Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Freedom of Religion -- On "My" Terms

Pamela Dickey Young wrote an opinion piece in The Toronto Star today on Bill C-38, the bill that legalizes same-sex marriage while protecting freedom of religion. These may be the same arguments she uses to persuade the Senate to pass Bill C-38. Good luck with that. They may be old and lazy, but they're not stupid. I wouldn't be so blatent in my assault on freedom of religion before Bill C-38 is actually law. I'd bide my time, if I was so inclined.

Ms Young writes: "Christians in Canada. for example, have enjoyed traditional privileges as the historic religious majority."

[Tsk. Tsk. Bad Christians.]

Ms Young assumes that the main foe of same-sex marriage is Christianity as practiced in Canada and is quite gleeful that they "lost." She mentions no other religions by name, yet most of them do not even tolerate homosexuals, and they will impose severe penalities, societal and otherwise, on a homosexual if s/he so much as admits to having a different sexual orientation. Marriage is not even in the ballpark of acceptance and tolerance.

"Freedom of religion does allow one to hold, practise and publicly express religious convictions. But it does not allow one to say and do whatever one likes regardless of its impact on others."

[Love the "but."]

In other words, "you" are allowed to express your Christian beliefs so long as they do not run counter to "my" (Ms Young's or a married homosexual) beliefs on homosexuals and their relationships because in doing so, you may hurt my feelings, cause another to look at me differently, call into question the validity of my marriage. The impact of your beliefs and expressing those beliefs publicly may be trivial or damaging, and it's up to me as the perceiver of those beliefs to decide which and to seek remediation. Implicit in this statement is the hanging dagger of Canada's hate laws. Freedom of religion stops at my personal belief system. And the two cannot co-exist.

"Maybe it is time for a spirited discussion of freedom of religious belief and practice in Canada, a discussion that takes seriously Canada in all its religious and non-religious diversity....We should welcome these [court] challenges to clarify rights and responsiblities that have, hitherto, been assumed by the religious majority."

In other words, the basic centuries-old definition of freedom of religion should no longer apply. Currently, this freedom includes the right to worship and practice your spiritual beliefs; freedom of speech furthers the freedom of religion by allowing you to speak about your faith and your beliefs. But apparently Christians need to be challenged in this right, for if they do not toe the party line on approving "equal marriage," they "might well need to grapple with what that says about their own stances on inclusion and human rights."

[Take that, you intolerant traditionalists!]

Inclusion clearly does not extend to Christians who disagree with Ms Young's beliefs on same-sex marriage. She welcomes using the courts for as long as it takes to limit a Christian's freedom of speech, and Canada's hate laws may eventually come to be used in criminal proceedings. Such is the insidious first assault against the human right of practicing one's religion and speaking about one's beliefs.

Ms. Young is the head of the Department of Religious Studies at Queen's University in Kingston.

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