Did you know? Supreme Court imposes religious neutrality on public servants

Did you know that the Supreme Court of Canada, in its decision of 15th April 2015, imposes a duty of religious neutrality on representatives of the state? That decision prohibits the reciting of prayers at Saguenay city council meetings, because the practice is incompatible with the religious neutrality of the state. But the decision’s implications are much wider. In the reasons for judgment of the eight sitting justices:

[84] …because of the duty of religious neutrality with which it is required to comply, the state may not profess, adopt or favour one belief to the exclusion of all others. Obviously, the state itself cannot engage in a religious practice, so the practice would be one engaged in by one or more state officials, who would have to be acting in the performance of their functions. Where state officials, in the performance of their functions, profess, adopt or favour one belief to the exclusion of all others, the first two criteria for discrimination mentioned above, namely that there be an exclusion, distinction or preference and that it be based on religion, are met.

These observations constitute support for the ban on public service employees wearing religious symbols while on duty, as stipulated in the Secularism Charter proposed by the Quebec government of Pauline Marois in 2013.


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