EDITORIAL: Matters of faith

Recent comments from local politicians have us scratching our heads

There are many good reasons behind the notion there should be separation of church and state.

It takes courage, and discipline, for politicians to keep matters of personal faith out of council chambers or the Legislature or the House of Commons.

The Canadian political leader in the last 50 years to show the most courage in this regard was probably Pierre Trudeau, a man with a strict Roman Catholic background from a province where that church wielded much power over social and political issues for centuries.

“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” Trudeau said in 1967 as he brought forward an Omnibus bill that vaulted issues like homosexuality, divorce and abortion to the forefront and rattled the cages of religious leaders and people from coast to coast.

James Lunney will never be confused with Pierre Trudeau. The Nanaimo-Alberni MP, who is not running for office again this year, has tried to bring his beliefs to the affairs of state during his time as a Member of Parliament, but he has ramped it up in the last week.

Lunney’s anger with big banks and law society decisions regarding the status of Trinity Western University’s law students upon graduation is based on his beliefs, his faith, no matter how he couches it. He believes TWU’s code, which requires all students and staff to sign a covenant barring same-sex marriage, should not be a factor in whether law society’s accept TWU law grads to the Bar.

Even more disturbing is Lunney’s apparent disbelief of evolution, which has come up from time to time in his tenure as MP and resurfaced again this week when he came to the defence of an Ontario MPP who said publicly he doesn’t believe in evolution. Lunney has said he has no problem calling evolution a scientific theory, as long as people stop calling it a fact.

Closer to home, and from left field (or, more accurately, Errington where she lives), Parksville city Coun. Leanne Salter had reporters, staff and councillors scrambling to pull up Google when she made reference Monday night to Shemittah, a Hebrew word that literally means “to release.” Seven-year cycles are observed in the Jewish faith, and in the Shemittah year (according to chabad.org) people are to waive outstanding debts, desist from cultivating their fields and re-focus.

Salter raised this as part of her opposition to increases in water and sewer rates.

Perhaps this was not a religious reference — and frankly it sounds like a great tradition — but does it have a place in the deliberations of a city council? While Salter’s comments aren’t quite Lunney-like, they may push a line that’s in place for good reason.

— Editorial by John Harding

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