Passive Proselytism


The wearing of religious symbols by civil servants and teachers on duty is a form of unacceptable religious advertising and an undeserved privilege granted to believers.

Sommaire en français Le port de signes religieux par les fonctionnaires et enseignant(e)s au travail est une forme de publicité religieuse inacceptable et un privilège indu accordé aux croyant(e)s. Voir mon blogue précédent Le prosélytisme passif.

The recent (2020-12-08) press release from Atheist Freethinkers gives the following explanation of the importance of banning State employees from wearing religious symbols:

[…] to allow civil servants and schoolteachers to indulge in ideological displays while on the job, simply because their ideology is religious, constitutes an unjustifiable privilege for religions. The consequences of this privilege are (1) an infringement on the freedom of conscience of users of social services and students in public schools, by exposing them to passive proselytism and indoctrination which these partisan religious manifestations exemplify; and (2) […]

One of the strategies of opponents of Bill 21, that is, anti-secularists, is to deny that passive proselytism even exists. To deny the reality of this phenomenon is very dishonest and in extremely bad faith. This is obvious.

When we are exposed to advertising on television, or in a print magazine, or on a billboard, we are being targeted by passive proselytism of the commercial variety. No-one can deny the effectiveness of this proselytism—and even less so its very existence! Businesses spend millions of dollars on such publicity—because it works.

If we allow civil servants in the public service or in schools to wear and display religious symbols while on the job, then we are dealing with passive proselytism of the religious type. Just replace the kippah, crucifix or hijab with a large promotion for McDonald’s or any other product for sale, displayed on the clothing of the civil servant, and the result is an advertisment which is obviously unacceptable. The kippah, crucifix and hijab similarly constitute unacceptable publicity in this context.

the purpose of religious proselytism is not necessarily to convert anyone, just as the goal of commercial advertising is not always to sell a product directly.

We must keep in mind that the purpose of religious proselytism is not necessarily to convert anyone, just as the goal of commercial advertising is not always to sell a product directly. Instead, the purpose is often to promote a particular brand or ideology, to normalize or trivialize the presence of that brand, so that it will be accepted and recognized by the public who are exposed to it.

In fact, a common practice among anti-secularists is to insist on a very narrow definition of the word proselytism, limiting it to mean the intention of converting others to the religion of the symbol worn. This is usually followed by a demand that quantitative studies be used to prove that such symbols do indeed have a proselytic effect. This is completely illogical.

In November 2020, Patrick Taillon testified before Quebec Superior Court as an expert witness for the Attorney-General of Quebec (AGQ) in the case Hak versus AGQ. In a radio interview with Antoine Robitaille, Taillon explains that, in 2015 when the Supreme Court of Canada endorsed the ban on prayers at municipal council meetings of the city of Saguenay, there was no requirement for quantitative studies of the effect of prayers on those persons who attended the meetings. The Court similarly did not require that the atheist complainant prove that the prayer could have converted him to Christianity. The wearing of religious symbols by agents of the State constitutes a similar situation. It is not necessary to prove explicitly that religious symbols have an effect on those exposed to them, especially if those persons are children.

[…] internal religious proselytism—that is, proselytism targeted at people of the same religion as the wearer of the symbol.

It is also important to recognize the importance of internal religious proselytism—that is, proselytism targeted at people of the same religion as the wearer of the symbol. This is generally the purpose of the Islamic veil, to send the message that the woman wearing it is a good, pure Muslim, while those Muslim women who do not wear the veil are bad, impure Muslims who deserve to end up in hell and should therefore adopt the veil in order to avoid that fate.

To allow teachers to wear religious symbols is tantamount to violating the right of pupils to an education free of indoctrination, in an environment free from proselytism. No quantitative study is required. The principle of secularism—in particular the principle of separation between religion and State—is sufficient to justify a ban.

the burden of proof is on such anti-secularists.

If the opponents of Bill 21 wish to grant religious believers the privilege of being allowed to engage in religious advertising while on the job, the burden of proof is on such anti-secularists. It is they who must provide proof of their claim that pupils will be unaffected.

Bill 21 establishes a reasonable compromise between the rights of State employees on the one hand and the rights of students and users of civil services on the ther hand.

Next blog: TBA

Racialism versus Secularism

Racialising Religious Affiliation to Oppose Secularism


A few excepts from my long article The Battle Raging Between Racialism and Secularism published recently in Topical Magazine. The article criticizes the tendency of today’s so-called “antiracist” activists towards racialism and towards racialising religious affiliation as an anti-secularism strategy. The text presents several definitions in order to set the terms of the debate, followed by numerous examples of the racialisation of religious affiliation in France, in the United States and finally in Canada, with particular attention to the opponents of Quebec Bill 21.

Sommaire en français Quelques extraits de mon article, assez long, intitulé The Battle Raging Between Racialism and Secularism (La bataille farouche entre le racialisme et la laïcité) paru récemment dans la revue en ligne Topical Magazine. Il s’agit d’une critique de la tendance, chez les militants soi-disant « antiracistes » actuels, à verser dans le racialisme et à racialiser l’appartenance religieuse afin de lutter contre la laïcité. Le texte présente plusieurs définitions afin de préciser les termes du débat, suivies de nombreux exemples de la racialisation de l’appartenance religieuse en France, aux États-Unis et finalement au Canada, en particulier chez les adversaires de la Loi 21 québécoise.

…ethnicity, like race, refers principally to a person’s innate, immutable characteristics. Religion, on the other hand, is an ideology, a collection of ideas, beliefs and practices. Ethnicity is a personal identity, whereas religion is an opinion and an option. The distinction is crucial. To change one’s “race” is impossible. To change one’s religion may be easy or difficult, depending on one’s degree of indoctrination, but it is certainly not impossible. It may be as uncomplicated as changing one’s mind.

If religious affiliation is elevated to the status of ethnicity, then it becomes viewed as practically unchangeable, fixed for the person’s lifetime, making the individual a prisoner of the religion in which he or she was born and raised. Conflating race or ethnicity with religion implies the negation of freedom of conscience. It also opens the door to social—or even legal—censorship of criticism of religion, because if a religion is a “race” then is not criticising religion a form of “racism”?

Religious apologists tend to love the idea of conflating “race” or ethnicity and religion, because such conflation is a perfect tool for deflecting criticism of their religion. However, they need to think seriously about the implications. If we accept seriously the idea that anti-religious sentiment is indeed a form of “racism” then the three Abrahamic monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—become, for this very reason, explicitly and unequivocally racist. Judaism asserts that the Jewish people is chosen by Jehovah and tough luck for everyone else. Christianity holds that those who fail to accept Christ are doomed to an eternity of punishment in hell. As for Islam, its holy book the Quran repeatedly expresses violent hostility towards non-Muslims and, in some contexts, enjoins Muslims to kill them. Adherents of these three religions would do well to reflect on this before embracing the religion-equals-race fraud.

It is important to preserve the biological meaning of the word “race” in order to prevent the apologists of certain ideologies from hijacking the concept for their own dubious purposes.

The racialisation of religious affiliation and the specious accusations of “racism” which it facilitates are hallmarks of racialism and probably the most important and toxic propaganda weapons of the fiercest opponents of secularism. These opponents are currently on the warpath in several countries. Let us consider a few examples.

Bill 21 is eminently sensible and moderate legislation. It is a matter of professional ethics. A representative of the State, while on the job, should not display partisan political or religious symbols. To allow the wearing of such symbols by State employees represents an unwarranted and unacceptable privilege accorded to the ideology which the symbol promotes. Several nations—France and parts of Switzerland, Belgium and Germany—also ban the overt display of religious symbols worn by some or all State employees. Bill 21 also bans face-coverings worn when providing or receiving government services, which is also the case for many European and African countries, some of which are Muslim-majority countries.

…one particularly creative opponent of Bill 21 links the bill to anti-black and anti-indigenous racism and asserts that it could very well lead to genocide… In light of the examples listed above, to say that Bill 21 meets with a hostile reaction is an understatement. The reaction has been hysterical, fanatical and patently insane.

This disinformation was repeated by many mainstream media as if it were fact, thus establishing a false link between an act of violence directed at a particular religious community and an extreme form of racism. Proponents of racialism and their Islamist allies pushed for M-103 as a result. Furthermore, that motion led to the formation of a parliamentary committee whose recommendations would open the door to allowing federal funds destined for anti-racism programmes to be misdirected into defending religious minorities and, through them, the religions themselves.

Racialism and the racialisation of religious affiliation are both profoundly dishonest and a considerable step backwards towards religious obscurantism and tribalism. It amounts to jettisoning freedom of conscience and abandoning universalism by labelling each individual indelibly with an attribute—i.e. religious affiliation—which is no more significant than an opinion, an opinion which not only may change, but which must be allowed to be changeable if we are to respect the individual’s fundamental human rights.

Read the full article.

Next blog: Lettre aux médias pour dénoncer le Conseil québécois LGBT