Monday School: Quebec’s Controversial Charter of Values

Its Monday, which means it’s time for Monday School! Your ‘Rational Corrective To All That Nonsense You Learned Yesterday!’

Not only is Monday School back but today I am bringing a very hot topic to the table. I expect to see some harsh notes from this entry but I expect that every time I post an entry about religion. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m curious to see which way it goes today.

Over several weeks ago, the provincial government of Quebec brought a whole heap of heat onto themselves by introducing what they called their Charter of Values. The PQ (Parti Quebeois) are known for protecting their culture, especially of those who speak French in the province. The same party known for it’s ongoing threats of sovereignty released this Charter as a means to prevent it from being attacked. By what, you ask? I’m not entirely sure. Regardless of the paranoia that sparked this idea, it was one that was met with great anger, literally biblical if you excuse the pun.

Many people have criticized this charter because they believe some of it is an attack on the freedom of religion. Let’s get down to the skinny of the situation. This Charter of Values has a portion of it that dictates that people who work for the government, basically anyone who is a public servant, will be forbidden from wearing anything that is religious. This means if you work for any branch of the government, whether it be as a police officer, a teacher or any other branch of public service… you are not allowed to wear a cross, a kippa, a turban or even a hijab or niqab. The reason for this clause is to promote a government that is secular and provide public services that are neutral and doesn’t openly promote religion of any kind.

Needless to say, the clause outlawing religious headgear has been met with some rather outrageous claims. Here in a nutshell are the criticisms being levied towards the Quebec government cause of their charter. Of course people affected by this clause are calling it bigotry for people to ban what they are allowed to wear publicly. Others are saying the charter is unconstitutional because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to religion. These are interesting points but they are both completely wrong in both their thinking and application to the law.

Yes, people do have a right to religion. However … that doesn’t mean that we will allow you to do everything that your religion says you can do. For example, there are certain passages in both the Quaran and the Bible that are actually against the law, such as killing someone for not working on the Sabbath. Even though the Bible specifically calls for someone’s death for working on the Sabbath, it conflicts with the law here in Canada. Not only is it illegal to kill someone, it’s also legal for someone to work on a Sunday. In this instance, the law despite it’s contradiction of what is called for in the bible is not only tolerated, it’s constitutional. No one is calling for either the law that allows people to work on Sunday or the law to not kill people be repealed on the grounds that it goes against their right to religion. So here is a clear cut example of how the law of the country is allowed to override the rules of religion. It’s been done before and it can be done again as the case law is clearly in Quebec’s favour.

Second, just because you are a citizen that practices religion doesn’t mean that you get to tell your workplace what you can and cannot wear when working for them. When did this become an unwritten rule? How do you think a corporation would respond if I showed up for work wearing anything I wanted and told them that it was my ‘tradition’ to do so. I’ll tell you what would happen: I’d be fired by that corporation. Dress codes are common place for almost every major corporation, and quite often if you don’t adhere to their rules… you’re free to find a job somewhere else.

How is what the government of Quebec doing any different than a corporate dress code? If a government wants to be secular and neutral to all religions, not allowing their employees to wear something that is deemed religious isn’t much of a stretch. Having a right to religion means you have a right to worship, not a right to tell your bosses what you can and cannot wear in the workplace. If you want to wear something religious, do it on your own time when you’re at home or in Church. No where in the constitution does it say that your right to religion means that the government will uphold every tradition your religion asks you to hold. We just provided an example where the right to religion doesn’t give you the right to stone someone for refusing to respect the Sabbath, so what makes you think that our constitution will protect every aspect of religion? The law protects your right to worship, attend services, etc. No where in our constitution does it say that your religion will overrule the laws that are passed by our local governments.

Yes, the constitution does uphold a right to religion… but at the same time what about the rights of non-believers to not be exposed to their bullshit? They have just as much of a right to be free from religion oppression and from tyranny, something that is also guaranteed by my nation’s constitution. If an Atheist goes to a public office for help, the last thing I would want to see is a reminder of a religion that publicly calls for my death either hanging around their necks or sitting on their head. To me, wearing those reminders of hatred is harassment. Both the Bible and the Quaran condemn homosexuality and even call for those who commit this sin to be executed. Do you think gays would feel comfortable being reminded of that when speaking to a public worker? The same goes for public schools. If my son is attending a public school, which is not supposed to endorse religion what so ever… then the last thing I would want to see there is someone wearing a big cross around their neck or a hijab, which is a public endorsement of religion being forced onto my kid.

Now many people, especially Muslims, are calling this charter bigotry and an attack on religion. I happen to disagree. The real bigotry is wearing something on your head and thinking that it makes you superior to everyone else. That is my definition of bigotry. As for the attack on religion, no one is saying that you’re not allowed to believe in God and no one is saying that you can’t worship them either. What the government of Quebec is basically saying is that they prefer everyone do it on their own time and their own dime. Basically keep your religion at home and out of the workplace. That’s not an attack on religion and the government is not supposed to endorse religion anyway, so this is keeping in line with a secular government.

The charter is not prejudice against religion, but religions symbolism… which is only used as a promotional tool for the church. If there is a higher being out there, do you honestly think that he/she/it/them really give a rat’s ass about what hat you wear? Seriously?

All public sectors of the government are supposed to be neutral and allowing someone to wear a cross, a turban and even a kippa is a public promotion of religion. It’s no different than a company telling an employee he can’t wear any shoes or shirts that have a nike logo on them. This kind of conduct is done all the time but now it’s shifting to logos and symbols that promote the Church. I happen to agree that this kind of promotion should not be allowed in the workplace. It’s pushing your views onto fellow coworkers and anyone who comes to your office for help. I don’t think the request to keep these symbols at home is unreasonable. I don’t even think a cross (Large or small) should be allowed either. No one is asking anyone to change but to just to leave their faith/belief at home and out of the workplace. No one is banning religion, just the promotion of it when you’re at work.

As an atheist, I am very much opposed to religious accommodation. If I’m not allowed to wear a baseball cap to work, the item being religious shouldn’t make a difference either. No head wear means no head wear… period. Religious people are asking for special treatment when the do this and that isn’t fair as our laws also dictate that everyone should be treated equally as well. If someone is allowed to wear something on their head to work, I should be allowed to wear my Blue Jays cap. It’s that simple. Either everyone can wear one… or no one can. That is true equality.

While I happen to question the motives of the Quebec government for bringing this charter forward, I happen to agree with the charter itself. Religious apparel shouldn’t be forced onto others in the workplace, especially if that workplace is supposed to be religiously neutral. If you want to exercise your right to religion, do it on your own time and not when you’re at work.

So let’s open this to the floor. Do you agree or disagree with Quebec’s attempt to remove religion from the workplace? Why or why not?



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