Dr Jim has another letter in the Lethbridge Herald. This time it is about the flap over pre-town council meeting prayers. On the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Saguenay Que. city council had to abandon the recitation of a Catholic prayer. The Herald Story is here, but the page has some errors. Needless to say, there was heck to pay, and the Premiere of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, says that won’t stop the prayers before the Sask. Legislature. So, too, in New Brunswick. Well, of course, I had to weigh in.
Here’s my letter, published today:
Many politicians across Canada are unhappy with the Supreme Court ruling that the Saguenay, Que. city council must end the reading of prayers before their meetings.
The court made the correct decision. If elected officials lack the confidence to do their jobs without pleading to, placating, or flattering one god or another, how are they competent to hold office in the first place? If they were not concerned by the absence of collective prayer at the voting stations, it seems a bit lame that they can’t stand up like adults and make a decision or two on their own without implying that a deity may have given them bad advice should they decide poorly.
In a democracy that values the right to hold whatever religious views one sees proper, a government ritual that enshrines religion as normative is profoundly contradictory. The contradiction runs much deeper than municipal prayer. The preamble of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:”
Our country was also founded on principles that denied full enfranchisement to First Nations and women, and we are struggling to end that legacy of inequality. The preservation of ritual acknowledgment of even a generic god as an expression of collective identity is not the expression of religious freedom but the exercise of privilege over others.
The sooner we eliminate these expressions of inequality, the more proud we can be of our stand on true freedoms. Secularism is not atheistic or anti-religious but holds that real religious freedom requires the protection of the minority from exclusion, be they religious or not. Indeed, even some religious thinkers had views on the real reason for public prayers:
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:5, NRSV).
And, as a Post-Amble, I should mention that they also published this short epistle from Mr. Hans Visser, who, as a member of Canada’s badly persecuted Christian majority, is a frequent “contributor”.
Re: “Prayer ruling hits a Brad Wall,” Herald, April 19. Wonderful that this premier takes a stand when he “noted that the constitution recognizes the supremacy of God.”
According to a dictionary, “the preamble of a constitution is a brief introductory statement of a constitution’s foundational purposes and guiding principles.” Then Canada’s Supreme Court judges rule, I suppose based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no prayer to that supreme God in Canada’s government assemblies.
Sometimes I wonder if former prime minister Trudeau’s concocted charter ought not to be called the charter of “dictates and bondage.” Our Supreme Court judges don’t seem to pay any attention to the preamble.