July 16, 2020

A Values Charter?

chartervalues
Update: The spam attack seems to be a little more under control.  Thanks for the great comments!

Chaplain Mike had an interesting post this week when he criticized an organization that invited us to patronize businesses that “welcome us and respect our values.” I found it interesting because I wanted to write about another organization that also wants people to respect their values. In this case it is the government of the Province of Quebec in Canada.

Premier Marois is quoted as saying: “To recognize secularism as a Quebec value is to take cognizance of the evolution of a people which, for the past half century, has become increasingly secular and has taken the confessional character out of its institutions.”

This is a move towards a secular society where those providing public services would be banned from wearing “conspicuous” items than have a religious connotation. It would apply to all those providing a public service, including healthcare workers, and educators. In addition those providing or receiving a state service could not do so with a covered face.  The images above are from a poster from the government showing examples of religious symbols that would be banned under their proposed Values Charter.

Baltej Singh Dhillon
There have already been a number of cases in Canada dealing with similar items. In 1990 a Sikh, Baltej Singh Dhillon, was accepted into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was told that he would have to shave his beard, and discard his turban. He protested and asked, “Is somebody really asking me to protect [the RCMP] tradition, or are they asking me to sacrifice my religion, my principles, my disciplines, my respect in the community, the respect I have from my family, and all the other things that tie into this religion?” In the end the Canadian government ruled that he could wear his turban as part of his uniform, and Mr. Singh has gone on to have a distinguished career with the RCMP.  The  debate over religious items of clothing for the most part was considered settled in Canada.  Until now.  The debate has begun to be rekindled.

It seems though as if societies are always debating “values”.  The recent post by Chaplain Mike talked about a very different set of values than those being proposed by the government of Quebec.  I would like us to continue the discussion begun by Chaplain Mike.   What kind of values do we want for our society?  What kind of values are important to us?  Should our expressions of belief and religion be public or private?  Should one religion dominate society, religion have no place in society, or somewhere in between?  If in between, then what should that look like?  Are the cases mentioned here and in the earlier post both examples of intolerance or a lack of respect for the views, beliefs, and values of others?

One final thought here.  The words “tolerance” and “respect” jumped out at me as I was writing this.  They seem like they might be synonyms, but check out these dictionary definitions:

Tolerance:  “A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own.”

Respect:  “Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability.”

When it comes to the values of others, are the values expressed in these posts intolerant, tolerant, respectful, or even embraced? Where on this continuum should Christians be when it comes to the values that others hold?

Comments

  1. The definitions are a telling part of this whole concept, IMHO! Many groups today seem to say that they want “tolerance”, but what they really want is to demand respect. Respect, like love, can only be freely given…it cannot be coerced or forced.

    I am looking forward to hearing the thoughts of other I-Monks on this. I have only personally experienced this conundrum once, when as a home health nurse I was told I could not wear my crucifix necklace into a senior high-rise dedicated to elderly Jews, some holocaust survivors….

  2. I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, though I now attend an evangelical Anglican church, I remember how it felt to be pressured by school and work colleagues to engage in, say, Christmas or interfaith prayers and activities that at the time I believed was sinful.

    I don’t want a dominant religion because I’ve learnt from experience that being a minority can be hard.

    • Wow, Paul. I’d love to hear more about your journey. I have a good friend who is JW. I’m not sure it’s appropriate in this forum but I’d like to connect with you by email. With moderator permission I will post my email address.

  3. Steve Newell says

    I can be tolerant but I can completely disagree with that person and believe that person is wrong. I don’t have to accept it but just allow it.

    As for respect, I can tolerate a person while not respecting their position. They have the right to be wrong but I do not have to agree with them.

    I can also respect the individual but complete disagree with their position or beliefs. Respect does not mean agreement.

  4. oh Canada! . . . this beautiful ‘mosaic’ country was always a model to us of how people could come and live and maintain their beloved customs, . . . and now THIS? YIKES! The homeland of my father’s birth must not change to ‘exclude’ people in this way. How can this happen in such a country? It goes against something core to that country’s spirit, I think.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Eh, it’s a minority government in Quebec that wants to do this. And there has been talk of a Constitutional Challenge. The rest of Canada is halfway betweenbemusedand irritated.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Quebec has always been a hot-bed of partisans [in the old sense] and ethnic rivalries. There is Canada and there is French Canada. How many votes to try to secede or quasi-secede have they had in the past few decades?

      It is interesting how it mirrors the ardent secularism one sees in France which has laws about traditional Islamic attire and regulations biased against immigrants.

    • Those who profess a “secular” viewpoint look at it as being “neutral” to all other points of view, as if the absence of ANY religious belief were not a religious belief in itself!

      The is NO “neutral” value system and as close as we can get to one is in adopting a tolerant point of view, one that allows others to be different except where the differences impact society negatively or cause a deviation from “good order”. And even THAT description can be massaged into something unintended! Eternal vigilance is required.

    • If you look over the pond to France, you will see where Quebec is drawing it’s ideas from.

      Quebec has ‘Distinct Society’ legislation that allows it to set its own immigration policies and practices too. The Qubecois, like France, had dangerously low birth rates throughout the 1990s, so they relied on immigration from French speaking countries to boost their claim of a Distinct (aka. French) Society. Then, they realized they weren’t preserving Quebecois values, or language, but becoming a minority within Quebec (since N. Africans and Haitians had far more kids than the average Quebecois). They have now set about to fix this (a) by offering $7/day daycare for children of any age, paying huge baby bonuses and via Provincial healthcare offering free IVF treatments to struggling couples and (b) trying to stamp out non-Quebecois attitudes and beliefs – this new proposed (but not yet passed) law banning religious symbolism is just one more push back in a growing list of push backs aimed to restore Quebec’s majority minority.

  5. So the good news here is that the government of Quebec is simply attempting to make explicit a cultural trend that has been implicit for some time and not only in Canada but throughout the western world. I always appreciate it when someone puts their cards on the table. It is better to deal with the hand that is being dealt rather than attempt to guess if they are bluffing or not.

    We christian believers really should NOT be shocked by this. Many of our forefathers had similar choices to make with more serious consequences (“renounce Jesus or die!”). Perhaps saddened that it has come to this, but let’s not pretend that we haven’t been warned from the beginning that the powers-that-be ever really liked us.

    So the question is, do we fight for our rights or do we suffer in the name of Jesus?

    Or both?

    Of course, the sad irony is that Quebec seeks to institutionalize this value, mistakenly thinking that it is a value-neutral value.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Of course, the flip side to that is that the original White European settlers compelled their aboriginal Native Americans with a similar message: “Accept Jesus, or face death or exile.”

      And then the natives refused, and they were killed or exiled. Or they conformed to the Christian hegemony, and they were killed or exiled.

      So, maybe instead of making the question, “Do we fight for our rights or do we suffer in the name of Jesus,” the question should be, “How do we eliminate hegemony and privilege, rather than merely replace a religious hegemony with a non-religious hegemony?”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > How do we eliminate hegemony and privilege

        By Liberal Constitutional Democracy [1] and rule of law. We know the answer. But then there is a populace to distracted to participate.

        [1] Liberal Constitutional democracy is not the same as “democracy”. The essence of Liberal Constitutionality is specific protections for minority rights and limitations upon the majority. The US Senate was [prior to the “nuclear option”] a specifically Liberal institution in that it magnified the powers of the minority over against the House which represents the raw weight of the majority. A brilliant scheme, but sadly it is failing precisely because people have been taken in by arguments that it doesn’t work; arguments made often by people who do not want it to work.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Arguments made by people who see themselves as the one and only proper choice for Caesar’s throne.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      >So the question is, do we fight for our rights or do we suffer in the name of Jesus?

      Very fortunately we like in a representative constitutional democracy.

      We do no need to *fight* for our rights.

      We need to advocate and inform. We need to be present.

      Getting a seat at the table requires being present.

  6. Richard Hershberger says

    What the Premier of Quebec is proposing is the European model of dealing with religious diversity: banning outward signs of religion in an attempt to reduce conflict. Europe does many things well, but this is not one of them. The US system of promoting tolerance, including outward signs, is much better. (That being said, we often honor this in the breach more than the observance, and the most vocal culture warriors are often the worst offenders. )

    What strikes me is the head scarf in the top middle image. I used to have a girlfriend who wore a scarf like that. It had no religious significance. It is very practical in cold weather (such as in Quebec). So a practical item of headwear is to be banned for fear that someone might think the wearer is Muslim?

    Consider also the yamaka. I claim no expertise in Jewish law, but my understanding is that the fact of covering the crown of the head is what is important, not the specific form of the headgear accomplishing this. So, for example, Hank Greenberg was not out of religious uniform when he was in baseball uniform. So, if the concern is religious, should not baseball caps also be banned? Indeed, any head covering at all?

    What is really going on here is cultural rather than religious. Observant Jews don’t habitually wear baseball caps as a tribal marker, though they do wear them if they are playing baseball at the time. If head scarves were normal apparel among Western women, the fact that they are also worn by observant Muslim women would be unremarkable.

    Here is another sign that this is cultural rather than religious. Christians don’t go about naked. Back in the day, missionaries in some parts of the world put a lot of effort into getting native converts to put on clothes. Does it not follow then that since clothing is worn by observant Christians, clothing ought to be banned? This seems ridiculous, but only because clothing is the cultural norm regardless of religious affiliation.

    They key is that this whole discussion is only superficially about religion and religious tolerance. It is actually about cultural norms, and imposing uniformity as widely as possible. feh

  7. David Cornwell says

    This is a very interesting and informative post. The events in Canada seem to me just another signpost pointing to the passing of the Constantinian Settlement. Secularism (modern paganism) is ascendant and winning the day in a big way. The hold of churches on the mind and hearts of the modern citizen has gradually faded away.

    Remember the Blue Laws? When I was a child almost all the stores were closed on Sunday. Some of it was due to the Blue Laws, part just as part of respect for the Sabbath observance of Christians. In my family we refused to buy on Sunday, or to go to movies for entertainment. Now most Christians have absolutely no hesitation to go out to shop at the mall on Sunday afternoon. Unless, of course, there is a ball game to watch either at the stadium or on television. Which reminds me of church on Super Bowl Sunday.

    Christmas has been co-opted by capitalistic paganism to serve its own purpose. Advent is just a word that most of people fail to comprehend. Just mention it to most people and they think you come from another planet.

    National flags fly in our churches. Many churches play patriotic songs as part of “worship” in recognition of national holidays. And then fifteen minutes of salutes to the military establishment.

    So we should not be surprised when asked to remove symbols of belief from our clothing.

    It’s difficult to know what the future holds, but it will be different. In the end it may force the Church to once again become the Church standing in witness to Christ in an alien culture. However we need to remember that “God so loved the world,” meaning the world that we have, live in, and are part of.

  8. That Other Jean says

    Argh. I understand provisions in the law such as those which prohibit obscuring your identity–like covering most of your face in a driver’s license photo–but demanding that all “conspicuous” items of religious identification be removed from people delivering public service cannot be right. Such symbols are important to the wearers; some are a vital part of their religious practice. What harm do they do? Granted, Canada is not the United States and the Province of Quebec is not Canada, but it seems to me that a government has no more business promoting secularism than it does to promote religion.

  9. I think we should all be required to wear grey pant suits and dress in a unisex fashion. In this way we can mitigate the chance of offending anyone since this has become the number one reason for living.

    I’ve always suscribed to the notion that the more you know about a culture/religion/group the better off you’ll be. Not a fan of this anymore than I am a fan of taking all mention of any religion out of schools (notice I mean all and every – not one particular type). As far as I am concerned Secularism is just as much a religion as any of the traditional religions out there.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I think we should all be required to wear grey pant suits and dress in a unisex fashion.

      Don’t forget required to be Bisexual in addition. That would be the ultimate Unisex fashion (and I actually heard it justified that way many years ago — no Male, no Female, only Persons(TM) without difference).

      • It would seem that the more we become ‘inteliigent’ and ‘civilized’ the thinner our skin seems to get. I am not sure what the people of today would have done during the great immigrations during the mid 1800’s through the early part of the twentieth century. How interesting it is to see what was truly important when there was more focus on just finding a dry place to live and food to eat. How we can focus on being offended when someone is wearing a Star of David, a headress or a cross, and yet champion the guy who is dressed in a dress and lipstick and call this alright…. maybe at fifty I’m getting a bit crotchety… early crotchety syndrome I believe I’ll call it…wait… that label offends me…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          In his non-fiction Danse Macabre, Steven King remarked that such First World Worries and Important Activist Causes “are the sign of a society that has won the survival game”. We don’t bury most of our kids before age six and don’t have barbarian militias raping and pillaging and slave-raiding every year, so all that leftover survival instinct has to go somewhere. Like into Utopian Activism.

          And that “the thinner our skin seems to get” was also described as “Exquisite Sensitivity to any slight or injury to themselves, coupled with Utter Indifference towards any slight or injury they might give to others.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          How we can focus on being offended when someone is wearing a Star of David, a headress or a cross, and yet champion the guy who is dressed in a dress and lipstick and call this alright….

          But that’s SEXUAL. And like an Alcoholic’s Constitutional Right to My Next Drink, their Consitutional Right to Sexual Paraphila cannot be interfered with in any way.

          And Secular Activists are just as obsessed with all things SEXUAL as Christian Culture War Activists, just in the opposite direction.

    • Rather than eliminating all of the offending articles of clothing, perhaps the solution would be to combine them somehow (a turban plus a face-veil, etc.), and make them mandatory for all state employees, who would then resemble ninjas.

    • Ties and men’s white dress shirts should be banned, being conspicious symbols of Mormonism.

  10. “Tolerance is an empty virtue in the absence of firmly held and mutually contradictory beliefs.” – Stephen Prothero

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      There’s a button that was going around SF con dealers’ rooms a couple years ago:

      “TOLERANCE: The amount of abuse a device or system can take before it breaks down completely.”

  11. Wow that’s horrible! If we don’t start to change the direction of our country, we’re going to go the same way Canada is going (and in many ways how England already is)

    We need revival!

    • How about reformation? Revival seems to have created the mess we are currently in.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > We need revival!

      Oh, no. Not that again.

      • James the Mad says

        “Oh, no. Not that again.”

        I could handle the call for revival if properly understood: It starts with US, with OUR need to repent and seek God’s face!

        But every call for revival I’ve seen in my years as a believer is aimed at THEM. If only THEY would repent! If only THEY would turn from their wicked ways, and seek God’s face.

        Until we get that right we’re just whistling in the dark.

      • What do you mean?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          That yet more emotion and hollerin’ does not accomplish anything; that is just excavating an even bigger hole.

          If it was the kind of revival where everyone went home an read a not-a-self-help book not written by a west coast mega-church pastor I’d be all for it.

    • I think you have already gone the way of Canada and then some. You just can’t see it because it is too close.

  12. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > What kind of values do we want for our society?

    Equity, transparency, honesty, and civility

    > What kind of values are important to us?

    I’m not certain what this means; a “value” is something important.

    > Should our expressions of belief and religion be public or private?

    If it is private it is not an expression; so public. But public need not be confrontational. Civil society is not about MY RIGHTS it is about everyone’s rights – which are the practical manifestations of their inherent dignity – it is about everyone granting to everyone else the space for maximal execution of those rights.

    > Should one religion dominate society,

    No. Even if one religion is more pervasive – dominance is a posture it should not assume nor be permitted to assume. Domination is not compatible with civility.

    > If in between, then what should that look like?

    Successfully it looks like a big noisy mess – a safe and peaceful mess.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    In practice, Tolerance(TM) goes only one way: The Powerless are Compelled to always Tolerate everything the Powerful do; the Powerful show NO tolerance towards anything of the Powerless. And the only way to not be forced is the Zero-Sum game of make sure you’re the ones in Power. Whether with a secular, Islamic, or Christian coat of paint, “There is no right, no wrong, only POWER.” — Lord Voldemort

  14. My hunch is that Quebec is following France’s lead in this… which I’ll freely admit to not understanding, except by way of the collusion between church and state prior to the French Revolution.

    • And you are right, numo. I understand our system might be shocking to some in the States (country of the undefined “civil religion”) and some other cultures more open to the joys of “multiculturalism”, but in our country democracy was established despite the opposition of the dominant religion. This episode has left its mark. Not saying that our system is perfect, but there are issues elsewhere too.

      I would also like to point out very respectfully to Mike that translating the French concept of “laïcité” (used in Québec) by “secularism” does not help, since the two concepts actually do not coincide.

      This being, thank you guys. As I am preparing a conference on the interaction between Church and State in the US: your reactions will give me some good examples of the American take on this issue.

    • If you haven’t been to Europe lately it won’t make much sense, basically, it is demographics. France’s birthrate plummeted even by European standards. France, being the former colonist of North Africa, began allowing large numbers of French speaking Northern Africans into France as its own birthrate dropped. It didn’t allow as many people from all over the world in as, say, the US, just Northern Africans. The society became lopsided in favour of North Africans, North African Islamic culture began chaffing at the French’s love of secularism, causing them to ban overtly religious symbols (namely, not allow France too look like a North African city). It didn’t work too well, of course. But, French schools have banned all religious wear, as have all civil servant jobs. It worked for Turkey last Century, and France hopes it will work for them.

      It is a long history, as the North African youth also felt disenfranchised in France and often went on crime sprees. French people were driven out of their neighbourhoods and France began to become culturally segregated. France wanted better integration, it did this, by and large, by banning overtly religious symbols – it was mostly targeted at the veil, something France felt isolated women and prevented them from fully integrating with French society. But, to be fair, it had to extend to all religious symbols.

      • What i’m referring to is what Tom Huguenot is talking about – it’s part of French identity, re. their democracy having been established despite the opposition of the church and the aristocracy. The French value secularism in a way that’s hard for most of us to fathom, as we didn’t have to oppose a state church here.

        In other words, this dates back to the 1790s. It’s not something cooked up to oppose people from former French colonies, though i’ve no doubt that the far right is trying to use it that way.

        • It is not so much a right/keft thing here, although it is ironic to see the right promoting laïcité and (part of ) the left wanting to weaken it to encourage multiculturalism.
          It is how it works here. You’ve got freedom of religion, but you keep it to yourself.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Isn’t insistence on “Don’t Rock the Boat” often a sign of an abusive or dysfunctional authority? Or one in Denial about something? (Like in alcoholic/abusive/dysfunctional families.)

          • I was thinking of the ultras nationalists who’d rather not have all those Africans (etc.) living in France, but am also aware that these feelings are not exactly confined to one group of people… That those of highly differing political views might, unfortunately, agree on the immigrantsbfrom former French colonies.

            We have similar problems here, though I think the influx of immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan is comparatively mammal. Still, the fear/hatred of Latin American immigrants is a *big* problem here.

  15. Randy Thompson says

    What kind of values do we want for our society?

    The value that matters most to me can be summed up in the phrase “the common good.”

    Too often, our values are based on selfishness, as in what’s good is what’s good for me (and mine). Self-interest, cut loose from virtue, which is nourished by religious tradition(s), strikes me as a one way trip to anarchy, which is merely a rest stop on the highway to some sort of totalitarianism, where, in the final analysis, everyone’s self interest gives way to the self-interest of one person, “Caesar,” the Strong Man who can bring order out of the chaos of everyone’s self-interest.

    Self-interest, in a narcissistic and self-absorbed society with little sense of the common good, will lead to a bad end.

    The “common good” works only when a people agree that they will have to give up some things while gaining other things. This is rooted in a virtues that are largely forgotten now, humility.and gentleness.

    So there they are, my values: The common good, humility, and gentleness— a society where people don’t always agree with each other but where they actually listen to each other and try to understand each other despite their disagreements.

    Of course, there seems to be as much chance of these values predominating as there is of Santa Claus bringing them down our chimneys this Christmas in his big, black sack of presents.

  16. We Christians ought to be a bit humble about things like this: over the past 30 or 40 years (or maybe over the past 2,000 years), we’ve spent a lot of time, money, energy and blood trying to impose our values (or what we claim to be our values) on those who don’t share them. Here, a secular government simply proposes imposing its purported values on Christians and other religious people; it may be the price we must pay for our own failures of tolerance and respect.

    Christians, of all people, ought to know that you cannot force someone else to be ” good”. Even if you conform to imposed values which you don’t hold, there is no merit in it: your conformity is an empty gesture that may keep you safe, nothing more. Yet in the US we have entire political movements on the right and on the left whose whole purpose is to impose one set of values or another on everyone: to ban religious clothing and jewelry seems fairly mild in comparison, if utterly wrong-headed and stupid.

    Nonetheless, I suspect that if the proposal applied only to Muslim garb, many of the Christians currently up in arms would support it.

    And, as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently pointed out, in many cases the wearing of crucifixes and crosses is simply a fashion statement, devoid of religious significance. Would you be able to wear them in Quebec in that case?

    • Small crucifixes would be allowed under the new legislation. Large ones as depicted would be banned.

      • What about Jewish symbols, like the star of David, yarmulkes (skullcaps for men), and the head scarves often worn by ultra-orthodox Jewish women? It seems like this legislation would have a real impact on part of the Jewish community in Montreal…

        • Yup.

          • well, it’s for the star of David like for the cross (or a hamsa): if it’s not 12 inches wide, it works.

          • Ah. I do think that banning scarves, turbans and skullcaps is going too fart, but I can also understand wanting to keep ostentatious displays to a minimum.

            Also, we Americans don’t really know as much about Canada as we think we do. I know it’s very easy for me to make assumptions about Canadian society and culture, and have found out more than once that I was quite wrong…

          • Should be “too far”! (I’ll blame my typo on this Android keyboard.)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It seems like this legislation would have a real impact on part of the Jewish community in Montreal…

          Is the official position “If they don’t like our New Multiculti Tolerance Policy, WHY DON’T THEY JUST LEAVE?”

          (Because the Perfect Utopian Omelette always requires smashing more and more eggs.)

  17. Quebec is very much the same spirit as in France.

    The question is not simple. If you go down the route of multiculturalism how do you handle the group(s) that refuse to assimilate or have very different values?
    I suspect the root cause here is the insistence of some wanting women to be able to wear a chador even on their drivers license.

    • I agree, I couldn’t care less about people wearing religious symbols, but a Niquab or Chador or Burka are a safety risk, since they conceal a person from identification. Store owners, police and security guards should be allowed to ask people to remove concealing garments (for example, a ski mask), without resulting in cries of religious persecution. I was watching a you tube clip just a little while ago of a jewellery store in London UK getting robbed my a couple of guys in Niquabs. They were nabbed outside and tackled off their scooter, until that point in the clip, you couldn’t even tell what gender they were.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        We had a case like that a couple years ago; woman insisted on wearing a full chadoor (one step below burqa) for her driver license photo and played the Islamophobia Card HARD (lawyers and all) when told she had to unveil for the camera.

        The usual compromise is to have the photo taken with the hijab scarf framing the face, but she was having none of it. As the publicity accreted around the lawyer fight, we found out why: Her face was on a wanted poster in a couple of states.

        On a lighter note, we also had a case where a strict Muslim girl was hired at Burger King and Burger King required her to wear a Burger King cap when on-duty. She wore hijab. After the big fight in all the local media, you know how they settled it? She wears her hijab scarf, then puts the Burger King hat on over the hijab. Didn’t say if any “Why are you wasting the court’s time?” was involved.

  18. Secularization of this kind amounts to laziness, cowardice, and mediocrity when it comes to dealing with human beings with all their differences and diversity. It’s so much easier to just foster a carbon copy culture with mass produced ideologies for general public consumption than it is to actually deal with the complexities of organic human interactions and relations. Why go through the trouble and self-examination required to get along with with other people with different beliefs and worldviews, when you can just erase all differences between people? Bring on the new age of soup-flavored soup!

    • But there are very real issues here!

      How does a police officer verify a driver is the same as their license if either the face is covered in the photo or the person sitting before them has their face covered and the license is not?

      I believe there have been criminal cases in Canada where a woman wanted to have her head covered where a male is being charged – what about his right to face his accuser? How would a lawyer read body language?

      We have to differentiate between public and private life. If my belief or practice impinges on some practical area of public life which set of values prevails?

      I do not think it is simple

      • I was snarking more on the premier’s comments about the intentional move toward secularism and the removal of “confession” aspects of public institutions and not so much about the religious clothing issue. Sure, there’s a practical side to having women uncover their faces for photo ID’s. But there’s a big difference between that and actively seeking to minimalize public religious expression across the board with (I would dare to venture) the long term goal of phasing religion out of society and culture altogether.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “We will have Evolved Beyond All That!”
          — Star Trek joke (no joke during the early years of TNG when Roddenberry was still on board)

  19. That Other Jean says

    My original comment appears to have been stuck in moderation Limbo since this morning, so I’ll try again:

    Argh. I understand provisions in the law such as those which prohibit obscuring your identity–like covering most of your face in a driver’s license photo–but demanding that all “conspicuous” items of religious identification be removed from people delivering public service cannot be right. Such symbols are important to the wearers; some are a vital part of their religious practice. What harm do they do? Granted, Canada is not the United States (where I live) and the Province of Quebec is not Canada, but it seems to me that a government has no more business promoting secularism than it does to promote religion.

  20. I’m about to play devil’s advocate. Go easy on me.

    The increasingly secular nature of the public square, and of the institutions of government, is an extraordinarily valuable development in Western societies. While it’s no doubt true that secularism may overstep bounds (I think the idea mentioned above that all those providing public services would be prohibited from wearing religious symbols, even healthcare workers, transgresses a boundary in an illegitimate way), it was the historical establishment of a neutral secular public square that made for the the relatively large degree of peaceful coexistence between religions, and between the religious and the non-religious, that we find in the US and in Western Europe, and some other places around the world.

    Those who work in an official capacity for government represent that authority while they are on the job, and the administrators of government run institutions who are their bosses have an interest in assuring all users of government services that, as much as possible, they will be treated fairly and equitably, whatever religious, or non-religious, convictions they may hold.

    I do not think, in most cases, it is an extraordinarily onerous burden on the practice of religion to require those who work in an official capacity for government to refrain from wearing clothing, or other items, that express their personal religious conviction while on the job. In view of the tremendous benefits that the secular square has made possible, in terms of the peaceful co-existence of people with very different value systems, religious and non-religious, I think it behooves Christians and practitioners of other religions to go out of our way to accommodate the real public interest that such a policy entails.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Those who work in an official capacity for government represent that authority
      > while they are on the job,

      This same thing applies to private-sector employees, and employers have a fair amount of latitude in enforcing their brand image via their employees.

      Promotion of ones vies in the workplace is entirely inappropriate, regardless. But does is wearing a head scarf and going about your job really ‘promotion’? It seems to me it should be just left alone unless it actually creates a problem.

      > and the administrators of government run institutions who are their bosses have
      > an interest in assuring all users of government services that,

      I agree

      > as much as possible, they will be treated fairly and equitably, whatever religious, or
      > non-religious, convictions they may hold.

      True. But a counter argument could be made that as a Muslim or other minority sect seeing other minority members is what would most make me feel myself in an atmosphere of `fairness`.

      > I do not think, in most cases, it is an extraordinarily onerous burden on the practice of
      > religion to require those who work in an official capacity for government to refrain from
      > wearing clothing, or other items, that express their personal religious conviction while
      > on the job.

      But we are both adherents in a religion that traditionally has very few requirements regarding attire [beyond modesty – which is a very generic assertion]. For some the garments are nearly sacraments.

      > In view of the tremendous benefits that the secular square has made possible, in terms
      > of the peaceful co-existence of people with very different value systems, religious and
      > non-religious, I think it behooves Christians and practitioners of other religions to go out of
      > our way to accommodate the real public interest that such a policy entails.

      I agree, this is the very essence of civil society. But (a) it is an easy thing to accommodate for you and me and (b) it is an issue that will also be rough around the edges.

      Beyond attire – what about the Muslim in the workplace and afternoon prayers? Is he required to forgo that due to that being during business hours?

      • I do agree with all your observations. I was intentionally playing devil’s advocate, because I think there is something to be said on both sides of this issue.

        And I agree with Wexel’s observation below, that the rules being proposed were designed with people like me, Christians, in mind. In fact, I think that there is not one set of secular values or one kind of secularism, and that the secularisms here in North America and Europe bear the significant shaping and imprinting of Western Christianity, not the least of which is Christian denominationalism.

        The secularisms of India or the People’s Republic of China or the former Soviet Union or Turkey are bound to be quite different, either because they did not arise in a culture significantly influenced by Christianity, or because, though having a significant Christian heritage behind them, they have no history of Christian denominationalism.

        Do all secularisms have certain essential values in common, or do they all depend on unique inheritances from the prior cultures for their particular value systems?

        In any case, predictions made decades ago by Western sociologists of widespread global secularization modeled on the secularization of the West have not panned out; in fact, the spread of Western secularism has stalled, and even perhaps gone into decline from a global perspective.

        If secularism is going to prevail in much of the world, it will most likely not be the secularism shaped in the West by Western Christianity; there is of course also the possibility that secularism will not prevail at all.

        The secularism of Quebec, and its values, is a local phenomenon, not some universally or culturally neutral and applicable belief or worldview It behooves the government of Quebec to tread lightly when regulating the expression of religion in its domain, and to resist the hubris of enacting the legislation of local secularism as if it is a value system existing independently of, and untouched by the relativity of, much of history.

    • Of course the rules do not seem onerous to you. They were DESIGNED with people like you in mind. People whose cultures and/or religions are very different might have very different notions of what “standard” attire ought to include. To what extent these can or should be accomodated is a fascinating question. Most people would be more sympathetic to yarmulkas than to turbans, and would treat requirements/prohibitions of face-veiling differently from those pertaining to pants-wearing, even though the issues they raise are similar.

  21. Rather than stripping all relgious identification from official employess, I would prefer to have general tolerance for all employees’ clothing, jewelry, and other signs of religion. While I agree with Robert that there is a value in the government’s “assuring all users of government services that, as much as possible, they will be treated fairly and equitably, whatever religious, or non-religious, convictions they may hold,” I think that result can be better achieved by universal tolerance than by mandated uniformity.

    After all, religion is only one variable among many which distinguishes individuals. If I have an Irish heritage, will I be forbidden to wear a green (or orange!) sweater on St. Patrick’s day because I might offend persons with an English background? If I am white, will not my official presence intimdate or offend anyone who isn’t white? If I am overweight, my perceivedly unhealthy body will probably offend those who are trim and healthy, as they will wonder why the government encourages such a gross deviation from its own health standards. As a woman without a wedding ring, won’t my work in, say, Family Services, be offensive to those who actually have families and who figure I have no idea what I’m talking about?

    Certainly it is true that, in the area of religion, Christians have had it easy in North America. It seems to me better that we work to make it just as easy for every other religion to express itself, rather than banning all relgious display completely.

    • I actually agree with you most of the way, but “universal tolerance” would be a very complicated thing, if it’s even possible.

      Should invoking universal tolerance be sufficient for allowing a Muslim woman to have a driver’s license photo with a mostly covered face? Since the purpose of the license photo is to be able to identify the person driving, I would think not; but from the perspective of some practitioners of Islam, such a covering even in a driver’s license photo should definitely be allowed.

      Should the society that normally requires facial photos on licenses tolerate this exception, or should the Muslim driver tolerate the government’s need to identify drivers from their license?

      Should a Muslim female police officer be allowed to wear a face covering while enforcing the law, or not?

      I’m sure their are other examples involving non-Muslims, but these are obvious ones that come to my mind.

  22. there are other examples…

  23. Canada doesn’t have our First Amendment. My understanding is that In the US, with memories of the Wars of Religion in Europe still fresh (Cromwell died and the Peace of Westphalia was established at about the same time a hundred or so years earlier), the purpose of a “neutral public square” was to prevent similar conflict from breaking out. That is why Congress was prevented from establishing a religion.

    Safeguarding that part of the First Amendment is a dance with the other part, the part about “forbid[ding]the free exercise thereof.” The religions whose adherents desire, for whatever reasons, to wear identifying markers of clothing, jewelry, etc. do not advocate anything that would disrupt the good order of society; those religions whose adherents would advocate such things generally want to remain hidden. I don’t think such a law would get off the ground here.

    However, the “free exercise” part is what is behind some of the current challenges to the Affordable Health Care Act (I refuse to use the “O” word, which I find extremely derisive, to describe the law). I think the law’s requirements could be amended in such a way that would allow freedom of conscience in this area, but it would take some tricky negotiations, which Congress is not in the mood for at the moment. I think the Catholics have the best case, because they also have a demonstrated ethic of caring for the poor. Whether the Supreme Court agrees will be interesting to see.

    Dana

    • The point about “conflict” is that not too many years before the founding of our country, being an adherent of a faith that was not the “official” one of a country and being in the public square could get one killed. It was not a matter of simply having one’s feelings affected.

      I think toleration is a good value. It’s not the same thing as prohibiting “the free exercise” of religion. People sometimes confuse the two.

      Dana