Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Secularism, You're Doing It Wrong.

Quebec is sometimes perceived as being more progressive than the rest of Canada.  But then you have things like this, the Parti Quebecois government announcing legislation to restrict religious symbols.   The "Charter of Quebec Values" will include a ban on public employees, in places like hospitals and schools, wearing religious headwear and "highly visible" crucifixes.

I'm no fan of religion.  I think the world would be a bit better place if one of the major sources of friction between people, belief in magical beings for whom no substantial evidence exists, fading away.  But I'm also a believer in people having the freedom to believe in such things as long as they don't harm others with that belief.  Wearing a hijab or a Sikh turban doesn't fall into the category of harming others.  Banning public employees from wearing such things is discrimination.  A devout male Sikh for example must wear a turban in public, so this ban will effectively prevent him from retaining, or applying for, a government job. 

The concept may have a lot of support in Quebec, if polls are to be believed.  Many Quebeckers supposedly see such religious garb as a cultural threat.  If so they have an amazingly low confidence in their own culture, thinking the mere wearing of a head covering could endanger it.  And if they want to encourage a secular culture this is exactly the wrong way of doing it.  All such restrictions will do is discourage the devout from participating in the secular culture around them, especially women who already face sexism from their co-religionists.  

The "highly visible" crucifix provision also sounds suspiciously like a copout intended to appease  certain segments of the Christian community.   Besides the question of what will determine what counts as "highly visible" is the fact that most Christian sects do not consider wearing a cross to be an inviolate requirement of showing one's devoutness.  The Christians who might be effected by this bill, such as Catholic nuns whose orders still require some sort of habit to be worn in public, likely don't work for secular hospitals and schools.

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