are not prepared to throw over the values …”

A Closing Note

In our society, I don’t think any Christian, Muslim or Jew would support the insertion of even small part of a belief system, other than their own, into the governance of our country or our public institutions? No, that would be counterproductive. In the TWU case, they might even argue that it was the Judeo-Christian ethic that our country was founded, therefore they have a greater ‘right’. I think that would demonstrate a very narrow and dangerous path to follow in our pluralistic society.

While I accept the Constitutional right of TWU students and faculty to practice their belief as they see fit, they must do so in a manner that complies with the law of the land and that means they cannot discriminate even in the guise of a Covenant. In the wider world and particularly if they work in ‘secular’ institutions, they must also respect the line that divides Church and State. No less would be expected from any other group be they religious or otherwise.

Harold McNeill

(1) Do you really think signing a “Covenant” is going to stop a heterosexual or homosexual couple from climbing into the back seat of a car, or from meeting for a secret tryst on or off campus? Or individuals who become ‘couples’ in University (not totally unheard of you know) from having sex.

The community of Christians in which I grew up was predominately Catholic and I was at one time a Catholic. No Covenants need be signed, for there was the Bible and the structures within that book concerning premarital, extramarital and homosexual sex acts, abortion, birth control and pages of others. Almost every aspect of life seemed well defined (reference the following short list). For certain, no Catholic I knew would ever step over that line.

(2) A word on how TWU expects adherence to the Covenant): “Maintenance of one’s integrity with regard to the Community Covenant is essential for continued membership in the community. Once a commitment has been indicated through signature, failure to respect the Community Covenant is a breach of personal integrity, a matter which may, in some cases, be of greater concern than the violation itself.” (an evasion, but the intent is clear).

(3) Barack Obama on Separation of Church and State:  You Tube Video

(4) St. Albert Catholic School Board Ruling on Transgender: Alberta Case (May 11, 2014, National Post)

(5) “By the late 1980s the views of the Moral Majority were challenged widely and the organization started to crumble. With its waning support, critics started to call the organization “neither moral nor a majority”. By 1988 there were serious cash flow problems and Falwell dismantled the organization in 1989″ (Link – scroll down to ‘Challenges’)

(6) The use of “Covenants” has a long history of being used to discriminate. In my home city, race-based covenants were still being enacted in Oak Bay (were I policed for thirty years) and other areas of Victoria as well as pockets across Canada, as late a 1952.  These ‘race-based’ covenants (that may still exist on some property titles) have now been voided:  “The BC Land Titles Act decrees that land use or ownership cannot be restricted because of the “sex, race, creed, colour, nationality, ancestry or place of origin.”  (National Post, May 17, 2014). As we progress into the future, covenants that discriminate against persons whose sexual orientation contravenes the fine sensitivities of an organization or group of people, will likewise become unacceptable. Remember the “good old days” when women were restricted from establishments selling liquor (as late as the 1960s) or from the clubs that had a “Men Only” policy (e.g. Victoria’s Union Club for Businessmen.).

Facebook: Miscellaneous Discussion (edited):

May 10, 2014

FB Friend: Trudeau has an interesting spin on the word CHOICE. I always thought the operative word in pro-choice was choice. Now he says he won’t give future party candidates a choice about whether to be pro-choice. Just wondering about a scenario where if he was elected – ahem – and a potentially brilliant finance minister was prevented from running as a candidate because he just happened to be a fully practicing Catholic. It’s a scary “slippery slope” when parliament loses the value system of a pluralistic society.

Harold: It’s the vote, not the belief that counts. Christians, Muslims or Jews whether they be Liberal, NDP, Conservative or Green, need not be concerned. In any vote, we know they would abstain because their belief system precludes them from supporting any form of same-sex arrangements, abortion, birth control, divorce, etc. (depending on the faith).

Why, because each of those individuals understands their particular religious belief automatically dictates their position regardless of what rationale arguments to the contrary might be presented.

Because Canadians live in a free society where people can hold any number of beliefs without fear or favour each is free practice their belief as they see fit, but only as long as they obey the laws of the land. What they cannot do is bring their belief system into the Government Chamber or into the Secular Institutions (schools, courtrooms, etc) that have been carefully crafted to serve every person equally.  We can see how quickly this could all go south (oop’s) when distinctions between church and the state become blurred.

FB Friend: That’s why parties need to be open-minded enough allow anyone to run as a candidate – be they fundamentalists, atheists, Islamic, Jewish, etc. etc. and not pose restrictions on who they will “let in”. Of course, in the end, the electorate has the final say.

Harold: Exactly, but my fear would be that those elected would not leave their religious views at the doors of Parliament or Legislature…heaven knows (oop’s again), there were enough members on the Boards on which I sat, who simply could not set their private interests aside. Think again of the awful situation that exists in the United States.

FB Friend: This post refers more to the TWU case than to your topic in general. Have you seen the movie, Philomena? I hope so – or there will be “spoilers” here! It’s a simple story, but with many deep layers, thus it has shot to my personal top 10 list. The underlying story is the spiritual journey of a reporter, an agnostic, and woman who demonstrates to him the true essence of Christianity.

Throughout the movie her ability to love and forgive is contrasted with the behaviour of the Catholic Church [albeit at that time and place]. By the end of the movie his personal conversion is conveyed [actually the climax of the movie] when he angrily shouts to a nun, “I think if Christ were here he’d kick your fu–ing wheelchair over!” One of the film’s messages is that, until recently, most Christian churches have been overly obsessed with “sexual sin”.

One wonders if the nun’s poisonous words towards “those girls who let their carnal pleasures rule” are because she has had to take a vow of chastity and has never experienced a pleasure that God designed to be beautiful. Anyway, I agree with the message in the movie. I think religious bodies such as TWU do more harm than good and present a false example of what Christ’s journey to earth was all about. And I definitely agree with you that a covenant, a signed piece of paper is ridiculous. As to the topic of Church and State, I will have to study up on it, because I had always thought that it was a formal Constitutional matter whereby the government wouldn’t be in bed with one particular church/denomination.  Link to European Model

FB Friend:  What I personally think is important [and this relates to the discussion the other day, is that all MP’s get a chance to argue their case before the House, even if it reflects their concerns or bias. In the case of having to be pro-choice, an MP who was pro-life could plea for more funding to support young women through a pregnancy/adoption journey. But when it came time to vote – he would have to weigh on whether to abstain, or whether to reflect the views of his constituents – if he had received much correspondence objecting to his stance.

Harold: That was well put (both above).  It is a very hard subject to write on as I also believe we must somehow find the way to more effectively deal with the issue of a abortion, just as we should deal with the issue of end of life choices. The difficulty – these discussions get so wrapped up in religion (as dictated in differing belief systems) it is nearly impossible to move forward. Remember the extremely divisive debates that took place back in the late 1980’s, when the Supreme Court struck down the law in the Morgentaler case?  (Link)


Sexuality and the Bible  (a very short list)

Leviticus 18:22: ” Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.”

Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: theyBurning in Hell
shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

Deuteronomy 23:17: ” There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.”

Screen Shot (Web, My Catholic Faith): It was the archangel Michael and the good angels who cast the dragon and the bad angels (devils) into eternal hell (Ap. 12. 7,8).  In my twenties, the above text was the study guide for my Catechism lessons. 

Judges 19:22: “Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.”

1 Kings 14:24: “And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.”

1 Kings 15:12: “And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.”

1 Kings 22:46: “And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.”

2 Kings 23:7: “And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.”

Romans 1:26-27: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

1 Corinthian 6:9: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.”

1 Timothy 1:9:10: “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other things that is contrary to sound doctrine;”

1 Corinthians 10:8: We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did–and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 

Ephesians 5:5: For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. —

Hebrews 13:4: Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

James 4:4: You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Jude 1:7: In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Revelation 2:22: So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.

Revelation 21:8: But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.

Hundreds of other verses continue in a similar vein.




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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.