Political Neutrality versus Religious Neutrality

Should We Impose One Without the Other?

2024-07-14

Almost everyone agrees that civil servants should be politically neutral on the job. Why is this principle not applied to religious affiliation as well?

Sommaire en français Presque tout le monde s’accorde pour dire que les fonctionnaires devraient être politiquement neutres au travail. Pourquoi ce principe ne s’applique-t-il pas également à l’appartenance religieuse ?

In many countries, there are laws or regulations which require that civil servants refrain from partisan behaviour—or behaviour which may appear so—while on the job, and sometimes off the job.

For example, in the USA, a set of principles adopted in 1989 specifies that employees of the executive branch “shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap” and “shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards…”

The values and ethics code of the Canadian government specifies that employees must carry out their duties “in a non-partisan and impartial manner.” The United Kingdom’s Civil Service Management Code states that “Civil servants must not take part in any political activity when on duty, or in uniform, or on official premises.” New Zealand’s Public Service Commission requires that “public servants must be politically neutral.” In the Canadian province of Ontario, the Public Service of Ontario Act specifies that “A public servant shall not engage in political activity in the workplace” or “while wearing a uniform associated with a position in the public service.” Similarly, in the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec, the Public Service Act specifies that “A public servant shall be politically neutral in performing his duties” and that “A public servant shall act with reserve in any public display of his political opinions.”

Political & Religious Symbols

In the above codes, the question of an employee wearing a partisan political symbol while on the job is not addressed explicitly, but it is reasonable to assume that wearing such a symbol—such as the logo of a political party or movement—would indeed constitute a violation. For example, in 2017, a judge in Hamilton, Ontario was suspended for 30 days for wearing a hat displaying the Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again,” while on the bench, because such a partisan message compromised his duty of impartiality. His action was meant as a joke, admittedly a bad one.

It should be noted, in passing, that the USA code quoted above is inconsistent with various neoracist ideologies which falsely claim to be antiracist (such as Critical Race Theory) and which have inspired some institutions to adopt racist hiring practices and dubious training programs. Let us hope therefore that the code can be helpful in getting rid of DIE (“Diversity, Inclusion & Equity”) programs in such institutions. But that is not the focus of this article.

There are also many countries which restrict partisan religious behaviour by banning civil servants and/or schoolteachers from wearing religious symbols while at work. France and parts of Germany, Switzerland and Belgium have such bans. There are many more countries, including several Muslim-majority countries, which ban the wearing of face-coverings—some of which are religious, such as the niqab and the burqa—by civil servants. Some face-covering bans apply also to users of civil services and some apply everywhere in public. Starting in 2017, Morocco even bans the manufacture and sale of burqas.

In the USA, head-coverings were banned in the House of Representatives starting in 1837. However, in a blatant victory for religious privilege, the ban was repealed in 2019 in order to accommodate Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. The state of Pennsylvania bans teachers from wearing religious symbols in the classroom.

For the last thirty years, France has imposed a ban on pupils wearing religious attire in school, […] This ban has been found to be advantageous to girls from Muslim families, significantly improving their academic performance.

For the last thirty years, France has imposed a ban on pupils wearing religious attire in school, implemented first by ministerial directive in 1994, then ratified by legislation in 2004, as recommended by the Stasi Commission on secularism. (Recently France’s education minister Gabriel Attal added the abaya to the category of religious attire, thus banning it.) This ban has been found to be advantageous to girls from Muslim families, significantly improving their academic performance. The hijab, which some girls were forced by their parents or community to wear before the ban came into effect, is a major impediment to the education and socialization of the child who wears it, essentially robbing her of a normal childhood. Indeed, obliging a child to wear the veil for an extended period of time—weeks, months, years—must be denounced as a form of child abuse.

A Case Study in Religious Hysteria

In June of 2019, Quebec adopted its Loi sur la laïcité de l’État (act respecting State secularism), known simply as Bill 21, which declares that citizens have a right to secular government services, while defining secularism to include both religious neutrality of the State and separation between religion and State. The bill bans some civil servants (those in position of coercive authority, i.e. police, judges, prison guards and prosecutors) and public-school teachers from wearing religious symbols on the job. In addition, it bans all government employees from wearing face-coverings on the job and also requires users of civil services to show their face to obtain service.

Although polls show that this legislation enjoys solid support from the Quebec population, the reaction from Canada outside Quebec has been outrageously hostile. This hostility is also echoed inside Quebec by the so-called “far left.” A torrential rainfall of accusations of xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism have flooded the media, especially the English-language media. Several cities and provinces have adopted resolutions against Bill 21 and some have even declared their intention to contribute financially to court challenges to the legislation. Fortunately, the Superior Court of Ontario ruled in July 2023 that the City of Toronto may not make a contribution of $100,000 to challenge Bill 21 because such action “is not for a valid municipal purpose and is therefore ultra vires.”

[…] no-one voiced any objection to Quebec’s Public Service Act which imposes political neutrality on civil servants. Why should religious neutrality be so contentious while most people evidently understand the importance of political neutrality?

And yet, no-one voiced any objection to Quebec’s Public Service Act which imposes political neutrality on civil servants. Why should religious neutrality be so contentious while most people evidently understand the importance of political neutrality? After all, the dangers represented by religious partisanship are patently obvious. Many religions, especially the three Abrahamic monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are notoriously misogynous, homophobic and intolerant of non-believers, adherents of other religions and so-called “heretics.” The insufficiently pious are often vilified by fundamentalists. Religiously motivated hatred and intolerance can be so extreme as to promote violence, even deadly violence. In Islam, apostasy—leaving Islam—is considered a horrific sin for which the punishment may be death. It is eminently reasonable that the symbols of such toxic ideologies not be displayed by State employees. Even if a particular individual wearing a symbol may be unprejudiced, tolerant and open-minded, the symbol they are wearing continues to speak loudly, and the message it sends is very prejudicial.

The purpose of bans on religious symbols is not to deny Ilhan Omar or anyone else, regardless of their religion, access to their position or job. A religious symbol, whether crucifix, hijab, turban, kippa or whatever, can be removed, just as an article of clothing displaying a slogan such as “Vote Trump” or “Vote Trudeau” or “God is Fiction” can be removed before going to work. It is a question of professional ethics.

Allowing religious symbols, but banning political messages, is tantamount to granting a privilege to religious dogma while simultaneously infantilizing religious believers by assuming them to be incapable of behaving ethically on the job. Religious believers are responsible for the religious practices they have chosen to adopt. The secular State has no obligation to accommodate.

Hostile reactions to secular measures are certainly not a purely Canadian phenomenon. When, in 2021, in the wake of the beheading of Samuel Paty, France prepared legislation to counter Islamist influence and strengthen secularism, the New York Times denounced the law. Then, to no-one’s surprise, the NYT reacted to the recent ban on abayas in schools by dismissing French laïcité as “dogma.” Several media in the USA (NPR, Washington Post, Sojourners) have reacted virulently against Quebec’s secularism law. On the other hand, theHumanist.com published a very fair-minded analysis of that law.

A False Distinction

There is no legitimate reason why Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any other religious belief should be treated with greater respect or deference than political ideologies such as Marxism, capitalism, libertarianism, republicanism, monarchism, fascism or any other option.

The tendency to treat political symbols and religious symbols as qualitatively different is an obvious manifestation of religious privilege. There is no legitimate reason why Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any other religious belief should be treated with greater respect or deference than political ideologies such as Marxism, capitalism, libertarianism, republicanism, monarchism, fascism or any other option. Each and every one of these religious and political ideologies is a personal conviction. None of them deserves respect.

Only persons deserve respect—by respecting their fundamental freedoms, i.e. freedom of conscience, which is unlimited because internal, and freedom of expression, which involves external action which may impact others and thus must be limited in some contexts. Limits on freedom of expression in the workplace, especially for State employees, are necessary in order to protect the freedom of conscience of users of civil services as well as that of schoolchildren.

Consider, for example, a pupil who is in conflict with her pious Muslim parents who are trying to force her to wear the hijab. Imagine her difficult situation if she arrives at school only to find that her teacher wears the hijab in class.

Consider, for example, a pupil who is in conflict with her pious Muslim parents who are trying to force her to wear the hijab. Imagine her difficult situation if she arrives at school only to find that her teacher wears the hijab in class. School should be a refuge from authoritarian ideology, but in this case the pupil has been betrayed by her school. The solution is to require teachers to conduct themselves with religious (and political) neutrality, refraining from partisan displays.

The refusal to recognize the political aspects of religion opens the door to major problems. A religious believer who insists on wearing an ostentatious symbol of his or her belief everywhere, even on the job, is committing a political act, asserting the overwhelming importance of the religious ideology thus symbolized. This is especially true if the workplace is the civil service. The religious symbol thus becomes a political symbol. This is particularly obvious in the case of Islam, arguably the most misogynistic of all major religions. The Islamic veil in all its various forms—hijab, chador, niqab, burqa, etc.—is the exemplar of that misogyny and a flag of political Islam, its purpose being to assert the supremacy of Islam anywhere and everywhere. Indeed, promoting the ubiquity of the veil is a key strategy of Islamists for fighting secularism.

Group Prayers in Public

Recently in Montreal, groups of Muslims have begun holding collective prayers in public places such as parks and streets. In the first case, the group obtained permission from the Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough to hold the event in a park (although the borough’s website states clearly that religious ceremonies are not allowed in outdoor public spaces). However, the space was cordoned off, making it inaccessible to the public and, within that space, sexual segregation was applied, with all women and girls placed behind all the men and boys. The prayers in the streets, on the other hand, were spontaneous events which grew out of pro-Palestine demonstrations. Both types of event are illustrations of the Islamist strategy for asserting occupancy of space. According to Mandana Javan, a Québécoise secular activist of Iranian origin, collective Muslim prayers held in public spaces are purely political and ideological, a tool of Islamist propaganda and a non-military dissuasion strategy. I would add that this is especially true for prayers held in the street, without municipal permission and with a clear political objective.

Islamism & Secularism

Some definitions are in order here.

I define Islamism or political Islam to be a movement whose goal is to obtain significant political recognition, influence, privilege and power for the religion Islam. Some people prefer to limit the definition of Islamism to the use of violence in the pursuit of those aims, but I consider that definition too narrow. My definition is based on the objectives of the movement, not the means it may use to try to get there.

As for secularism, it can be defined briefly as the practice of government based on human wellbeing rather than on so-called “divine” considerations, as the latter are simply the prescriptions of a small cabal of self-appointed religious authorities. In other words, human law should take precedence over any laws attributed to god(s). A more complete definition encompasses four principles: [1] equality of citizens, including of course male-female equality; [2] protection of freedom of con¬science, including both freedom of and freedom from religion (and thus freedom to apostatize); [3] religious neutrality of the State; and, most importantly, [4] separation between religions and State.

[…] the rhetoric of inversion […] consists of re-branding privileges as “rights” and using, or rather abusing, the language of human rights to fight against human rights.

While it is important to recognize that politics and religion often overlap significantly, it is essential to distinguish between privileges and rights. Allowing a civil servant to wear a political or religious symbol while working as an agent of the State is to grant a privilege to that person and to that ideology, because the symbol violates the rights of users of State services. The wearing of such a symbol in that context is not a right, and to call it one—as antisecularists do—is an example of what the French author Naëm Bestandji calls the rhetoric of inversion which consists of re-branding privileges as “rights” and using, or rather abusing, the language of human rights to fight against human rights. Opponents of bans on such symbols often argue that only the State need be secular, not its employees, but State employees are the State. Both the physical installations of the State and the employees who represent it must be free of partisan symbols in order for the State to be non-partisan.

The antisecular designs of Islamists are greatly facilitated by their de facto alliance with neoracists. We are all familiar, of course, with the contentious term “Islamophobia” regularly used by Islamists and their dupes in reaction to any criticism of Islam, no matter how legitimate, falsely conflating such criticism with bigotry against Muslims. Accusations of “Islamophobia” function mainly as social censorship of “blasphemy” against Islam. Just as pernicious is the habit of associating it with racism. Islamists in Canada scored a major victory when, in March of 2017, they succeeded in having the federal Parliament adopt motion M-103 which condemns “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” Islamists in the USA scored an arguably even greater victory in 2021 with the passage of H.R.5665, an act which establishes, within the Department of State, the “Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia”—but at least that act does not play the race card as M-103 does.

Race-Religion Conflation

A religion is an opinion which can change, […] But race is a biological concept, involving the innate genetic makeup of the individual, and is immutable.

How many times must it be repeated that a religion is not a race? A religion is an opinion which can change, even instantly, depending on the degree of indoctrination of the believer. But race is a biological concept, involving the innate genetic makeup of the individual, and is immutable. Racism is the deliberate exaggeration of the importance of genetic differences between different groups in an attempt to establish a hierarchy of “superior” and “inferior” races. It has nothing to do with religion. Apologists for Abrahamic religions who are tempted to claim that criticism of their religion is “racist” need to be reminded that their own beliefs include denigration of other religions, and thus must be considered flagrantly “racist” if such conflation is accredited.

Media hysteria against Quebec’s Bill 21 has been so outrageous that there have even been attempts to associate it with the death of George Floyd in May 2020 in Minneapolis, using the vague buzzwords “systemic racism” as pretext to vilify that legislation. Just what a law imposing religious neutrality in the Quebec civil service has to do with the death of a black man in police custody in a foreign country is never explained.

The absurdity of race-religion conflation was strikingly illustrated by the late Sinead O’Connor who in 2018 announced her conversion to Islam, started wearing the hijab and declared her intention to avoid henceforth associating with “disgusting” white people, as if donning religious garb could suffice to change her skin colour!

Accusations of racism thrown at critics of Islam are obvious nonsense. Does anyone really think that we who denounce the toxicity of Islam—its extreme misogyny, its condemnation of apostasy, its calls for violence against non-Muslims, its defence of child marriage, etc.—are simply using that religion as a decoy to hide racist hostility against Arabs, or Kabyles, or Persians, or Indonesians? Of course not. The target of our criticism is the religion Islam, not the ethnicity of some of its adherents. Race has nothing to do with it.

[…] race-religion conflation […] means throwing freedom of conscience out the window. If a religious belief is like a “race” then it is innate and immutable, a status to which the believer is condemned for life.

Moreover, race-religion conflation is far worse than merely absurd. It undermines fundamental freedoms, because it means throwing freedom of conscience out the window. If a religious belief is like a “race” then it is innate and immutable, a status to which the believer is condemned for life. To conflate race and religion is simply the light version of the ban on apostasy, and Islamists love both. Were you born into a Muslim family? Or did you convert to Islam later on? Either way, you are now condemned by that random event (in the former case) or that choice (in the latter) to remain Muslim for the rest of your life.

And because such conflation is incompatible with freedom of conscience, it is therefore incompatible with secularism—which explains why religious fundamentalists in general and Islamists in particular fight secularism relentlessly, especially in countries where it has made the most progress, such as France and Quebec.

Race-religion conflation was a major strategy used by antisecularists who challenged Bill 21 before Quebec Superior Court in late 2020. The testimonies of several expert witnesses opposing the law were almost entirely dedicated to this false parallel, this confusion between the inalterable and the changeable. One expert admitted during his testimony that he makes no distinction—and does not even understand the distinction—between religious identity and other types of identity. The testimony of another expert dealt only with racial minorities, especially Afro-Americans, in the United States. One lawyer declared that all conclusions based on race can be applied to religious affiliation, thus evacuating the concept of freedom of conscience.

Neoracism

The current so-called “antiracist” movement, based principally in the USA but whose ideologies have spread throughout the English-speaking world and to several European countries, is at the centre of an anti-Enlightenment movement which claims to be on the political left and is colloquially known as “wokism.” I prefer to call it the post-left because it has abandoned and betrayed the very Enlightenment values which define the left and constitute, in my opinion, the greatest achievement of European civilization. This movement has a particularly bizarre and irrational concept of racism, with an unhealthy hatred for “whiteness” resulting from its denigration of Europeanness.

For the post-left, racism is a strictly one-way street, from whites towards non-whites, as whites are always racist while non-whites are never racist. Moreover, racial groups are viewed monolithically.

For the post-left, racism is a strictly one-way street, from whites towards non-whites, as whites are always racist while non-whites are never racist. Moreover, racial groups are viewed monolithically. Thus, white-on-white racism and non-white-on-non-white racism are not recognized. The biological basis of race is denied, allowing the adoption of an arbitrary definition—or rather non-definition—of what constitutes “race” or “racism.” (For example, in a talk given in 2019, Ibram X. Kendi declared that “Racism is a collection of racist policies, that lead to racial inequities, that are substantiated by racist ideas,” a definition which is circular and hence meaningless.) This allows the post-left to racialize religious groups such as Muslims. Furthermore, leftist criticism of European colonialism has degenerated into an overweening post-leftist prejudice in favour of Islam, inconsistent with its hostility towards Christianity which it views as European, thus “white,” thus abandoning the principle that all religions merit critical examination.

The English-speaking world has shown itself to be obstinate in its failure to understand religion-State separation as implemented in the French-speaking world. This situation has been significantly exacerbated by the spread of the post-left with its race-religion conflation and its irrational Islamophilia. Hence, the absurd accusations of “racism” directed against bans on religious symbols in civil services. Even among those who reject post-leftist ideologies and do not hesitate to denounce the follies of the “woke,” there is a general failure to muster the courage to support secularism consistently by defending measures which separate religion from the State and remove religious privileges.

Who Are the Real Racists?

The irony here is that opposition to Bill 21, including all those accusations of “racism,” is inflamed by racism. The accusers are themselves often motivated by racism, i.e. anti-Québécois prejudice. Anglophone hostility towards Francophones is a recurring theme throughout Canadian history. But that would be white-on-white racism, so for the post-left, it can be ignored. Historically the French in North America were both colonizers in service to the French Empire and colonized by the British Empire which conquered New France and subjugated its inhabitants, but such subtleties are too much for the simplistic Manichaean worldview of the post-left.

The Orange Order was active in Canada starting in the early 19th century, promoting bigotry against Catholics, the French, Jews and Blacks. Similar prejudices were incited by the Ku Klux Klan which was active in the 1920s and 1930s in several provinces, as well as in the US border state of Maine where many Franco-Canadians had migrated in search of employment. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, several provinces banned the use of French as a teaching language in public schools. The goal was to overwhelm French language and culture by assimilation, in the long term.

This process can be called cultural genocide (but not physical genocide), just as the indigenous residential school system constituted cultural genocide of First Nations peoples. (Some ideologues have attempted, unfortunately with some success, to impose a new definition of genocide such that indigenous residential schools would be considered a case of real physical genocide, despite the fact that the scandal of alleged unmarked graves has turned out to be baseless, at least so far.) Of course there are major differences between the situations of the French and of First Nations. French language and culture remain dominant in one province (but the spectre of “louisianisation” looms), thus with some political autonomy, while native peoples only have some autonomy in a number of tiny First Nations territories spread throughout Canada. On the other hand, English Canada’s attempts to have Bill 21 repealed show that it does not respect Quebec’s provincial autonomy. Moreover, fighting against anti-indigenous racism is currently very much in fashion, whereas the reality of anti-Québécois prejudice is hardly even acknowledged.

A more complete implementation of religion-State separation is rooted in the history and culture of the Francophone world. The iconic French Loi de séparation des Églises et de l’État of 1905 is arguably the best secular legislation ever adopted by any country, and it continues to set the standard. Opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21 is partly motivated by anti-Francophone prejudice, a continuation of long-standing Anglophone bigotry.

Conclusion

Of the three attributes—political opinion, religious affiliation and racial identity—the first two must be considered closely related, whereas the last two must be clearly differentiated. To do otherwise is incompatible with freedom of conscience, undermines secularism and gives religious zealots a free ride.

Given the ruthless hostility of antisecularists and their allies, inflamed by anti-Enlightenment ideologies, it is urgently necessary to support the defense and advancement of secularism in all countries.

Given the ruthless hostility of antisecularists and their allies, inflamed by anti-Enlightenment ideologies, it is urgently necessary to support the defense and advancement of secularism in all countries. I encourage you to read the document “International Solidarity with Religion-State Separation” and, if you represent a secularist, atheist, humanist or similar organization, to consider endorsing it.


Next blog: TBA

Another Antisecular Screed

Trashing Secularism in France is a Favourite Anglo Sport

2024-06-04

My analysis of yet another example of the English-language media totally misunderstanding—and deliberately misrepresenting—secularism in France. The underlying cause is the anti-universalist ideology prevalent in the Anglo-American world.

Sommaire en français Mon analyse d’un autre exemple de médias anglophones qui méconnaissent totalement — ​​et déforment délibérément — ​​la laïcité en France. La cause sous-jacente est l’idéologie anti-universaliste qui prévaut dans le monde anglo-américain.

One of the favourite sports of Anglo media is to defecate on secularism in France, deploring the sad fact that the French do not do everything just like Americans or Anglo-Canadians. A recent article in The Conversation by Armin Langer, “France’s headscarf ban in the 2024 Summer Olympics reflects a narrow view of national identity, writes a scholar of European studies”, is an example of such arrogance and dishonesty. Some highlights:

Article by Armin Langer

  • Langer fails to distinguish between religious belief and religious practice. Bans on religious symbols affect only the latter, never the former.
  • Langer states that religious symbol bans discriminate against persons, in this case Muslims, specifically Muslim women. This is false. Such bans are behavioural. They ban certain behaviour, wearing religious symbols in certain contexts. They do not ban persons. A religious symbol can be removed and put back on after leaving the context where the ban applies. If a person refuses to remove their symbol, they are excluding themselves and are responsible for their own behaviour. The State or athletic organization is under no obligation to accommodate every whim of employees and participants.
  • Langer laments the ban on religious symbols worn by Olympic athletes, claiming that “no one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear, or not wear.” This is nonsense. Does Langer think that female police officers need not wear the uniform? Or that women need not obey the hardhat rule on constructions sites which impose such safety regulations? Or that female medical workers need not respect medical hygiene by dressing appropriately?
  • Langer laments the ban on religious symbols worn by pupils in French schools, claiming that it causes “feelings of exclusion and isolation.” The reality is quite the opposite. Langer fails to mention that the academic performance of daughters of Muslim parents has significantly improved in the decades since the ban was imposed in schools in France, because those girls are less isolated thanks to the ban.
  • Langer refers to multiculturalism as if it were a good thing, whereas the French are fully aware that that ideology is anti-universalist, hence incompatible with secularism.
  • Even the title is dishonest: there is no “headscarf ban.” The bans apply to all religious symbols. Furthermore, the term “headscarf” implies that the Islamic hijab is just an article of clothing, when in reality it is the banner of a supremacist, misogynist ideology and a symbol of rape culture.
  • Langer refers to the hijab as “an expression of religious identity and empowerment.” Identity, yes! But the only people who are empowered by the hijab are religious fanatics and Islamists.

There is a major theme that runs throughout this appalling text by Langer. That theme is mainly implicit, but becomes explicit when the author says that we must not tell women what to wear or not to wear. That theme could be called “impunity for the oppressed” and it is a consequence of a toxic ideology, neoracism (which falsely claims to be antiracist and is based on intersectionality and Critial Race Theory or CRT), an ideology which is anti-universalist and anti-Enlightenment (hence anti-European). Neoracism has corrupted every social movement it has touched, including of course antiracism (but not limited to that issue). It divides the world into two categories of people, (1) the oppressors or dominant, and (2) the oppressed or dominated. The former are always bad and wrong, while the latter are always right and good. Hence, “impunity for the oppressed.”

According to the neoracist worldview, oppression (such as racism, sexism, etc.) is always a one-way street, with the dominant always oppressing the dominated. For example, racism is a one-way street by which “whites” (i.e. those of European descent) are always racist towards non-whites, whereas non-whites are never racist. Furthermore, white-on-white racism and non-white-on-non-white racism simply cannot and do not exist in this worldview. Furthermore, neoracists have a strong tendency to racialize (i.e. essentialize) religious affiliation, especially Muslimness, thus turning Islam into a “race” (which of course it is not) and allowing neoracists to accuse critics of Islam of “racism” as a form of social censorship.

Women are classified as an oppressed category (hence the stupid idea that women must not be subject to dress codes), as are Muslims. Partisans of neoracism classify Islam as the religion of oppressed non-Europeans (hence non-“whites”) and grant Muslims impunity (which is of course an enormous privilege, but neoracists only use that word “privilege” when speaking of “white” men). Thus, Muslim women are, according to neoracists, triply oppressed: as women, as Muslims and as non-Europeans. They can do no wrong. If Muslims or Muslim women experience problems related to their religion, those problems cannot be the fault of the religion itself (when in fact such is often the case, because Islam is very misogynistic and utterly rejects freedom of conscience); rather, the fault must be with “Islamophobia” directed against them by non-Muslims. Thus Muslims must be granted the privilege of wearing religious symbols when everyone else has to obey certain restrictions in certain contexts. All this happens, of course, to the great delight of Islamists.

What antisecularists like Langer are promoting is not equality. They promote the maintenance of religious privileges, especially for fanatical Muslims, those who intransigently refuse to follow the rules which secular States like France apply to everyone.


Next blog: Ideological Capture

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Conversion: An Act of Desperation

2023-12-29

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s conversion to Christianity is a desperate and irrational attempt to use that religion as a shield against several threats to Western civilization.

Sommaire en français La conversion d’Ayaan Hirsi Ali au christianisme est une tentative désespérée et irrationnelle d’utiliser cette religion comme bouclier contre plusieurs menaces qui pèsent sur la civilisation occidentale.

Recently (2023-11-11), Ayaan Hirsi Ali, well-known critic of Islam and formerly a “central figure of New Atheism” (to quote her Wikipedia entry), published an article on the UnHerd website, entitled “Why I am now a Christian, Atheism can’t equip us for civilisational war.” However, upon reading that article, one will notice a complete lack of any assertion of belief in Christian dogma or mythology. So why then did she convert to Christianity? Apparently, the answer has nothing to do with belief, as explained in the following paragraph:

“Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation.”

Hirsi Ali goes on to explain that her adoption of Christianity is motivated by her hope that it will be a major weapon to fight against that triple threat of authoritarianism, Islamism and wokism.

“We can’t withstand China, Russia and Iran if we can’t explain to our populations why it matters that we do. We can’t fight woke ideology if we can’t defend the civilisation that it is determined to destroy. And we can’t counter Islamism with purely secular tools.”

Hirsi Ali’s correctly identifies the three principal enemies of Western civilization, especially considering that the latter two—Islamism and wokism—are allies. Those who have adopted the ideology of wokism (which I call post-leftism) passively and naïvely, out of conformism, simply because it is the fashionable nonsense of the day, probably think that qualifying it as a principal enemy of Western civilization is an exaggeration, but they would be mistaken. Those who take that ideology most seriously reject the Enlightenment, which is arguably the greatest achievement of Western culture and which is vilified by the piously woke.

However, Hirsi Ali’s choice of weapon—Christianity—to fight against these threats is not only wrong, but ludicrously wrong.

There have been several responses to Hirsi Ali’s proclamation of her conversion to Christianity. In a brief article published on the AAI website, August Berkshire misses the point. Although he recognizes that “Her critique of radical Islam is accurate,” he nevertheless completely ignores the seriously complicating factor of post-leftism and how it opens the floodgates to radical Islam.

there is no real political left remaining in the USA, the post-left having utterly corrupted the former left, causing it to betray the Enlightenment universalism which defines it.

The prize for the most outrageous response goes to Maryam Namazie for her tweet accusing Ayaan Hirsi Ali of being a “right wing hate monger” even when she was an atheist. This is very mean-spirited. Hirsi Ali is no hate monger. As for her associating with the “right wing,” it must be remembered that there is no real political left remaining in the USA, the post-left having utterly corrupted the former left, causing it to betray the Enlightenment universalism which defines it. The post-left rejected Hirsi Ali because of her uncompromising criticism of its ally, political Islam.

In “Foxholes, Deathbeds, and the Extraordinary Case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali” in Free Inquiry magazine, author Adam Neiblum apparently thinks that we atheists need to be reassured that Hirsi Ali’s conversion does not represent a weakening of our worldview. However, his concern is unwarranted. I do not think that we atheists are so delicate. He points out the obvious: that apostates—former believers leaving a religion—greatly outnumber those who convert to a religion. This particular conversion story is interesting only because Hirsi Ali is a public figure of some importance, but it has no relevance to the atheism-theism debate. Neiblum suggests that her conversion may be related to her religious indoctrination as a child. But he totally ignores the issue of woke ideology, i.e. post-leftism.

In his response “Why I Am Not a Christian,” Michael Shermer does a much better job. He asserts his continued admiration for Ayaan Hirsi Ali and calls her a “heroic figure.”

“Ayaan has pride of place in the pantheon of greats who have had the courage of their convictions to the point of putting their own lives on the line in the name of universal principles of justice and freedom.”

Shermer acknowledges that Hirsi Ali correctly identifies (1) Islamism, (2) China and Russia, and (3) woke ideology as major threats. But he also rejects categorically Hirsi Ali’s conclusion that Christianity is any solution to those threats. Shermer makes the all-important point that “Scientific naturalism and Enlightenment humanism made the modern world” and they did so in opposition to Christian obscurantism.

Dawkins is also well aware of the problem posed by “postmodernish wokery pokery.”

Perhaps the best response of all is from Dawkins. In his “Open letter from Richard Dawkins to Ayaan Hirsi-Ali” he adopts a tone which is even more sympathetic than that of Shermer. Dawkins also recognizes the threats identified by Hirsi Ali and he is also well aware of the problem posed by “postmodernish wokery pokery.” But he also makes an important observation, one I hinted at in the first paragraph of this blog when I observed the absence of any declaration of belief by Hirsi Ali. Dawkins states:

“As you know, you are one of my absolutely favourite people but … seriously, Ayaan? You, a Christian? You are no more a Christian than I am.”

I tend to agree. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an intelligent person. She cannot possibly believe, really believe, the nonsensical dogmas which constitute Christian mythology. Her decision is a strategic one. She apparently thinks, and hopes, that Christianity will show itself to be an effective antidote to the craziness currently infecting Western societies. Of course she is mistaken.

The waning of Christianity did not cause wokism and restoring Christianity is no solution to it.

Recently there has been a rather bizarre hypothesis making the rounds in social media, based on the observation that the atheist movement in the USA (and also in English Canada) has been largely corrupted and rendered regressive and next to useless by post-leftism. The hypothesis is that the woke movement is somehow a consequence of the atheist movement’s criticism of Christianity!!! Of course I agree that the atheist movement has been compromised, but the hypothesis is baseless. For one thing, correlation is not causation. Furthermore, the roots of the post-leftist phenomenon go back several decades preceding the modern atheist movement. Those roots include postmodernist philosophy, neo-Marxism, American antiracist theory, etc. The waning of Christianity did not cause wokism and restoring Christianity is no solution to it. In fact, even some Christian churches, the more liberal ones, have embraced post-leftist dogma.

The insanity of the woke has been so destructive, so demoralizing, that she is grasping at straws

I suspect that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been influenced by this peculiar hypothesis, this idea that somehow atheists and the weakening of Christianity are to blame. And I think that this has been a significant motivator of her conversion. In fact, post-leftism is itself a sort of parareligion, another irrational ideology competing for marketshare with more traditional ideologies. Replacing one form of nonsense by another is not the solution. Her conversion is an act of desperation. The insanity of the woke has been so destructive, so demoralizing, that she is grasping at straws, or one very dubious straw: Christianity

Whatever Hirsi Ali’s ultimate motives may be, whether I am right or wrong in my suspicions, one thing is clear: irrational ideologies such as Christianity, Islam, post-leftism, etc. must be criticized and opposed. In particular, they must not be allowed to infect State institutions with their mythologies and dogmas. Thus, the necessity of secularism, separating religions and parareligions from the State.


Next blog: The Fall of Minneapolis: A Dishonest Documentary

Trudeau Appoints Anti-Québécois Racist to Combat so-called ‘Islamophobia’

Amira Elghawaby will stifle criticism of Islam & Islamism and fight against secularism.

2023-01-28

Canada’s irresponsible Prime Minister has appointed a notorious anti-Québécois racist to a well-funded office whose mandate is to combat so-called ‘Islamophobia,’ i.e. her job will be to censor blasphemy against Islam and Islamism.

Sommaire en français Le premier ministre irresponsable du Canada a nommé une raciste anti-québécoise mal famée à un poste bien financé dont le mandat est de lutter contre la soi-disant « islamophobie », c’est-à-dire que son travail consistera à censurer le blasphème contre l’islam et contre l’islamisme.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed anti-Québécois bigot Amira Elghawaby as Canada’s first “Special representative on combating Islamophobia.” Elghawaby is well known for her opposition to secular legislation such as Quebec Bill 21. She worked for five years with the extremely dubious National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). Recall that the NCCM promotes several retrograde policies, including weakening Canada’s national security agencies, which would make it easier for political Islam to infiltrate the country.

In 2021, University of Toronto philosophy professor Joseph Heath authored an article, published in the Globe & Mail, in which he observed that the American model of race relations does not at all apply to Canada and that, in particular, “the largest group of people in this country who were victimized by British colonialism, subjugated and incorporated into confederation by force, are French Canadians.” A cursory review of Canadian history is more than enough to confirm the validity of Heath’s statement: the hanging of Louis Riel, the deportation of Acadians, the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Canada and in Maine, the closure of French-language schools in several provinces, the October Crisis of 1970, etc. And most recently, the fanatical opposition of English Canada to Quebec Bill 21.

Elghawaby was evidently outraged by professor Heath’s very reasonable declaration, because she tweeted that “I’m going to puke.” Such a statement reflects her hatred of the Québécois people. It also illustrates her desire to reserve the status of victim for herself and her Islamist colleagues who claim a monopoly on victimhood. The reality, of course, is that Islamists systematically weaponize anti-Québécois racism in order to demonize Quebec Bill 21 and the majority of Quebeckers who support it.

Ms. Elghawaby has slandered Quebec secularists by falsely alleging a link between Quebec Bill 21 and the Quebec City mosque massacre of 2017-01-29. Recall that the attack occurred years before Bill 21 was adopted and years after previous similar legislation—the Charter of Secularism proposed by the PQ government in 2013—was defeated. Similarly, she has also promoted the preposterous idea of a link between Quebec Bill 21 and the 2021-06-06 anti-Muslim attack in London, Ontario. Recall that Ontario is a different province.

Ms. Elghawaby’s incendiary pronouncements are irresponsible as they can only exacerbate social tensions which increase—not decrease—the risk of violent incidents. Secular legislation such as Quebec Bill 21 reduce social tensions by showing the population that their government is taking reasonable measures to reduce religious influence in civil institutions. Ms. Elghawaby, on the other hand, does everything she can to inflame such tensions.

Elghawaby’s office will have an initial budget of $5.6 million. As her mandate is to fight against so-called ‘Islamophobia,’ what this means in practice is that those funds will be used to censor criticism of Islam and Islamism and to propagate hatred of critics of those ideologies. Recall that the tendentious term ‘Islamophobia’ is basically a synonym for blasphemy against Islam. Recall as well that Islam specifies the death penalty for apostasy, i.e. leaving the faith, thus making it incompatible with fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, the Islamic religion, both in the quran and in various hadiths, propagates hatred of women, Jews, homosexuals, believers in other religions and non-believers. To fear Islam is certainly not a “phobia.” Rather, to fear Islam—especially its fundamentalist variant Islamism—is both prudent and necessary.

Furthermore, recall that Bill 21 puts no restriction whatsoever on freedom of belief. Rather, that law puts a restriction on freedom of religious expression (not belief) for civil servants in positions of authority and for public school teachers and principals, so as to provide civil service users and schoolchildren with an environment free from religious proselytism. Bill 21 applies only while on the job. There is no restriction whatsoever when the civil servant is not at work. Elghawaby’s refusal to accept this very reasonable restriction indicates that she is a religious fanatic—the worst sort of person whom the government could appoint to a position dealing with human rights.

Clearly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is an incompetent fool to have made such an unwise appointment.

I happen to be familiar with Amira Elghawaby and her unctuous manners. I personally participated in two panel discussions recorded for the “Canadian Justice” television show in 2020 and 2021, panels in which I was the only person who supported Bill 21, outnumbered by the other panelists (including Ms. Elghawaby) and by the hosts of the show.


Sixth Anniversary of the Quebec City Mosque Attack

Recall that 29th January 2023 (tomorrow, relative to the date of this blog) is the sixth anniversary of that horrific attack on a mosque in Quebec City where six persons were killed and several other seriously wounded. We need to recall certain facts:

  • Islam and its fundamentalist variant Islamism are indeed dangerous ideologies as explained above.
  • Anti-Muslim violence, in addition to being utterly unconscionable and barbaric, is the worst possible response to that danger. Such violence only strengthens the hand of Islamists.
  • Incidents of anti-Muslim violence, such as the 2017 mosque attack, are unrelated to secular legislation, such as Quebec Bill 21, except to the extent that such legislation helps to reduce social tensions, thus reducing the risk of such violence.

Islamists and their dupes unscrupulously attempt to use such anti-Muslim violence as a propaganda tool against secular legislation. See, for example, my blog “No, We Are Not Guilty”, written at the time of the third anniversary of the attack.

See also:


Next blog: Burden of Proof

Bias in 2021 Election Leaders’ Debate

The Quebec Conseil de presse rules that moderator Shachi Kurl was biased.

2022-12-08

The Conseil de presse du Québec has ruled that moderator Shachi Kurl and CBC News lacked impartiality at the leaders’ debate, during the 2021 federal election campaign. Kurl asked a “question” which was in fact a specious and dishonest accusation of “racism” against Bill 21.

Sommaire en français La modératrice Shachi Kurl qui a posé une “question” qui était en réalité une spécieuse et malhonnête accusation de “racisme” contre la Loi 21 est l’objet d’une plainte retenue par le Conseil de presse du Québec.

During the 2021 Canadian federal election, a leaders’ debate in English was broadcast on several television networks on the evening of 9 septembre. The moderator of the debate was Shachi Kurl, president of the polling agency Angus Reid Institute.

In reponse to a complaint filed against CBC News and Ms. Kurl, the Quebec Conseil de presse ruled on 28 octobre 2022 that both had indeed lacked impartiality during the leaders’ debate. Kurl asked a “question” which was in fact an accusation of “racism” against Bill 21. Here is the transcript of the question/accusation for which CBC News and Ms. Kurl have been reprimanded:

“Mister Blanchet, to you. You deny that Québec has problems with racism, yet you defend legislations such as Bills 96 and 21 which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones and allophones. Québec is recognized as a distinct society, but for those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws.”

I wrote about this incident in a previous blog. This is how I summarized the situation:

“the association of Bill 21 with ‘racism’ which is part of Shachi Kurl’s ‘question’ is standard practice for the law’s opponents. Although the law obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with race or racism, opponents like Kurl irrationally and dishonestly conflate race with religion. This allows them to make specious accusations of racism, because defamation is their primary weapon in their war against secularism. Their constant use of such slander against secularists is proof of the vacuity of their arguments.”

This decision criticizing CBC News and Ms. Kurl, although little more than symbolic, is nevertheless very good news, because it shows recognition that slander and anti-Québécois bigotry are indeed tools used by opponents of secularism in order to vilify Quebec Bill 21.


Links


Next blog: Fourteen Observations about Post-Leftism

Pauline Marois: 2022 International Secularism Prize

2022-11-18, Link added 2022-11-19

2022 International Secularism Prize awarded to Madame Pauline Marois, former Premier of Quebec.

Sommaire en français Prix international de la laïcité 2022, décerné à Mme Pauline Marois, ancienne première ministre du Québec.

Pauline Marois, Quebec’s first woman premier (2012-2014) has just been honoured by the Comité Laïcité République (CLR) in Paris who have awarded her the Prix international de la laïcité (International Secularism Prize) for her contribution to secularism—for the deconfessionalization of Quebec schools and for the Charter of Secularism which her government proposed in 2013. Although that government was defeated in 2014, before the Charter could be adopted, it was a major precursor, paving the way for Bill 21, adopted five years later by the CAQ government.

Madame Marois has often been the target of vicious hatred from both unscrupulous antisecularists and anti-Québécois ethnic bigots, two groups which overlap greatly and are currently allied in vilifying Bill 21. In fact, Mme Marois was the target of an assassination attempt during a victory celebration, the very evening of her election victory on September 4th 2012. Although unsuccessful in hitting his presumed target, because his weapon jammed, the would-be assassin nevertheless did kill one person, a technician, and seriously wounded another.

It is indeed gratifying that Pauline Marois’ major contributions to the cause of secularism have now been recognized internationally.

BRAVA MADAME MAROIS!

Here are a few excerpts from Madame Marois’ acceptance speech:

It took until the end of the 1990s, when I was Minister of Education, to conclude delicate negotiations with religious authorities, the English-speaking community and the federal government in order to remove the constitutional obstacle which prevented the creation of French and English linguistic school boards.

[…]

The federal State dominated by English Canada claims to be postcolonial, postnational and multicultural. Paradoxically, it considers that the only acceptable referents in terms of rights and freedoms are its own. Thus, for the Canadian government and the English-language media, the decisions of the European Court of Justice with regard to the wearing of religious symbols are totally discriminatory.

[…]

I will not force you to listen to the religious edicts, each one more misogynistic than the previous, but it seems undeniable to me that people on the left who have abandoned the defense of secularism have lost part of their soul along the way.

Let us be clear, secularism does not in itself guarantee the liberation and equality of women, but it is an essential ingredient.

[…]

By clearly separating knowledge from beliefs, secularism promotes a spirit of tolerance. In a secular and democratic state, everyone is free as regards their faith, but the rules that define the art of living together should not be determined by religious precepts.


Links


Next blog: La vraie nature de la BCHA

Flawed Constitutions

2022-07-01

The US Constitution implements only an incomplete version of secularism. The Canadian Constitution is worse.

Sommaire en français La Constitution américaine ne met en œuvre qu’une version incomplète de la laïcité. La Constitution canadienne est pire.

Three recent decisions by the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) have been in the news. Each represents a setback for secularism. Together, they bode ill for the future of that country, representing a major victory for the Christian religious right. Their importance for other countries such as Canada and European nations has been exaggerated. After all, they involve legal issues particular to the USA. Nevertheless, they are troubling and must not be ignored. American politics has a nasty habit of spreading its influence well beyond the borders of that country.

These SCOTUS decisions are listed at the end of this blog, along with some media reports. All three grant religious privileges of one form or another and all undermine freedom from religion. Many articles and comments on these decisions contain numerous mentions of how separation between religion and State is being violated. Some commentators even mention the famous “wall of separation.” But apparently no-one has mentioned an obvious fact which greatly exacerbates the problem:

There is no religion/state separation in the US Constitution! Separation is not declared in the First Amendment. Just read the damn thing:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
— First Amendment to the United States Constitution

First of all, the first 10 words, called the Establishment Clause, simply declare that a State religion cannot be established. Very good! But there is no mention of separation. This just means that no one religion cannot be favoured. The expression “wall of separation” is from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, not from the US Constitution. The Amendment does not prevent favouring religion in general, unless you are lucky enough to get judges who interpret it that way, in the way that Jefferson apparently wanted, but which is not explicit in the Constitution.

Secondly, the following 6 words (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) are called the Free Exercise Clause. They declare unconditional freedom of religious practice, as if freedom of religion were absolute. Freedom from religion is not guaranteed. Thus, religious are privileged.

So, when the Supreme Court majority rules, as it did in the Kennedy v. Bremerton case, that both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment give the highschool coach the right to pray on the football field, they may, unfortunately, be right. It is, at the very least, a plausible interpretation of the text of the Amendment.

Throughout the history of the USA, some judges of the Supreme Court have endorsed the concept of separation of religion and State, but others have refuted it. There is continuous tension between accommodationists and separationists. Even before this recent spate of disturbing decisions, the accommodationists appeared to be winning.

Thus, the First Amendment of the US Constitution implements an incomplete form of secularism, with just a weak form of religious neutrality (where non-believers are not accounted for) and with no separation. The US Constitution is fundamentally flawed. It is certainly better than the Canadian Constitution. When it was adopted over two centuries ago, in 1791, it was progressive for the time, when Europe was full of monarchies and various degrees of theocracy. But it does not implement full secularism.

Why do so many Americans (and even Canadians!) talk about the First Amendment as if it were some wonderful document, the ultimate reference for secularism? I think there is an enormous quantity of arrogance in that attitude, as if all that can be considered best in the world, the best guarantees of freedom, must necessarily come from the United States of America. This is simply American chauvinism. And beyond the USA, in the English-speaking world in general, an unhealthy Anglo-ethnocentrism engenders a similar attitude of conceit.

Implications for Bill 21

If you think the Supreme Court of Canada should strike down Quebec Bill 21, then you are an objective ally of the bigots who rejoice that the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) has struck down a ban on prayer during highschool sports events, as well as those who rejoice that SCOTUS is forcing taxpayers to fund religious schools in some contexts. In both cases you have a Supreme Court (Canadian or American) using a flawed constitution (Canadian or American) to strike down a secular measure (Bill 21 or secular schooling).

Both the US and Canadian Constitutions are flawed. Neither implements secularism, although the US Constitution goes partway there.

In both cases, judges who are nominated, not elected, have extensive powers. They can approve or strike down legislation passed democratically by the legislative branch of government. Or they can overrule decisions based on such legislation. Or, in the case of abortion, they can arbitrarily withdraw a right which the same court itself endorsed half a century previously. And yet, over 60% of Americans currently agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Again, the Canadian situation is worse, because the law which is under threat (Bill 21) was passed by a legislature (Quebec National Assembly) which has never approved the 1982 Constitution on which the Supreme Court judges will base their decision. Furthermore, even before arriving at the Supreme Court, Bill 21 is challenged in two Quebec Courts (Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal) and the judges in both those courts are appointed by the federal government, not by Quebec. There is a clear lack of democracy.


The Three US Supreme Court Decisions

  1. 2022-06-27: Prayer During School Sports Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, This Court decision allows a highschool football coach to pray at the end of a game, while encouraging his players to join him.
    Media Reports:
  2. 2022-06-24: Allowing States to Control Abortion Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, This Court decision strikes down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, thus rejecting any constitutional right to abortion and allowing individual states to legislate as they wish.
    Media Reports:
    • “In a devastating decision that will reverberate for generations, the U.S. Supreme Court has abandoned its duty to protect fundamental rights and overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling there is no constitutional right to abortion. Today’s decision—which abandons nearly 50 years of precedent—marks the first time in history that the Supreme Court has taken away a fundamental right.” U.S. Supreme Court Takes Away the Constitutional Right to Abortion
    • “On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled 6–3 to uphold Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, and 5–4 to overrule Roe and Casey. Similar to the leaked draft opinion, the opinion of the court written by Justice Alito stated that Roe was ‘egregiously wrong from the start’ and its reasoning ‘exceptionally weak’. It also stated that Roe has ‘enflamed debate and deepened division’ and that overruling it would ‘return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives’.[334] The majority opinion relied on a constitutional historical view of abortion rights, saying, ‘The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.’” Wikipedia: Roe v. Wade
  3. 2022-06-21: Funding Religious Schools Carson v. Makin
    Media Reports:
    • “The Supreme Court issued a ruling today in Carson v. Makin that requires the state of Maine to fund religious education at private religious schools as part of its tuition assistance program. The program pays for students to attend private school if their town does not have a public high school. The decision marks the first time that the court has explicitly required taxpayers to support a specifically religious activity — religious instruction — and expands the court’s 2020 ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. There, the court held that that the Free Exercise Clause prohibited a state from excluding religious schools from private aid programs ‘solely because of their religious character.’” ACLU Comment on Supreme Court Decision in Carson v. Makin
    • “The Supreme Court is bulldozing the Wall of Separation. In a ruling just handed down, the Court’s conservative supermajority ruled that taxpayers can be forced to fund religious education. In Maine, the state pays for students to attend secular private schools if they live in areas without public schools of their own. The Court just ruled that by excluding sectarian schools from this arrangement, the state is in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.” Taxpayers Forced to Fund Religious Schools

Next blog: The CRTC, Pierre Vallières and Postmodernism

The Great Canadian Euphemism

Bonne Fête nationale québécoise !

2022-06-24, Addendum 2022-06-26

In his speech before the Académie française, Quebec Minister of the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette was totally correct in denouncing Canadian multiculturalism, as well as defamatory reactions against Bills 21 and 96 by English-language media.

Sommaire en français Dans son discours devant l’Académie française, le ministre québécois de la Langue française, Simon Jolin-Barrette, a eu tout à fait raison de dénoncer le multiculturalisme canadien, ainsi que les propos diffamatoires des médias anglophones contre les Lois 21 et 96.

Yesterday, 23rd June 2022, Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec Minister of the French Language, gave a formal speech before the Académie française in Paris. It was an exceptional moment, for rarely does the Académie invite foreigners to make such an address. Moreover, this is the first time in its nearly 400 year history that an elected representative who is neither head of State nor head of a government has been so invited.

As Quebec recently adopted legislation, Bill 96, which updates and reforms its Charte de la langue française, adopted in 1977 and known colloquially as Bill 101, Jolin-Barrette’s theme was, not surprisingly, the protection and reinforcement of the French language. He invited France to partner with Quebec with that goal in mind.

Jolin-Barrette referred to the increasing predominance of the English language and technology giants known as GAFAM as the “Anglo-American steamroller.” But it was perhaps his comments critical of multiculturalism—hardly controversial for the French—which ruffled the most feathers back home in this country, especially among Anglo-Canadians:

Although our project is thwarted by Canadian multiculturalism, which finds an equivalent in what you call communitarianism and which fights Quebec’s claims to be a distinct nation, the French language must truly become the language of use for all Quebecers…

He also denounced how many English-language media, both Canadian and American, have defamed Quebec and denigrated the actions of his government, particularly with regard to the secularism law (Bill 21) as well as Bill 96. Such media have endeavoured to paint those laws as regressive and authoritarian. But in his opinion, “Our fight for the French language is just, it is a universal fight, that of a nation that has peacefully resisted the will to power of the strongest.”

Simon Jolin-Barrette is absolutely right on both counts: (1) the perniciousness of the Canadian ideology of multiculturalism and (2) the defamatory reaction against Bills 21 and 96.

Canadian multiculturalism is a dishonest euphemism whose true meaning is cultural relativism, clientelism and a bigotry of low expectations, treating minorities as static, well circumscribed and distinct from the majority. It represents the death of universalism and a return to tribalism. A prime example of the consequences of multiculturalism is the experience of Yasmine Mohammed who, after suffering much abuse as a teenager at the hands of her pious Muslim step-father, was abandoned by Canadian authorities, both police and judge, who refused to take action because “different cultures are free to discipline their children in different ways.” Other consequences include all sorts of so-called “reasonable accommodations” (which should instead be called “unreasonable religious accommodations”) such as depriving children of music because of their parents’ religion, allowing—even celebrating—the veiling of young girls, thus endorsing a form of child abuse, allowing civil servants to wear religious symbols while on duty (which Bill 21 bans in Quebec) and so on.

The Québécois oppose Canadian multiculturalism because it reduces them to just another minority, which leads inexorably to Anglo-supremacy. Under Canadian multiculturalism, every language is reduced to folklore status, except English of course. Bravo Quebec for standing up for cultural and linguistic diversity!

Canadian multiculturalism is incompatible with secularism, because secularism requires that all citizens be treated equally, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. Neither Christians, nor atheists, nor Muslims, nor any other specific group should be allowed to display their personal religious opinions or identity while working in the civil service. This is called universalism and it is a core value of secularism. Those Anglo-Canadians who claim to be secularists need to face that reality.

Multiculturalism is the Great Canadian Euphemism. Proponents of this retrograde ideology arrogate to themselves the moral high ground, as if anyone who criticizes it were morally stunted or even “racist.” Their hypocrisy is obvious. Not only is multiculturalism a throwback to tribal days before the advent of universal human rights, it is also a tool used by anti-secularists to rationalize their anti-Québécois ethnic bigotry.

On this 24th of June 2022, a holiday here in Quebec, the Fête nationale, we celebrate Québécois language and culture. (This blog is in English because Anglo-Canadians are the ones who most need to read it.) Taking steps to protect the French language in Quebec is in everyone’s interest, including English-speakers, because without it, Canada and North America would be culturally much poorer. Without French language and culture, without Quebec, would Canada be anything more than a pale replica of the USA?

Addendum

Here is another example of Canadian multiculturalism in action: No child protection for Syrian refugee punched and lashed in N.S. for texting with a boy

Authorities used confusion about the victim’s age as an excuse to do nothing. The teenage girl was the target of a severe beating, enough to break her nose apparently. Whether she was 15 or 16 at the time, her father must be held accountable. But this is Canada. Would this have been allowed if the family were not immigrants from a Muslim country?


Next blog: Flawed Constitutions

The Patriots of Lower Canada

An Important Event in the History of Secularism in North America

2022-04-04

The 1838 Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada is a major milestone in the history of secularism.

Sommaire en français La Déclaration d’indépendance du Bas-Canada de 1838 est un jalon majeur dans l’histoire de la laïcité.


During the period between the British conquest of New France in 1763 (Treaty of Paris) and the formation (“Confederation”) of the Dominion of Canada composed of four provinces, the conquered territory went through several administrative changes:

  • 1763-1791: The former New France became a British colony named Province of Quebec.
  • 1791-1841: The Province of Quebec was divided into Upper Canada and Lower Canada, corresponding roughly to the southern parts of modern Ontario and Quebec respectively.
  • 1841-1867: Upper and Lower Canada were merged into a single colony called Province of Canada

In 1837-1838 an anti-colonial rebellion occurred in Lower Canada (now Quebec) which also inspired a similar but smaller rebellion in Upper Canada (now Ontario). The rebellion in Lower Canada was republican and secular in its aims. A major document of that rebellion is the 1838 Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada or Déclaration d’indépendance du Bas-Canada. It was authored by Robert Nelson, an Anglophone born in Lower Canada. It declares:

“That any union between Church and State is hereby declared to be dissolved, and every person shall have the right to exercise freely such religion or belief as his conscience dictates.”

(« Que toute union entre l’Église et l’État est par la présente déclarée être dissoute, et toute personne aura le droit d’exercer librement telle religion ou croyance qui lui sera dictée par sa conscience. »)

The Declaration also granted equal rights to native peoples.

Of course the Declaration never came into effect, because the rebels were no match for British imperial power and the rebellion was crushed. Several rebels were hanged at the Pied-du-Courant prison in Montreal. Many were exiled. The famous song Un Canadien errant by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie was inspired by the sight of a ship sending 141 condemned men into exil in Australia:

“A wandering Canadien, banished from his homeland, wept as he roamed foreign lands…”

(« Un Canadien errant, banni de ses foyers, parcourait en pleurant des pays étrangers.… »)

The 1841 merger of Upper and Lower Canada into a single colony was done on the recommendation of Lord Durham who was mandated by the British authorities to investigate the causes of rebellion. He also recommended accelerating British immigration. The goal was to anglicize French-speaking Lower Canadians by marginalizing them in a sea of English-speakers. (Today, such a strategy would probably be called cultural genocide.)

The Lower Canada rebels were called “Patriotes” and they are celebrated by a statutory holiday “Journée nationale des Patriotes” in late May. (It’s the queen’s birthday in Canada outside Quebec.) This year 2022 it is on May 23rd. As secularists, we remember their fight for freedom, democracy and secularism.

I have also written about the Patriots in a previous blog “Screw the Monarchy! Vivent les patriotes !


Next blog: The Dogmatism of the Post-Left