Re: John Harding’s March 5 editorial (’Matters of faith’).
Is the separation of church and state a bona fide Canadian principle? Harding’s editorial tried to make that case, claiming that matters of personal belief (faith) should be kept out of the public arena. Unfortunately this slogan can be misconstrued for the purpose of dismissing those with faith-based world-views.
The phrase, “separation of church and state,” was used by American Thomas Jefferson in a correspondence to a Connecticut Baptist Association giving reassurance that the government would not interfere with matters of religious freedoms. This was understood as a one-way metaphorical wall and Harding’s editorial actually provides a perfect example from former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau: “There is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”
The idea of this one-way wall has since been seized and replaced with a two-lane highway in an effort to silence those with faith based world-views. This attitude creates enmity, closes dialogue and stifles any idea of reform.
Harding’s editorial then focuses on local MP James Lunney’s attempts to bring his beliefs to affairs of state (Parliament). My question here is, what is he supposed to bring to the public square? Everyone brings their presuppositions and world-views with them — their beliefs. No one is exempt. While it sounds fair and tolerant pushing for neutral ground in having personal beliefs remain at home, this neutrality is a myth — a phantom.
When an MP of any stripe opens their mouth on a given topic, they are no longer neutral and will espouse the worldview influenced by their beliefs, whether it be religious, pluralistic, relativistic, etc.
While some may applaud the example of the law society denying Trinity Western University from putting future lawyers through the Bar because of the university’s moral exclusions, one can’t help but see the irony of the law society falling on the very same sword they are denouncing. They exclude the exclusivists and cry freedom.
Yes, MPs should fairly represent their constituents in Parliament, but invoking this revised slogan of separation of church and state in the guise of neutrality puts us on the very road to oppression that we are trying so hard to avoid.