The October 11th Globe and Mail editorial entitled “By defending a crucifix, Quebec crosses the line into hypocrisy” was replete with misconceptions and misleading assertions. Its key thesis is the contrast between two announcements made by Quebec’s new CAQ government led by François Legault: one banning religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority; the other leaving the crucifix above the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly.
There is indeed a serious inconsistency here. But it is not Quebec that is hypocritical, but rather Legault and CAQ. All secularists in Quebec agree: that crucifix must go. And yet the editorial itself calls for leaving the crucifix in place! Why? In order to justify opposition to any ban on religious symbols. The editorialists evidently want to block any progress towards secularism.
The editorial mentions that, ten years ago, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission recognized that the crucifix in such a prominent place in the legislature is a powerful symbol linking legislative power to the majority religion. Exactly! That is why it must be removed. But the editorial neglects to mention that the same Commission recommended a religious symbols ban, very similar to CAQ’s proposal! (One important difference: CAQ would extend the ban to apply to teachers.)
The editorial complains repeatedly that Quebec indulges in “divisive identity politics.” Yes, leaving the crucifix could certainly be called identitarian. But the religious symbol ban is the direct opposite of identity politics, the goal being to make the Quebec public service religiously neutral, in the same way that it is already politically neutral.
When it comes to identity politics, nothing can compare to Islamists who aggressively promote the veil as an identity marker. The Canadian government regularly practices its own brand of identity politics by promoting dangerous cultural relativism, euphemistically called “multiculturalism,” as essential to Canadian identity—and denigrating anyone who might question it, as many Quebeckers do. Canadian multiculturalism is very divisive because it attaches greater importance to ethno-religious identity than to citizenship; most importantly, it is incompatible with the secularism which most Quebeckers support.
The editorial’s reference to the “Parti Québécois’s odious Charter of Quebec Values” is particularly tendentious. Firstly, the name is incorrect. Secondly, the PQ Charter of Secularism was anything but odious. If adopted, it would have constituted a major step towards secularism. All secularists in Quebec supported it, as did a majority of the population. But since it banned religious symbols, the Globe and Mail hates it. It was the Charter’s opponents who were odious, slandering both the PQ government and Quebeckers in general with all sorts of egregious epithets. And now, enemies of CAQ’s proposed ban are at it again.
The editorial claims that there is “public outrage” against CAQ. Nonsense. On the contrary, there is a wave of great hope generated by the promise of this new government, and a fervent desire that it not back down in the face of the virulent opposition, such as that from the Globe and Mail.
Religious symbols should be banned for state employees, especially those in authority, in order to protect the freedom of conscience of all citizens, who have a right to public services without staff pushing their personal ideology in their faces. The existing ban on political symbols must be extended to religious ones. This in no way threatens freedom of religion. On the contrary, it protects both freedom of and freedom from religion, both of which are encompassed by freedom of conscience. The ban would only apply during working hours. The employee can put their crucifix, hijab, turban, tin-foil hat, Pastafarian colander or other accoutrement back on at the end of their shift.
No rights are absolute, for they are limited by the rights of others. The editorial laments that CAQ would limit religious believers’ “right to express their religious beliefs as they see fit” but there is no right to practice one’s religion while on the job! The ban would have zero effect on religious practice outside the workplace.
The editorial enjoins Quebec politicians to show a “rational generosity of spirit.” Yet it supports a world in which religious advertising is allowed everywhere, even on the bodies of government employees, thus threatening the rights of everyone—believer, atheist, agnostic—subjected to such displays. I own several t-shirts which proudly declare my atheism, but I would not wear one to work if I were employed in the public service, pushing my personal convictions onto a captive audience in the workplace. I demand the same courtesy of religious believers. A rational generosity of spirit would imply accepting that duty of discretion.
The Globe and Mail editorialists demand no such discretion from religious believers. Rather, they promote a major privilege for Roman Catholicism by leaving the crucifix in the legislature, even after hypocritically denouncing CAQ for the same. They then promote privilege for all religions—to the detriment of non-believers—by opposing any ban on religious symbols in the public service. Thus, the Globe and Mail promotes discrimination against atheists and other non-believers.
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