1/19/2007

Secular Ontario

No, I am not referring to the moral state of my home province.
In fact, I am referring to the advocacy group that believes it is within its rights to enforce secular practices on everyone.
Municipal councils across Ontario are defying a call for them to stop reciting the Lord's Prayer before their meetings.
An advocacy group called Secular Ontario sent letters to 18 municipal councils in November claiming the recitation of the prayer violated a 1999 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling. Since then, only Middlesex County has abolished the prayer. Meanwhile, many others -- including Durham Region, Oshawa, Peterborough and Grey County -- have either ignored Secular Ontario's warning or voted to maintain their current practice.
"I'm really quite surprised we stirred up such a hornet's nest," said Secular Ontario president Henry Beissel. "I thought that once government officials discovered they were breaking the law they would hasten to correct it -- but that doesn't seem to be the case."
Mr. Beissel said the continued recitation of the prayer goes against "fundamental" principles of Canadian society.
"You cannot privilege one faith without creating forms of oppression or discrimination at least," Mr. Beissel said.
Durham Region is poised to become the latest municipality to reject Mr. Beissel's contention. On Wednesday, the region's finance and administration committee voted to continue opening meetings with the Lord's Prayer.
Oshawa Mayor John Gray, who sits on Durham's council along with his own city council, argued there is nothing wrong with the custom.
"It's good that we say a prayer, ask for guidance from above in all the decisions that we make," Mr. Gray said. "I don't think there's anything there that's threatening to anyone, especially to those of other faiths. I've spoken to some and they've told me they have no problem with the Lord's Prayer."
St. Thomas Mayor Cliff Bardwick said his council will also maintain the tradition. "If we had an elected member of the council who was not of the Christian faith, we would certainly come to some resolution so that everyone would be satisfied," Mr. Bardwick said.
Mr. Gray contends recitation of the prayer does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because no one is compelled to participate. "Everybody cites the constitution," Mr. Gray said. "But when you read the constitution, it doesn't say we have freedom from religion, it says we have freedom of religion. And sadly, the constitution is being used to erode some of the things we've held near and dear over the many years."
Secular Ontario believes the continued use of the Lord's Prayer violates a 1996 court ruling against the town of Penetanguishene. In that case, Henry Freitag, a 70-year-old Holocaust survivor, sued the municipality, saying he felt intimidated and uncomfortable because of the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at meetings. The court agreed the practice imposed "a Christian moral tone on the deliberations of council" and violated Mr. Freitag's Charter rights.

I love how these people go so far as to accuse praying council members of breaking the law. And people wonder why it is the so-called religious right gets its panties in a bundle. When you have groups like Secular Ontario out there, depriving people of their right to pray, enforcing their secular "morality" on everyone, it's a wonder more people don't get angry. To suggest that prayer goes against the "fundamentals" of Canadian society shows you just how depraved some people are.
Frankly, I am thrilled most municipal councils have ignored these guys. If someone has an issue with saying the Lord's Prayer, they have the right to speak up or remove themselves from the room. No one needs a bunch of interfering secular extremists poking their nose where it doesn't belong.

11 comments:

Joanne said...

Well said, Ruth!

ThreeBoysAndUs said...

Exactly! Thanks for saying it.

Sara said...

I agree too!

Allan said...

Sorry, I don't agree with Ruth or Sara. In public life, no one has the "right" to assume their particular religious beliefs trump those of others. One of the basic precepts of Canada's democracy is that Church is separate from State. Including prayer as a key component of municipal or provincial meetings is in appropriate in a society with government that purports to serve ALL of its citizens.

Of course, if you want to allow the Lord's Prayer, we could allow other faiths to take a moment of public meetings to recite their own prayers. That would be equitable. But really, do we want religion to play this kind of a role in government? How would we be any different than those societies (with religions other than Christianity) that are generally scorned by the West as "kooky fundamentalists"?

No one is trying to take away anyone's *individual* right to pray; the argument being made is that one person's prayer is not necessarily relevant/appropriate for all people, and if we value individual rights, we shouldn't assume our own beliefs are shared by all others.

Anonymous said...

You go Ruth,

As for Allan,

A word to you, it's because of people like you that the Canadian society of today is becomming extinct. We keep letting imbeciles and refugees who supposedly would be harmed in their own country stay here, live here and in most cases we even take them in and support them financially as well.

Enough is enough , you don't like our paryers, our traditions, our way of doing things then I say get the hell back where you came from and do there what you want.

I spent most of my life travelling around this planet 7 or 8 times thru the Canadian Forces, beleive me when I say that when you get to their countries you abide by THEIR rules. D'ont beleive me go to an Islamic restaurant and sit in a way that shows the bottom of your feet, you'll never be served.

I have a million of these examples that I lived thru.

The Canadian of today is being overrun by immigrants that our govt has to let in because they already have spent our old age security budget and when 80% of the pop is on it there will not be enough ie: 20% left to support their retirements.

In another word people we are not selling out we are giving our country to every bleeding heart that shows up in order to fill the gap.

God is God, call him what you may I d'ont care, but you had better respect my right to say the Lord's prayer where ever and when ever I wish or else.

I'm sick of this shit and i'm not going to take it anymore.

Dan D

Daniel said...

ok if you guys want to stop us canadians frompraying i think you all should go back to your own countrys and do your stuff there . we let you into our country we didnt do so . so that you can change the way we do things either stop whining or go back to where you came from

Ruth said...

I have to say, I don't think the pressure to not pray comes from immigrants coming into this country (many of whom are devout in their own religions). A group like Secular Ontario is certainly not backed by Muslims. This sort of secularism is a problem from stemming within our country.

Nik said...

It's both amusing and depressing that these comments quickly degenerated into "Go back where you came from!" racist insanity. Way to pollute the Internet.

Look, I'm an agnostic. I don't think there's a Christian god, but I can't prove it. Back when I was a lad, a grade school teacher forced me and other kids to say the lord's prayer, and we complained to our parents. The teacher was told to stop. Why?

Because a large proportion of the kids in the class were either some other religion, or not religious at all.

I am now 36. I can't believe this issue is still around, and that people don't understand the basic points of the dilemma. Not everyone believes in your lord. So don't make them say the lord's prayer. Keep your God at home please. Showing favouritism to one particular religion is discrimination. Cut it out.

And, while we're on the topic, read your bible. I mean really read it. Cover to cover. It's amazing how, when people finally do sit down and read that book, they suddenly understand just how bizarre and disturbing Christianity really is. A man shall not lie with another man -- and if you cheat on your wife, you're to be put to death.

This is the book you want to use as your guiding principle in life? Puh-lease!

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Nik, great comment. I'm 46, born and raised in Canada (Toronto for the first 40 years of my life).
I felt awkward having to recite the Lord's Prayer in grade one and two, because I was a Jew (not a religious one btw).
The more questions I asked the more facts I learned, the more I became Agnostic and finally became Atheist when everything fell into place.
I have absolutely no problem with people praying in their homes or places of worship, but it is just crap to have it in public places.

I went to a Christmas party recently for a fair sized company (who are mostly Christian). Grace was said....and some praise was made to Jesus Christ. It was inappropriate. OK, lets say it was just as appropriate as me interupting the speech and saying, there is no proof God exists and belching.

Anonymous said...

Where do Laws Come from?

Please note that not all laws have to be legislated -- much law is case law or judge made law. All the fearful situations described by Ruth in her post would be handled by the Canadian Court System.

There is ethics and there is justice. They do overlap, but governments should concentrate on the justice part and leave things that can (and in some people's minds should) be left up to personal ethics there. We can debate about what should or should not be left up to personal ethics -- but it would be impossible to appoint a board that reperesents all religious or ethical perspectives, that is why such boards are inherelty unjust -- particularly one that only has 13 seats and most of them are already taken up by people who share the same moral (political) agenda.

Sigrid Fry-Revere
Cato Institute

Ruth said...

Your comment doesn't make any sense in light of the post.
What "fearful situations" are you talking about? Did you intend to post this under "Assisted Human Reproduction?" If yes, then please read up on how our courts work compared to the US. Things simply are not the same here at all (for example: despite the fact we have a Charter of Rights granting us religious freedom, the Supreme Court has the power to restrict that freedom. Such is not the case in the US, where now part of the government may make a law regarding religion)
If you are Dr. Fry-Revere, then all I can say is that, as a fellow academic, the article you posted on your site was horribly sloppy. You did not inform yourself fully of the situation and your opinion was not fully grounded in fact.

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