Quebec Bill 21 Causes Earthquakes, Anal Warts and the Collapse of Civilisation

2019-05-21

In this blog I present a sampling of articles in which opponents of Quebec Draft Bill 21 make outrageous claims as they attempt to rationalize their irrational opposition to the Bill.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je présente un échantillon de plusieurs articles dans lesquels des opposants au projet de loi 21 du Québec font des déclarations extravagantes dans le but de rationaliser leur opposition irrationnelle à cette législation.

Given their lack of any plausible line of reasoning, antisecularists, in their vituperations against Quebec Draft Bill 21, have a strong tendency toward dishonesty, irresponsible speculation and sometimes complete nonsense. Here are a few examples.

  • The Ignoble Prize for Hyperbole goes to William Steinberg, mayor of the Montreal suburb of Hampstead, who accused Bill 21 of promoting “ethnic cleansing.” He subsequently qualified his remark by stating that he was talking about “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” not by direct violence. Either way, this outrageous claim is an extreme example of the defamatory behaviour of many opponents of the Bill.
  • The Ignoble Prize for Dogmatism goes to the Conseil québécois LGBT (Quebec LGBT Council) for its May 10th declaration « Des organismes LGBT dénoncent le projet de loi 21 » (“LGBT Organizations Denounce Draft Bill 21”) which (1) falsely accuses the Bill of being discriminatory, (2) repeats the slander linking the Bill to anti-Muslim violence and (3) laments the legislation’s restrictions on face-coverings which are “obviously aimed at veiled Muslim women and thus contribute to the stigmatisation of a population already hyper-marginalized.” In other words, the Council completely ignores the fact that fundamentalist Islam promotes death for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities and instead chooses to express its solidarity with fundamentalist Islam’s favourite propaganda ploy, promotion of the veil, even the face-covering niqab. Why? Because unconditional defense of fundamentalist Muslims (while throwing secular Muslims under the bus) is part of the regressive pseudo-left dogma to which the Council evidently adheres.
  • The Ignoble Prize for Hypocrisy goes to CFI Canada (CFIC), an organization which claims to support secularism and critical thought but which abandons both in its attitude towards Bill 21. I discussed CFIC’s betrayal of its espoused principles in a previous blog.
  • The Ignoble Prize for Pseudoscience goes to McGill University psychiatric residents Sara Hanifi and Salam El-Malouf and many cosigners for their April 26th article which alleges that Bill 21 will negatively affect Quebecers’ health! They associate the Bill with “exclusion,” “hateful and racist speech” and “interpersonal and systemic discrimination” no less. Their discourse is replete with the familiar specious vocabulary (including the notorious “Islamophobia”) of the regressive pseudo-left which racializes religion and thus enables religious privilege. Their entire thesis is based on the false assertion that the Bill is discriminatory—a house of cards which crumbles on first inspection. Columnist Denise Bombardier qualified these psychiatrists’ theory as paranoid ravings. I basically agree, although I consider their nonsense to be more ideological than paranoid.
  • Coren […] fails to distinguish the public sphere (which is totally unaffected by Bill 21) from the civil sphere […]

  • In Maclean’s Magazine, Michael Coren has a cow over Bill 21 in his article “Quebec’s proposed secularism law is repugnant. Here are six reasons why.” Coren repeats the old canard about “discrimination” against Muslims, slanders Quebecers with the extremely tendentious and unacceptable term “Islamophobia.” He dismisses the Bill as populism, confuses religious neutrality with secularism (the latter extends the former greatly) and fails to distinguish the public sphere (which is totally unaffected by Bill 21) from the civil sphere (i.e. State institutions, where the Bill does apply, but only to some employees). What is repugnant here is Coren’s pro-religion prejudice.
  • Dan Bilefsky recycles old anti-Quebec clichés in his New York Times article “Quebec Proposes Bill Barring Public Employees From Wearing Head Scarves at Work.” The article greatly emphasizes declarations against the Bill and repeats several of Coren’s tactics, including use of “Islamophobia.” Even worse, Bilefsky links the Bill with mosque shootings in Quebec City and Christchurch, thus implying that the Bill would somehow increase the probability of such attacks. Such speculation is irresponsible. In fact, the exact opposite argument is more plausible: by taking action to reduce religious interference in State institutions, the proposed Bill would favour social harmony and reduce the danger of such violence.
  • […] by taking action to reduce religious interference in State institutions, the proposed Bill would favour social harmony and reduce the danger of such violence.

  • Montreal Gazette columnist Don Macpherson tries to ridicule the Bill in his article “The CAQ anti-hijab bill, worse than useless” but succeeds mainly in displaying his total ignorance of secularism. He maintains that the Bill “would weaken Quebec’s own charter of rights” when in reality it would significantly strengthen and improve Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by inscribing “laïcité” into it, thus ensuring that future legislation would respect (1) the equality of all citizen—including male-female equality, (2) the freedom of conscience of all citizens, (3) religious neutrality and, most importantly, (4) separation between religion and State, i.e. State autonomy with respect to religions.

Antidotes to Antisecular Misinformation

The above list is only a small sampling of the wide variety of inanity and insanity which can be found in the media opposing Draft Bill 21. As an antidote, I urge you to read the article “Quebec’s Secularism Bill” in which author Luis Granados expeditiously cuts through the bullshit of the Bill’s opponents. A sample:

The ban covers all religions, including Quebec’s majority Christian population. No more crucifix pendants. No more yarmulkes. No more hijabs. No Satanic Temple t-shirts, should anyone be so inclined. Government employees get paid to do a job for the taxpayers, period. Advertising for the God industry has no place in the doing of that job, any more than advertising for a political candidate would. Employees are free to promote whatever they like on their own time, but not while they are officially representing the government. […]

Some are even threatening civil disobedience, because the laws of God should apparently trump those of mere humans. What should matter most here is not what the employees want, but what the “customers” want—given the customers are children whose minds are being shaped by those in authority. […] Children deserve to be educated in a neutral environment. They don’t need teachers putting up signs saying “Jesus is the Answer”—or wearing clothing that says the same thing. They don’t need teachers wearing a cap boasting that “I’m one of God’s chosen people, and you’re not.” They don’t need teachers silently communicating that women should be ashamed of their bodies—or the equally disgusting message that men are incapable of controlling themselves if they are sexually distracted by seeing the top of a woman’s head.

Finally, some logic and common sense about secularism from an English-language publication—a rare thing indeed.

Here is another reality-check. Consider the fact that article 22(4) of Quebec’s Loi sur l’instruction publique (Education Act) stipulates:

“A teacher shall act in a just and impartial manner in his dealings with his students;”

How can a teacher be impartial while he or she constantly displays an obvious symbol of a particular religion when on the job, interacting with pupils in the classroom throughout the schoolday? The ban on religious symbols which Draft Bill 21 proposes is a simple application of the above stipulation. Even if you continue to oppose the ban, at least be honest in your opposition and avoid gratuitous accusations. It is patently outrageous to assert that Bill 21 is xenophobic or worse.

I leave the final word to columnist Mathieu Bock-Coté who, in an article entitled « La laïcité vue d’Europe » (“Secularism Seen from Europe”) writes:

“From a European perspective, Draft Bill 21 appears terribly minimalist, almost insignificant. Every time I explain the Bill to people in France, whether they are on the political left, right or elsewhere, they wonder how something so elementary could cause such scandal. When I talk about the accusations of racism directed at Quebec for something so minor, they sincerely struggle to believe it.”


Next blog: Le Québec est laïque !

Six Pseudo-Arguments of Antisecularists

2019-05-20

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

[…] 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.


Next blog: Quebec Bill 21 Causes Earthquakes, Anal Warts and the Collapse of Civilisation

CFI Canada Rejects Secularism—Again

…and lends its support to religious fanatics

2019-05-07 Last modified: 2019-05-13

Once again, by opposing Quebec’s Draft Bill 21, CFI Canada rejects the very secularism which it claims to espouse. But this time it’s worse: CFIC is now indulging in odious slander copied from secularism’s worst ennemies.

Sommaire en français Sans suprise, CFI Canada exprime son rejet de la laïcité telle que formulée dans le projet de loi 21 au Québec. Mais cette fois, c’est pire, car cette organisation reprend le langage diffamatoire utilisé par les pires ennemis du la laïcité.

The Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFI Canada or CFIC) is an organization which pretends to support secularism, which it even claims as one of its “core areas of focus.” And yet, CFIC opposes secularism in the very place—Quebec—where the most significant progress toward that goal is being made.

We saw this behaviour of CFIC back in 2013 when that organization threw Quebec secularists under the bus by taking a position against the Charter of Secularism proposed by the government of the time. CFIC’s betrayal then was bad enough. But now, in 2019, it has repeated this shameful act in an even worse way.

In an article which was sent out by email and which appears on CFIC’s website, the organization not only fails to support Quebec Draft Bill 21, “An Act respecting the laicity of the State,” it denigrates that proposed legislation using language which is copied directly from anti-secular dogma and inspired by far-right Islamist propaganda.

Although the article never mentions Draft Bill 21 explicitly, it is clearly the target of disapproval. Also, the language of the article suggests the initiation of a debate, but it is obvious that rejection of Bill 21 is the foregone conclusion.

The CFIC article opposes secularism with a combination of misunderstanding, misinformation, and dishonesty. For example:

  • The article’s definition of “secularism” is limited to mere religious neutrality, thus failing to include religion-state separation. In other words, it is not full secularism.
  • The article fails to distinguish between public and civic spaces, falsely claiming that the Quebec law suppresses religious expression in the public space.
  • The article suggests that the legislation is “racist (or at least xenophobic).” Thus the article conflates race and religion, just like regressive pseudo-leftists, parliamentary motion M-103 and Islamists.
  • The article even suggests that Bill 21 is “just an implementation of ‘cultural Christianity’” which is a completely nonsensical assertion.

As a friend of mine expressed it on Facebook, “In an unsigned diatribe, CFI Canada, again, uses the standard arguments and half-truths of the regressive left to spew the usual vacuous accusations of xenophobia and racism against Quebec’s laicity. Lame, dishonest and disheartening.”

So what exactly does this horrible Bill 21 propose?

  1. It includes a comprehensive definition of secularism, including the all-important principle of separation between religion and State (the principle which is missing from CFIC’s article). Excellent!
  2. It stipulates that an official declaration of State secularism be inscribed in the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Excellent!
  3. It bans public servants on duty in positions of authority, including schoolteachers, from wearing obvious religious symbols while on the job. This is incomplete—the ban should apply to the all civil servants—but a very good start.
  4. It restricts the wearing of face-coverings by public servants on duty and by users of public services. Again, very good!

Rejecting the first two points means rejecting secularism. Rejecting the third point means giving higher priority to religious exhibitionism than to the freedom of conscience of users and students. Rejecting the fourth point means compromising security and communication. Rejecting the third and fourth points means allowing religious fanatics free reign in civic institutions.

Any person who always, without exception, wears an obvious symbol of religious affiliation when leaving home is probably a religious fanatic. If that person refuses to remove the symbol even while working as a public servant, then he or she is certainly a religious fanatic and fundamentalist. Quebec’s Bill 21 would put a small but important brake on religious fanaticism in public services, just as existing Quebec law already bans public servants from partisan political displays. Bill 21 does not discriminate against any religion nor against any group of persons: the only requirement is to remove obvious religious symbols when on the job.

CFIC claims to value critical thinking in addition to secularism. What a bad joke. By rejecting Bill 21, the CFIC article manifests a total lack of critical acumen while offering its support to religious fanatics. We all know that religious fundamentalists, and Islamists in particular, have targeted secularism, especially republican secularism, in their campaign to impose their ideology, and that many so-called leftists have been duped by this strategy. The CFIC article capitulates to the anti-secular propaganda of many media, most mainstream politicians and regressive pseudo-leftists who in turn just regurgitate the Islamist propaganda against republican secularism.

What arguments does CFIC offer to justify the unjustifiable? None. Nothing whatsoever. Other than empty clichés such as “diversity,” their only response is slander, spewing gratuitous accusations of “racism” and such. They have nothing more than that to rationalize their irrationality.

The implications are very serious. CFIC’s current attitude is unsurprising given its past behaviour, but it still constitutes a disgusting betrayal of Quebecers in particular and of secularism in general. CFIC’s behaviour in 2013 could perhaps be explained as simple ignorance of the principles of republican secularism (i.e. CFIC’s failure to go beyond mere religious neutrality to include religion-state separation as well), but its current position is far worse than that. CFIC has gone beyond failing to support secularists and is now transmitting slanderous anti-secular propaganda. The conflation of race and religion is particularly inexcusable.

The current CAQ government of Quebec (unlike the PQ government in 2013-2014) is in a sufficiently strong position that it will in all probability succeed in passing Draft Bill 21 into law. But history will recall the odious betrayal by Canadian organizations outside Quebec, such as CFIC, who reviled the very cause they claimed to espouse.


Correction 2019-05-13: “public institutions” replaced by “civic institutions” for clarity


Next blog: Six Pseudo-Arguments of Antisecularists

For Secularism in Hospitals

2019-05-05

The draft bill on secularism proposed by the current Quebec government should be extended to apply to medical personnel in hospitals. Andréa Richard explains why.

Sommaire en français Il est à souhaiter que le projet de loi laïque proposé au Québec soit étendu pour s’appliquer au personnel dans les hôpitaux. Andréa Richard nous explique pourquoi.

Ce blogue est aussi disponible en français.

The Draft Bill 21 proposed by the Quebec government—welcomed very favorably by both the population and all secular organizations in Quebec—represents an excellent advance for secularism. Nevertheless, this draft legislation is very incomplete. It bans the wearing of religious symbols by public servants in positions of authority, including public school teachers, but the ban does not apply to hospitals.

Andréa Richard, former nun, author of Au-delà de la religion (Beyond Religion) and Femme après le cloître (The Uncloistered Woman), and winner of the 2018 Condorcet-Dessaulles Prize, is very concerned about this omission. She therefore decided to express her concerns in the form of a brief, addressed to the Committee on Institutions of the National Assembly of Quebec, in which she eloquently explains the necessity for religious neutrality among medical personnel. The brief is not yet published (although it should be soon on the web site of the National Assembly, but Ms. Richard has graciously allowed me to quote several excerpts (which I have translated). She begins by presenting the problem at hand:

I wonder if it would be possible, during your parliamentary deliberations, to addess and solve the very real problem of ostentatious religious symbols worn by doctors and nurses. Now would really be the best time to discuss this issue, so that Bill 21 on laicity might be more complete. If dealing with this issue is delayed, it might be too late and the task would evidently become more difficult.

In fact, to allow doctors and nurses to wear such symbols constitutes a religious accommodation, a privilege granted to religions, an advantage which benefits some employees to the detriment of others. Such religious accommodations necessarily constitute breaches of religious neutrality.

Those who demand accommodations of a religious nature are considered by their respective communities to be fanatics. By ceding to such demands, we do not serve progress of our society but, on the contrary, cater to religious fundamentalism which is a brake on social progress.

Let us get to the heart of the problem, with a few examples to illustrate:

In a hospital, patients who, more often than not, are vulnerable, should not have to suffer discomfort caused by the very caregivers whose purpose is to care for them. […]

Imagine a dying man who, in his youth, was raped by a pedophile priest and who is confronted by the sight of a priest, wearing a Roman collar and crucifix, who arrives at his bedside to ask if he would like the last sacraments. The patient would certainly be ill at ease, or worse…

Imagine a Muslim woman, hospitalized because she was beaten by her father for refusing to wear the veil, who sees a veiled female nurse or doctor arrive at her bedside to care for her. What do you think her reaction would be?

My father-in-law was an atheist and had specified that, if hospitalized, he did not want a priest to attend to him. And yet, the hospital chaplain came to him to offer the last sacraments. He was dying and unable to express his refusal…

Ostentatious religious symbols have an obvious purpose: to symbolize a doctrine which goes beyond the common humanity which we all share. They are the very image of religious fundamentalism.

Ms. Richard exposes very clearly the victim-playing game which some religious apologists play in order to denigrate secularism:

To claim that an employee of the State who refuses to remove her ostentatious religious symbol is being denied employment is totally incongruous, because it is she who excludes herself by choosing her religion over her profession. If an individual is unable or unwilling to obey the rules of the job, then it is up to that individual to choose between her/his religious convictions and her/his professional obligations.

Absolute tolerance is not a virtue:

Tolerance is an admirable quality, but to tolerate the intolerable can easily become an abdication of responsibility. A religious symbol, for its part, is inappropriate on the clothing of a public servant because such a symbol is not “proper” for the job. […]

The society of tomorrow will be either theocratic or secular. For the benefit of future generations, we must face our responsibilities now. If we do not, those who follow us will accuse us of allowing a return to the Middle Ages and they will be right. […]

To grant religious accommodations enables the development of communitarianism which is a fertile breeding ground for fundamentalism. Those who claim to speak in the name of God are usurpers. To accept their word is to be complicit with their dishonesty.

In conclusion, Ms. Richard reminds us that it is our duty to resist the flood of religious obscurantism which currently threatens our world:

The foundation of every religion is indoctrination, a strictly human phenomenon whose precepts are erroneous and necessarily deceitful. When we concede to demands for accommodations from religions or from their adherents, when we endorse them in one way or another, our behaviour is complicit with their errors and lies.

We need to wake up to this reality.


Next blog: CFI Canada Rejects Secularism—Again

Children’s Rights Before Teachers’

Opponents of Quebec’s Bill 21 Neglect the Rights of Children

2019-04-27

A recent article in the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir explains eloquently the importance of banning religious symbols worn by teachers.

Sommaire en français Un récent texte de Christian Rioux dans Le Devoir explique de façon éloquente l’importance d’interdire les signes religieux portés par les enseignants.

This blog is inspired by a recent article by Christian Rioux, published in the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir on 2019-04-26, entitled « Les enfants d’abord » or “Children first of all.” I will add a few personal comments, but mainly I will just translate several key passages of this excellent article, which eloquently explains the importance of banning religious symbols worn by teachers. Rioux begins:

“Do you believe in God?” The question comes sometimes from a little blond boy seated at the back of the class. Or, it may come from a little girl, shy and somewhat unsure of herself, sitting in the first row. How many times has the teacher been asked this question? Countless times. But each time, her response is the same: “It’s really not important what I believe.”

The important thing is to bring the child back to the lesson in progress. To say to him or her that some are believers and some are not. For the Québécoise teacher I am talking about here—and she is no exception to the rule, far from it—the very idea of revealing her personal religious convictions or lack thereof would have been indecent, a lack of respect for the young minds whose education was entrusted to her.

Remember, Quebec’s Draft Bill 21, if adopted, will ban religious symbols worn by police, judges, prosecutors and prison guards, as well as teachers in the public school system. After quoting a moving 1959 letter from Louis Germain to his former pupil Albert Camus (I encourage you to read Rioux’ original article if you read French), Rioux continues:

For Louis Germain, the secular schoolteacher’s duties came before his or her rights. The fact that the current debate about secularism has been perverted by a concentration on the rights of adults shows just how little consideration we give to children.

Is it really necessary to remind everyone that the authority of a judge, a policeman or policewoman or a prison guard is exercised over persons who are adults and fully vaccinated? What make the teacher’s authority so much more important is that it is applied to children whose innocence and intellectual vulnerability should motivate the teacher to exercise a great deal of restraint. In fact, everywhere where secularism exists, it is the public school teacher who is its greatest icon, much more so than judges, police or prison guards.

Indeed, the rôle of a teacher is so important.

The anti-secularists (and even some hypocrites who claim to be secularists) oppose Quebec’s Draft Bill 21 by claiming that it discriminates against Muslims. This is complete nonsense. As Rioux explains, banning religious symbols worn by teachers will have a very beneficial effect especially for Muslims, as well as for everyone else. Here is how Rioux expresses it:

…the pupil who will be the most uncomfortable at the sight of a teacher wearing an Islamic veil will not be the little Catholic child, or the child from a family with no religion. On the contrary, it will be the little Muslim (and his or her parents) who will never feel completely free when confronted by a teacher who so blatantly and ostentatiously flaunts her religious beliefs.

In reality, allowing religious symbols in public schools shows a great deal of contempt for the rights of children:

The lack of consideration which some show for children in the current debate is an indicator of how it has become fashionable for schools to be completely open and exposed to anything and everything. Schools in which lobbies and ideologies, beliefs and opinions are allowed to parade around without limit. But for schools to play their proper role, they must be a refuge where it is possible to step back and take a global view of things.

Children’s rights must take precedence over those of teachers. Schools exist for the education of pupils and students. Teachers are there to serve that purpose and their behaviour must not be allowed to impinge upon the rights of the pupils and student who are the reason schools exist. Most teachers understand this. But opponents of secularism would have us forget it; they would allow teachers and all other public servants to proselytize while on the job.


Next blog: Plaidoyer pour la laïcité dans les hôpitaux

The American Model of “Secularism” is 18th Century Pre-secularism

2019-04-07

In this blog I compare the American model of so-called secularism, as expressed in the First Amendment, with republican secular legislation in two other countries: France and Mexico.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je considère les différences entre le modèle américain de sécularisme et le modèle de laïcité dans deux autres pays : la France et le Mexique.

As explained in my previous blog “The US Constitution is Not Secular,” the First Amendment of the US Constitution does not implement secularism but rather religious neutrality (a.k.a. nonsectarianism) which is a component of secularism but is very incomplete because it lacks the essential secular principle of separation between religions and State. Although Thomas Jefferson interpreted the Amendment as implementing a “wall of separation of church and state” in an 1802 letter to Danbury Baptists, that principle is not encoded in the text of the Amendment.

This exaggerated support for freedom of religion is a threat to other freedoms and constitutes an unwarranted religious privilege.

There is another aspect of the First Amendment to the US Constitution which is problematic: it gives apparently absolute value to freedom of religion. This is excessive. No rights are ever absolute because different people’s rights inevitably come into conflict from time to time. This is precisely what happens in state institutions, where the freedom of public servants must not be absolute because it may conflict with rights of users of public services. This exaggerated support for freedom of religion is a threat to other freedoms and constitutes an unwarranted religious privilege.

In other words, the First Amendment implements an incomplete form of secularism—I would call it pre-secularism or pseudosecularism—and gives exaggerated priority to religious freedom over other freedoms. It was ratified in 1791, over two centuries ago, and is a product of its time. The nonsectarianism which it enacts was certainly very progressive at the time, because most European states were monarchies with an official State religion. However, since then, other countries have done better.


France

Consider France. Below are a few examples of French legislation.

  • Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, 1789 (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789)
    Article 10: « Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi. »
    (“No one may be disturbed because of his/her opinions, even religious, provided that their expression does not trouble public order as established by law.”)
  • Loi de séparation des Églises et de l’État, 1905 (Law of Separation between Churches and the State)
    • Article 1: « La République assure la liberté de conscience. Elle garantit le libre exercice des cultes sous les seules restrictions édictées ci-après dans l’intérêt de l’ordre public. » (“The Republic guarantees freedom of conscience. It guarantees the free exercise of religion, subject only to those restrictions enacted below in the interest of public order.”)
    • Article 2: « La République ne reconnaît, ne salarie ni ne subventionne aucun culte.[…] » (“The Republic does not recognize, pay or subsidize any religion.”)
    • Article 28: « Il est interdit, à l’avenir, d’élever ou d’apposer aucun signe ou emblème religieux sur les monuments publics ou en quelque emplacement public que ce soit, à l’exception des édifices servant au culte, des terrains de sépulture dans les cimetières, des monuments funéraires, ainsi que des musées ou expositions. » (“It is forbidden, in the future, to raise or affix any religious symbols or emblems on public monuments or in any public place whatsoever, with the exception of the buildings used for worship, burial grounds in cemeteries, funerary monuments, as well as museums or exhibitions.”)
  • Constitution of 1958 « La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. » (“France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic.”)
  • Loi n° 83-634 de 1983 sur les droits et obligations des fonctionnaires (“1983 Law on the Rights and Obligations of Public Servants”) « Le fonctionnaire exerce ses fonctions dans le respect du principe de laïcité. » (“The public servant carries out his or her duties in accordance with the principle of secularism.”)

It should be emphasized that although the French words « laïque » and « laïcité » are often translated into English as “secular” and “secularism” respectively, the translation is inaccurate because there is no strict equivalent in English. The French words imply a more complete definition, including the important principle of separation between religions and State, a principle which is often missing when the English words are used. To be more accurate, I would translate « laïcité » into English as “republican secularism.”

A number of observations about the legislation cited above:

  • The 1789 declaration protects freedom of religion, as does the American First Amendment, but puts a reasonable and necessary condition on that freedom. Thus, although contemporary with the First Amendment, the declaration is better because it is more nuanced, avoiding absolutist language.
  • In the 1905 law—which is arguably the most important secular legislation in human history—the separation principle is so central that it is the title. Notice that the word « Églises » is plural, thus implying that all religions are separated from the State.
  • The Constitution of 1958 declares that the republic is « laïque », thus further emphasizing the separation principle.
  • The 1983 law requires that public servants respect the principle of « laïcité ». In practice, this implies, among other things, that they must not display obvious religious symbols.

[…] support for republican secularism is very strong among the French, just as it is among Quebecers.

A recent poll in France found that some 87% of the French approve of the 1905 law. The same poll also found that 75% of French Muslims support the ban on the Islamic veil (of course all religious symbols are banned) worn by public servants and 66% of Muslims oppose any modification of the 1905 law. Thus, support for republican secularism is very strong among the French, just as it is among Quebecers.


Mexico

As another example, let us consider the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

In the Constitution of 1917, the word „laico” or „laica” is mentioned four times, in articles 30, 40, 115 and 122. The text specifies that public education „se mantendrá por completo ajena a cualquier doctrina religiosa” (“will remain completely alien to any religious doctrine”). In reference to the national government, the Constitution states that it will be „una República representativa, democrática, laica y federal” (“a representative, democratic, secular and federal Republic”). The Constitution further declares that the governments of the various states and of Mexico City will each be „republicano, representativo, democrático, laico” (“republican, representative, democratic, secular”).

It is my understanding that, when used in a political context, the Spanish words „laico” and „laica” have the same meaning as « laïque » in French: that is, republican secularism, including the essential principle of separation between religions and State.


[…] the American model of so-called secularism is an incomplete, somewhat antiquated, 18th century version. […] The ignorance and chauvinism of those who hold dogmatically to the American model are reactionary and regressive.

The bottom line is this: the American model of so-called secularism is an incomplete, somewhat antiquated, 18th century version. It was a step forward at the time. But today, although it obviously remains superior to all forms of theocracy, it is nevertheless inferior to other, more complete forms of secularism. Furthermore, if the American model is falsely vaunted as superior to those others, the result is to impede secularism by holding it back to an outdated version. This is precisely what is happening in reaction to efforts by Quebec to apply secular measures in that province. Currently, Draft Bill 21 proposed by the Quebec government is the target of inflammatory, toxic and even hateful attacks from the mainstream media, and especially English-language media. The ignorance and chauvinism of those who hold dogmatically to the American model are reactionary and regressive. Journalists, politicians and commentators in the Anglo-American world, especially in English Canada and in the USA, need to learn a little humility.


Next blog: La CCDP endosse la maltraitance religieuse des fillettes

The US Constitution is Not Secular

2019-04-05

In this blog I explain that a complete definition of secularism must include separation between State and religions.

Sommaire en français J’explique dans ce blogue qu’une définition complète de la laïcité doit forcément inclure le principe de séparation entre l’État et les religions.

Just a quick reminder to Americans, and many others, who seem to think that the US Constitution is a model of secularism. You are mistaken. It asserts religious neutrality, which is only one element of secularism. The First Amendment of the US Constitution, which established that

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

is undoubtedly better than anything in Canadian federal legislation (the worst being the mention of the “supremacy of God” in the Canadian Constitution of 1982), but it does not implement secularism. As Shadia B. Drury pointed out in Free Inquiry, vol 32, #3:

“The establishment clause is not an endorsement of secularism but of nonsectarianism.”

What Drury calls nonsectarianism, I would call religious neutrality. It means that the state does not favour one religion over others; that there is no state religion. Very good so far. But secularism is much more than that. Secularism starts with religious neutrality and adds separation between religion and state, i.e. rejecting all religious interference in its affairs and legislation. That is, religion’s influence in politics and education is nonexistent. Secularism is universalist: the secular state refuses to recognize religions and treats all citizens equally, regardless of religious affiliation. It does not give religions any privileges and it does not accommodate religious practice.

Here is a good definition of secularism:

State secularism is based on the following principles:

  1. the separation between State and religions;
  2. the religious neutrality of the State;
  3. the equality of all citizens; and
  4. freedom of conscience.

The above definition is adapted from several sources: the Bouchard-Taylor Commission (Quebec, 2008), secular activist Daniel Baril, British humanist Andrew Copson (in his book Secularism) and the text of Quebec’s Draft Bill 21. Given the diversity of these sources, it represents a good consensus. The four sources differ somewhat in order and wording, but they all include principle (1) the separation between State and religions.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution says nothing about religion-State separation. It simply says that Congress cannot establish a State religion (hence, neutrality), nor can it interfere with the free exercise of religion. This means that nothing prevents religions from interfering in the affairs of State and government, as long as all religions are given equal opportunity to do so.

The principle of separation, however, goes much further and is necessary to protect the freedom of conscience of the citizenry. Its purpose is to prevent religious interference in the affairs of State and government. It means, for example, that the physical installations of the State and employees who represent the State may not display religious symbols, because that would expose users of public services and pupils in public schools to passive religious publicity, making them a captive audience.

Those who oppose any ban on religious symbols worn by public servants while on duty are thus opposing secularism. Such opponents often protest that any ban should apply only to physical installations (such as the walls of State institutions) and not to persons employed by the State, but they never give any cogent reason for accepting the former ban but not the latter.

Allowing public servants to wear religious (or political) symbols while working as representatives of the State means implicitly giving priority to the freedom of expression of employees over the freedom of conscience of the users of services, which is completely unjustified. Allowing the wearing of such symbols constitutes a religious privilege granted unfairly to those believers whose practice involves ostentatious display. It also constitutes discrimination against atheists, other non-believers and anyone else, including most believers, who do not adopt such exhibitionistic practices.

As for the users of public services, they are not representatives of the State and a ban on them wearing religious symbols would be unjustified. (However, face-coverings may be banned for other reasons, such as security, identification or communication, or because some face-coverings constitute a form of servitude of part of the population.)

The duty of public servants is to serve the users of public services, just as the duty of public school teachers is to educate their pupils. That is the reason for their employment. If there is any conflict between the freedoms of employees and the freedoms of users, clearly the latter should have priority. Furthermore, allowing religious symbols worn by representatives of the State amounts to religious interference in State institutions and is incompatible with secularism.


Next blog: The American Model of “Secularism” is 18th Century Pre-secularism

The CAQ’s Secularism Bill is a Positive Step Forward

2019-04-03, updated 2019-04-17

The text below is an extended version of my article published on the CBC News website: OPINION | The CAQ’s secularism bill is a positive step forward. It is reproduced here with the permission of CBC.

Sommaire en français Le texte ci-dessous est une version plus étoffée de mon article publié sur le site CBC News : OPINION | The CAQ’s secularism bill is a positive step forward (Opinion : Le projet de loi laïque de la CAQ constitue une avancée positive.) Il paraît ici avec la permission de CBC.

I, like the majority of Quebecers, am very happy that the Quebec government, elected in October 2018, has decided, via Draft Bill 21, to adopt secularism as official policy, including banning religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority. This is good news, but you would not think so by reading many mainstream media, especially the English-language media. What you see there is a total failure–or worse, a stubborn and bigoted refusal–to understand a very simple principle: that civil servants on duty must be neutral.

In fact the Bill does not go far enough. It should apply to all public servants, not just some, and it should contain no exemptions. But at least it goes part way.

The Bill will help to protect the freedom of conscience of at least some users of public services, and especially pupils in public schools, by making sure that they are not subjected to unnecessary and unwelcome displays of religious publicity.

Bill 21 does not exclude religious believers from government jobs. Rather, it excludes only their religious symbols, and only if they work for the government, and only while on the job.

Bill 21 does not in any way restrict freedom of religion. Rather it imposes a small, reasonable restriction on freedom of expression while the government employee is on the job. Quebec already has legislation which forbids such employees from wearing partisan political symbols on the job. Bill 21 extends this to partisan religious symbols, as indeed it should. After all, religions are often very political.

Bill 21 does not discriminate on the basis of religion. It applies to all religions.

In particular, Bill 21 does not discriminate against Muslims as some falsely claim. The veil worn by some Muslim women is not representative of Islam in general, but only of a very fundamentalist and highly politicized form of that religion. Decades ago in most Muslim-majority countries, the veil was worn by very few women, mainly older women from the countryside or small towns, but now it has become much more widespread. Why is that? We all know why: because Islamists, falsely claiming to represent Muslims in general, have undertaken a massive propaganda campaign to promote the wearing of the veil, to normalize its presence anywhere and everywhere, to occupy territory by using veiled women as proxies for their politico-religious ideology.

Many immigrants came to Canada from Muslim-majority countries because they want to live in a more secular country and because they want to escape the growing, toxic influence of Islamism. Here in Quebec, for example, the Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism (AQNAL) supports Bill 21 and opposes the negative stereotype of Muslims as always displaying their religion in ostentatious ways, an image promoted by Islamists for their own purposes.

Women who insist on wearing the veil here in non-Muslims countries such as Quebec and Canada are participating in that extreme right-wing campaign whether they realize it or not. Meanwhile, women in countries such as Iran risk arrest, corporal punishment or prison when they defy the obligation to wear the veil, which is a symbol of the servitude of women. All we ask, here is Quebec, is that veiled women remove their veil for the duration of their work shift if they work in the public service. By banning religious symbols in the workplace, we create a space of freedom in which ideologues such as Islamists cannot force their ideology on others.

Bill 21 does not deny employment to anyone. Rather, it requires that employees avoid religious symbols while working. In fact, it does not even do that completely, because there is an exemption–a so-called grandfather clause–for those who are already employed when the law goes into effect. This is unfortunate, because it means that there will be serious inequalities among employees, some having an exemption and some not. It is also bad because it means that people who are served by exempted employees, or children who are taught by exempted teachers, with be captive audiences for partisan religious displays–and that violates their freedom of conscience.

We have all heard the argument that, say, a teacher wearing a hijab or crucifix or other symbol is not necessarily trying to convert anyone. But the intentions of the wearer are irrelevant. The symbol is a form of passive publicity, regardless of what the person wearing it thinks. Why do you think companies purchase advertising to display their products on billboards or buses or television? Because it works, because it helps promote their products.

Some opponents of Bill 21 claim that it will cause a massive exodus of qualified workers from Quebec. That is called blackmail, a rather manipulative and mean-spirited tactic. I expect that the vast majority will comply with the legislation. As for the few who will not, what are we to think of a person who considers that they have a “right” to practice their religion even on the job? Religion should be a private matter. If an individual refuses to recognize that public service employees have a duty to behave with a certain degree of reserve and neutrality while on the job, then I question whether that individual is fully qualified for the position. At any rate, it is important that legislation such as Bill 21 be enacted as soon as possible as a preventive measure, before the number of persons affected grows, as it surely will in the near future given the privileges which religions currently enjoy.

Even worse, some opponents of Bill 21 make outrageous accusations against secularists and even against Quebecers in general (as the majority support the Bill), even attempting to associate them with horrific acts of violence such as those which occurred at mosques in Quebec City and Christchurch. Those who make such brazen allegations reveal two things about themselves: (1) their arguments are so weak that they must lower themselves to slander; and (2) their hatred of Quebecers is so intense that they indulge in anti-Québécois racism.

In order for the Quebec State to be religiously neutral, it is not enough to remove symbols only from the buildings. And it is not enough to remove them only from employees. Both must be done. It is a very good thing that the CAQ has announced that it will remove the crucifix from the Salon bleu of the National Assembly as soon as Bill 21 is adopted. However that is not enough, Symbols worn by sitting MNAs should also be banned. Unfortunately Bill 21 does not do that, so we have a situation where the walls are neutral but not the people. Furthermore, teachers must comply with the ban, but whether or not classrooms have symbols is a decision left up to the school administration, so we may have situations where the teachers are neutral but the walls are not. The proposed legislation is imperfect. But without Bill 21 the situation is even worse, with no bans anywhere.

Bill 21 also bans face-coverings worn by public employees. Furthermore, it also bans users of public services from wearing face-coverings whenever identification or security concerns require that the face be visible, unless there are valid reasons related to health or handicap or if the face-covering is required for particular functions or tasks.

Probably the best aspect of Bill 21 is that it includes a good, precise definition of State secularism (i.e. “laïcité”) and then embeds that principle directly into the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That means that in future, this principle can be used to motivate and support future legislation extending the limited measures contained in the current Bill. In other words, Bill 21 sets the stage for future improvements.


Next blog: The US Constitution is Not Secular

Tobacco, Politics and Religion

2019-04-03

I draw an analogy among three types of restrictions: bans on tobacco use in some places, legislation restricting political displays in some contexts and Draft Bill 21 which puts some restrictions on religious symbols.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je compare trois types de restrictions: les interdictions de fumer dans certains endroits, la législation limitant l’expression d’opinions politiques dans certains contextes et le Projet de loi 21 qui met certaines restrictions sur le port de signes religieux.

In many jurisdictions, the use of tobacco products is banned in certain places, for example, some workplaces. This means that smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products is forbidden there. It does not mean that people who smoke regularly may not enter there; they simply have to refrain from smoking in contexts where it is banned. This ban is about behaviour, not people. Certain behaviour—i.e. smoking—is banned, not certain people.

If a person defies the ban, would we blame the government or organization that imposed the ban? I doubt it. We would blame the person. The individual is responsible for his or her behaviour. If the ban is justified—by considerations of public health for example, and applies equally to all—then we must support it.


In Quebec, article 10 of the Loi sur la fonction publique (in English: Public Service Act) stipulates that:

10. A public servant shall be politically neutral in performing his duties.

This implies that the public servant must not display partisan political symbols or express partisan political opinions in the exercise of his or her duties. (In fact, the restriction is even stronger than that: see article 11 which imposes some duty of discretion even outside the workplace.) Does this mean that people who often wear such symbols, or who have political opinions, or certain political opinions, are excluded from employment in the public service? Of course not. It simply means that they must refrain from displaying or expressing those opinions while on the job. This restriction is about behaviour, not people. Article 12 of the same law states:

12. Nothing in this Act prohibits a public servant from being a member of a political party, attending a political meeting or making, in accordance with the law, a contribution to a political party or a local association of a political party or to a candidate in an election.

If a public servant on the job defies this rule by, for example, wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Vote PQ” or “Andrew Sheer for PM” then would we blame the lawmakers for adopting such legislation? I doubt it. The law is reasonable and applies to everyone. The individual is responsible for his or her behaviour.


Draft Bill 21, proposed by the current CAQ government of Quebec (March 2019) would ban the wearing of religious symbols by civil servants in positions of authority. This is very similar to the ban on political displays, but considerably weaker because it does not apply to all civil servants and it has no effect outside the workplace. Religious symbols are highly partisan and often political in their implications. It is reasonable to put restrictions on their display by public servants, similar to current restrictions on political expression. The ban does not exclude anyone from public service based on their religious beliefs or affiliation. It applies to all religions. The ban on religious symbols is about behaviour, not people.

And yet, anti-secularists are up in arms about Draft Bill 21, accusing the CAQ of all sorts of horrible intentions. Why is this? The answer is obvious. Religions have traditionally been granted enormous privileges in many societies, including Canada at all levels of government, and people are so used to those privileges that they are not even aware of them. They take them for granted. And the religious themselves, when their privileges are challenged, arrogantly claim that their “rights” are under attack. Bullshit. Freedom of religion must not have priority over all other freedoms. Members of the public who go to government offices for various services, as well as children who attend public schools, have a right to services and education which do not involve partisan symbols shoved in their faces by the employee or teacher who provides the service.

If an individual violates the law, that individual is responsible for his or her behaviour. The State has no obligation to accommodate the religious beliefs or practises of public servants while they are on the job. The State has a duty to provide services in a politically and religiously neutral manner. The State employee has a duty to avoid partisan political or religious displays while on the job. What employees do off the job is their own business.

The proposed Bill 21 is simply a reasonable extension, and a rather modest and weak extension at that, of the existing Public Service Act. It does not go far enough—it should apply to all civil servants—but it is a good step in the right direction.


Next blog: The CAQ’s Secularism Bill is a Positive Step Forward

Quebec’s Draft Bill 21 Implements State Secularism

2019-03-28
Last modification: 2019-03-29 at 08:15, added third point under bad news.

A quick overview of Draft Bill 21, tabled today by the Quebec government.

Sommaire en français Un bref résumé du projet de loi 21, déposé aujourd’hui par le gouvernement du Québec.

Keeping its promise to pass significant secular legislation, today the Quebec government of the CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) tabled Draft Bill 21 which implements State secularism. This legislation has been anticipated since the CAQ was elected in October 2018. Below is a list of the main provisions of the proposed legislation. I am not a lawyer, so I may misinterpret some of the details, in which case I will correct this summary as soon as possible.

The Bill includes a coherent four-part definition State secularism:

  1. Separation between the State and religions;
  2. Religious neutrality of the State;
  3. Equality of all citizens, whether male of female; and
  4. Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

The good news:

  • Today as it tabled the Draft Bill, the government also tabled a motion to remove that notorious crucifix, currently hanging above the speaker’s chair in the Salon bleu of the National Assembly, after the Bill is passed. The Assembly passed the motion unanimously. Excellent news.
  • The Bill adds the principle of State secularism to the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, thus giving it near-constitutional status.
  • The fact that both religion-State separation and religious neutrality are listed in the Bill’s definition of secularism indicates that the authors of the legislation understand the important distinction between these two aspects: i.e. that neutrality alone is inadequate without separation.
  • The Bill bans the wearing of religious symbols by public servants (while on duty) in position of authority, including teachers in public schools. It would be preferable to ban religious symbols for all public servants, including all employees of public schools and childcare centres, but the Bill’s partial ban is a good first step.
  • The Bill bans the wearing of face-coverings by public servants (while on duty) in general.
  • The Bill bans the wearing of face-coverings by users of public services if visibility of the face is necessary for reasons of identification or security. Exceptions are allowed for reasons of health or handicap or if the face-covering is required for particular functions or tasks.
  • No accommodation may be allowed, i.e. no exceptions to the bans on religious symbols or face-coverings, for reasons other than those stated in the Bill. In other words, no religious accommodation.

And some bad news:

  • Draft Bill 21 has a so-called grandfather clause which grants an exemption to the religious symbol ban for those employees already working in the public service on the date the Bill is adopted. This is unfortunate, as it will lead to obvious inequalities, with some public servants being granted the privilege of wearing religious symbols and others not. Fortunately, this exemption is lost if the employee transfers from one job position to another, thus imposing a certain limitation.
  • As mentioned above, the religious symbol ban does not apply to all public servants. In particular, it does not apply to all employees of public schools (only to teachers, principals and vice-principals), nor does it apply to childcare centres.
  • The Bill does not ban religious symbols worn by MNAs (Members of National Assembly). This is inconsistent with removal of the crucifix from the legislature.

In summary, Draft Bill 21 is certainly incomplete, but it takes significant steps towards implementing State secularism in Quebec. A completely secular State would ban the wearing of religious symbols by all its employees. But the ban on at least those in authority indicates that the Bill’s authors understand that removing such symbols from buildings is not enough. Both State installations and State employees must display a neutral appearance; it would be inconsistent to insist on one without the other. Indeed, failing to ban the wearing of religious symbols amounts to granting a religious privilege—the privilege of indulging in religious advertising while on the job—and constitutes a form of discrimination against atheists, other non-believers and those believers who have no intention of wearing an obvious symbol.

Furthermore, a complete secular program would also involve several other measures not mentioned in the Bill. For example: the Ethics and Religious Culture program should be abolished; all public funding to private schools, many of which are religious, should be cut; all fiscal advantages granted to religious institutions must be abolished; etc. However, the fact that Draft Bill 21 includes a coherent definition of secularism and adds the principle of secularism to the Quebec Charter is reason for optimism, because that principle may be used to support future legislation extending the limited measures contained in the current Bill.


The Quebec population strongly supports secularism, but many mainstream media, especially the English-language media, are virulently opposed. All three major federal political parties immediately made exaggerated statements about how bad this legislation is. They are of course wrong, as all three are simply anti-secular and support religious privileges. For all its shortcomings, this Draft Bill 21 is a very good step forward for secularism in Quebec. The CAQ government is to be congratulated for having the courage to go ahead with it, in spite of the overwhelming anti-secular propaganda which often sinks to the level of defaming anyone who supports it. The next few weeks and months promise to be very turbulent.


Next blog: Tobacco, Politics and Religion