Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Canadian Freedom of Religion: RIP

Here is an excellent critique, by George Jonas ( National Post, Feb 29 2012), of a recent decision by the Canadian Supreme Court against the rights of parents regarding the religious education of their children.

In 2008, Quebec's provincial education ministry replaced religious instruction in schools with its own curriculum, a value-free approach where all religions are equal . Numerous parents protested the fact that attendance to these classes is mandatory. Now the Supreme Court has backed the Quebec government.

A few excerpts from the article:
Without blinking, the full court held that it's okay for Quebec's education minister to compel believers to describe God to their children, not as they see him, but as non-believers do...

Like most courts and tribunals below, Canada's top court sees its task as defending the state against the rights and freedoms it guarantees...

Canada is turning into a theocracy with its own jealous God: The smug, self-worshipping state. Lower-court judges are its acolytes; high-court judges its bishops. The Charter? It's still available in courthouse washrooms for purposes of personal hygiene. No, I'm not Catholic, or even religious. Only appalled.


John Vandervliet said...

The National Post article asks, “What exactly is religious freedom, if it isn't teaching God to your children as you see him?”
Let me add just two points, if I may.

First, the idea of religious freedom is not a Catholic idea. Nothing is more obvious than the fact that where the state butts heads with religion in Quebec it is butting heads with the official church, and not her members. The same can be said in Ontario, with Bill 13 looming: the ruling Liberals are not at odds with the Catholic constituency, they’re at odds with the official policy of the Catholic church. The people are free to do as they please, and the official church does not intervene, like a Protestant church would in watching with concern when members act and live in an unfaithful way. The people are free not to go to church, but the Church tells them that there is no salvation without her sacraments.

This is related to the fact that the Western concept of Liberty of Conscience is also not a particularly Catholic idea. Just because people are let go in their worldly ways does not mean that they have a right to do so. If the Catholic church wanted to act, like she often says she will someday, she could excommunicate most of her members. Nearly ¾ of American Catholics are Catholics in name only, and do not attend church or seek Mass regularly, which in the Catholic Church is always a prerequisite for acceptance into the kingdom of God should one die in the interim. No, for a Catholic the law is in the church, not in their hearts.

That brings me to point two. The Western concept of freedoms, of religion and of conscience is decidedly a Protestant concept, and more particularly a Reformed concept. The law is written on people’s hearts, and therefore the pursuit of truth and happiness, the pursuit of true religion, is founded in the study and embracing of God’s ways, as the Spirit allows understanding. (Thus, Sola Scriptura; thus, Reformed.)

But, let’s be clear, the Twentieth and Twenty First centuries’ concept of liberties of religion and of conscience is also no longer the Protestant concept. In our modern age, with the relativizing of truth and happiness, of true religion, which we all may pursue, is not guided by the sense of a single truth source anymore, but by an individualized truth source.

A homosexual, for example, now has rights not because he is created in the image of God but because there are enough other homosexuals to contextualize the group into a separate truth source. It is not based on being a human being, who has a conscience which may also be shaped by the singular truth, but is based on his own definition of what is true for him.

This is far from the original Protestant and Reformed concept. Liberty of religion, originally, is not teaching about God as we see Him, but teaching about God as He says He is, as the article starts out to argue. He makes Himself known; it is not we who define Him. The writer’s conclusion does not match with his premise.

My conclusion is that we have already lost the true meaning of religious freedom. This article, confuses the point, but still manages to point to an eventual removal of the freedom to worship in the home. For this ruling puts a hard line between what happens according to the founding religious freedoms in the home and legislated mandates in the schools. Will the day soon come when this line will also be drawn between the legislated mandate in society and the founding freedom to worship in a church which teaches true religion?

Jeremy de Haan said...

Here is an excellent article from Mark Steyn. He analyzes the current problems in the US by placing them against the backdrop of our larger Western culture. The church, indeed, has a fight on her hands.

- Jeremy de Haan