Saturday, May 12, 2007

State Secularism

Government decisions should look at the worldly effects of policies, coupled with evaluating them based on secular, consensus-based ethics. Specific government offices shouldn’t issue statements supporting a single religion. This view is state secularism.

This doesn’t say that specific politicians can’t act on ethical precepts which originated from their own religion. It merely says that the text of Private Members Bills (or any other government document, for that matter) should be entirely secular.

Key to an understanding of secularism is the difference between our private lives and public functions. Any Canadian Citizen ought to and (usually) does have the right to voice his or her ideas outside their job. Citizens can engage in any religious activity or meet in any religious institution outside of their job. These are acceptable instances of religious involvement in our private lives.

Senators, parliamentarians, and political organizers, however, shouldn’t provoke religious fervour while doing their jobs (public functions). Provoking such fervour can only cause division and instability, especially in a religiously pluralistic nation like Canada. This may very well be the reason for our de facto secularism.

Canada needs to revise its legal documents, especially the Preamble to the Constitution, to establish de jure secularism. Such secularism would inhibit any politician basing public policy on religion.

Now, enter the NDP Faith and Social Justice Caucus. It’s been pointed out, by liberal Muslim and social democrat Tarek Fatah, that this caucus could be a doorway for those who oppose the NDP’s unifying policy of social progressivism. Coupled with the fact that such a caucus is inherently divisive and based on a very personal matter, Fatah presents good reason to avoid such a caucus.

Religion is a highly private and personal matter and should stay that way.

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