You know when you notice something you’d never registered before and then suddenly you see it everywhere?
That’s happened to me recently seeing the creeping coalescence of religion and government.
Although Western democracies have always embraced the notion of separation of church and state, the Canadian government seems to be making religion an increasing part of its agenda.
My curiosity was first piqued when I read about the Canadian government’s elimination of part-time prison chaplains. The cut, made ostensibly for financial reasons, essentially gets rid of non-Christian spiritual guidance because most religious advisors of other faiths worked part time.
But in oddly worded double-speak, Conservative MP Candice Bergen said the changes guarantee spiritual guidance to all inmates. That’s because the remaining chaplains will provide multi-faith counselling to everyone.
Come on now. I know the Conservatives have a majority and don’t really need to convince anyone, but are they not even trying anymore?
OK, let’s give Bergen the benefit of the doubt — maybe she’s never cracked a history book and is paying zero attention to what’s going on in the world today.
Someone in her party should tell her that offering non-Christians advice from such a “multi-faith” chaplain is kind of like offering Nicki Minaj advice from Mariah Carey. Some fur is going to fly.
Here’s another bit of double speak from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’s office in an email to the CBC.
“The government ... is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding.”
But the cuts do exactly that what he’s purporting not to do. An unlucky coincidence?
I soon realize the party knows all too well that divergent faiths have a hard time getting along as I stumble across another piece of news regarding religion in government — John Baird, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, spreading the “good word” of religious freedom in Nigeria where religious minorities are violently targeted. I wonder how much weight his noble stand carries when back home, prison populations’ religious minorities are separated from their spiritual leaders?
Finally, the Conservatives are just about to open a $5-million Office of Religious Freedom. But when religious freedom is touted by a government with such an obvious Christian bias, what kind of message does it carry?
It comes close to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 12-page letter arguing that Christians be allowed to express their views in matters of state and that banning religious symbols marginalizes Christians.
Skipping over the mind-boggling irony of Catholic Bishops complaining about being marginalized, I’ll simply say that governing without religious influence is the only true way to ensure that all faiths and all values are respected. Freedom from religion should be of paramount in every democracy.