In this blog I summarize six fallacies used by antisecularists as “arguments” against Quebec’s Draft Bill 21.
Sommaire en français Dans le présent blogue je résume six sophismes qu’utilisent les anti-laïques comme « arguments » contre le projet de loi 21 au Québec.
Antisecularists who oppose Quebec’s Draft Bill 21 have no valid arguments to make, or at least none that I have ever heard. Their attacks on the proposed legislation can basically be summarized in the following six pseudo-arguments:
- Absolute Rights: By considering the rights of public servants and teachers to be absolute, while simultaneously ignoring completely the freedom of conscience of users of public services and students of public schools, i.e. their right to a environment free of partisan religious advertising, opponents of Bill 21 claim to be defending freedom but instead threaten it by granting a huge religious privilege to wearers of symbols.
- Absolute Libertarianism: “Don’t tell women (or people) what to wear (or what not to wear)” is a common mantra of antisecularists. This fallacy is an expression of right-wing libertarianism on steroids and is reminiscent of the mentality of opponents of gun control. Firstly, Bill 21 bans only religious symbols (and not even for all State employees) and does so for excellent reasons, i.e. religious neutrality and to protect users and students. Secondly, to reject any and all bans would mean the end of uniforms and would imply chaos even among non-uniformed employees. What would you think if your child’s teacher began showing up for work every day wearing a bikini, or a hazmat suit, or clothing covered with ads for fast food restaurants? And thirdly, dress codes—sometimes written, sometimes unwritten—are commonplace in society, even ubiquitous, and some restrictions, such as bans on political or religious symbols in certain contexts, are eminently reasonable.
- Deresponsibilizing Believers: The opponents of the Bill never hold religious believers responsible for their own practices and beliefs; instead, antisecularists hold the State responsible for accommodating those practices and beliefs. This is obviously backwards. The believers are the ones who make such choices and are therefore responsible for any consequences. If a person chooses to wear an ostentatious religious (or political) symbol at all times and refuses to remove it even while on the job in the public service, then it is that person who excludes himself or herself from that job. The State excludes no-one; rather, it only excludes partisan displays.
- Accusations of Discrimination: Opponents allege that the Bill discriminates against religious believers (especially minorities) and threatens religious freedom. This is false. The Bill does not target any group of persons; rather, it restricts certain behaviour, i.e. religious advertising by public servants. This is a small and reasonable restriction on freedom of expression, such as the restriction which already exists banning partisan political symbols worn by public servants (articles 10 and 11 of the Public Service Act), in order to protect the rights of users and students. A corollary of this pseudo-argument is the claim by some that there will be a massive exodus of people, especially religious minorities, from Quebec. This is a form of blackmail, as well as being alarmist nonsense. Many members of religious minorities, including Muslims, moved to Quebec because of its penchant for secularism and they support Bill 21. The vast majority of people concerned will undoubtedly comply with the law, regardless of their views. There may very well be a tiny number of religious fanatics who leave the province (probably very noisily, for maximum effect) and to them I say, Good Riddance.
- Accusations of Anti-Muslim Prejudice: Given that proponents of political Islam (with help from their sadly numerous dupes) are particularly aggressive in promoting wearing of the Islamic veil anywhere and everywhere in order to advertise their brand, radical Muslims, by their own actions, are a centre of attention in this debate. Opponents of Bill 21 thus claim “discrimination” against Muslims in particular when the reality is a campaign of religious exhibitionism by an extremely vocal subgroup of Muslims. Bill 21 does not discriminate against any particular religion; it applies to all.
- Defamation: When all else fails (as it inevitably does), opponents of Bill 21 fall back on slander, defaming supporters of the Bill with gratuitous accusation of “xenophobia” or “racism” or other, even worse sins.
The opponents of the Bill never hold religious believers responsible for their own practices and beliefs; instead, antisecularists hold the State responsible for accommodating those practices and beliefs. This is obviously backwards.
[…] a law dealing with State secularism, a law which, all thing considered, is very moderate.
Given their lack of any plausible line of reasoning, antisecularists, in their vituperations, have a strong tendency towards dishonesty, irresponsible speculation and sometimes complete nonsense. Their behaviour is increasingly toxic. And on that disturbing note, I would like to conclude by quoting Pierre Allard, award-winning career journalist:
The debate about secularism has taken an unhealthy turn these days. […] black clouds are piling up on Quebec’s democratic horizon. I did not vote for the CAQ and undoubtedly never will, but the Legault government was elected. It has proposed a law dealing with State secularism, a law which, all thing considered, is very moderate. That government is confronted by a barrage of (minority) opponents who use extremist rhetoric and who, for no valid reason, question the legitimacy of a majority which governs without excess. This should worry us.