Recently, I enquired about posting a film screening notice at the Stanley Park Community Centre. The attendant aggressively questioned if the film was religious (I gave her no reason to believe it was). I almost had to “swear an oath” that there was no religious content in the film before she would post the flyer on the bulletin board. I was told that religious content of any kind was forbidden. Ironically, this person appeared to be of a group which enjoyed protection from injustice by our Charter of Rights.
One of the best things about Canada is that we honour a person’s culture and native language. We have two official languages and hundreds of unofficial languages. We have proven with our actions, laws, and financial support that we value and even celebrate traditions of every country and people group. This is to our credit and benefit. We also have created laws and rights which focus on preventing discrimination against sexual orientation, colour of skin, race, creed and culture – all in the name of protecting a person from injustice and abuse. We not only protect these rights, we actually bring them into the public square and celebrate them in a variety of ways. All levels of governments have funded gay pride parades, cultural events, and every imaginable form of celebration of Canadians’ ethnic origins.
Canadians have recognized that a significant part of a human being is connected to his/her past culture and background. Another equally important part of a person’s world-view, values, and objectives is formed in their perceptions of the origin of humanity and the planet. This perception is at the core of the person’s views about what it means to be human and to live a meaningful and “successful” life. In other words, these beliefs are every bit as important to a person as their sexual orientation, race, language, culture, or gender, yet they are being treated quite differently.
More than 90% of the world’s population believe in a superior being who has created humanity and the earth. Yet the few remaining people who have chosen to believe otherwise have pushed all of the people of faith into a corner and required them to be silent in public about one of the most important parts of who they are. People of faith are regularly mocked by arrogant atheists claiming the higher intellectual ground. Science has not, nor ever will be able to prove the origin of the species – it is impossible to do so – it still is only a theory. Therefore, belief in evolution is acquired by faith. We teach evolution as if were a fact when it has no more substance than a religion. The “some” have claimed, by the slight of intellectual hand, control over the “many” because no one is fighting for justice.
If we define freedom and equality for some of our rights in a certain way but exclude a person’s “origin orientation” (faith), it clearly constitutes an inequality. Our government doesn’t fund religious events; furthermore, because of a very vocal few who are hostile to faith, faith has been attacked with attempts to banish it completely from having any public expression. A person may bring their culture, race, sexual orientation, or gender etc., etc. freely into the public square but not their faith – and that is religious bigotry. Faith is the only protected right that is openly and publicly being treated with indignation by a small group of people who believe, in their misguided ignorance, that forbidding any expression of faith in our public intuitions is required by law.
I am always dismayed by those who ignorantly cite “separation of church and state” as justification for bigotry. First of all, that is part of the American Constitution and it does not exist in Canadian law. Furthermore, the founding fathers of the United States were not intending to restrict faith in any way, but rather to create equality for all faiths by prohibiting the institutionalizing of one denomination as the official religion of the nation. They were particularly sensitive to this issue since they were people of faith who had come to America to escape this inequality. It’s rather ironic that the profoundly ignorant justify religious bigotry using a law intended to prevent it.
I can expect that for writing this article in defence of all people of faith that I will be belittled, mocked, and marginalised. People of faith regularly endure attacks on the internet and in print that if directed at homosexuals, Jews, blacks, or East Indians, for example, it would create social outrage. Attack a person of faith, or faith in general, and there is silence. If we believe in equality it must be for everyone.
Is there religious freedom in Canada? An inquiry would reveal that there are vast inequalities for people of faith when compared with the other rights and freedoms protected by our Charter of Rights and that faith is ridiculed and marginalised in ways that others who also are protected by the Charter are not. That is the sad truth even though it is not what most Canadians believe or want for Canada.