Coren: Religion and politics shouldn’t mix when it comes to COVID-19

Another good commentary by Coren, with any number of political commentators pronouncing on the impact on the CPC and its leader:

Anybody who assumed that the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic would be purely medical and humanitarian clearly didn’t quite grasp the dark depths of politics and religion. From the moment we knew that a deadly plague was smothering the world, those with warped agendas were as animated as a squirrel in a peanut store.

Enter the conspiracy theorists and the paranoid hysterics, claiming that the virus was either a hoax, a plot to reduce and control the population, or the beginnings of the “great reset.” And that vaccines are weapons of Satan, the mark of the beast, and developed from fetal stem-cells and thus — in their words — “the product of the abortion genocide.”

These Christian fundamentalists and libertarian fanatics are dismissed by almost every responsible religious figure, from the Pope to the Chief Rabbi, and by all political leaders worth the name. But not by all, and not everywhere — including Canada.

A small but galvanized set of right-wing church leaders resist vaccines and masks, and their activism has bled through into Canadian conservatism. Federal Tory leader Erin O’Toole and most Conservative provincial leaders may disagree with these people, but they also know that their base is swamped in denial lunacy. If they’re too bold in condemning anti-vaccine zealots, or in any way supportive of vaccine mandates, they could see their leadership challenged and even defeated.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s refusal to demand vaccinations for those working in health care, in spite of the advice of experts, is an obvious case. Ford is more secure than O’Toole, but he has long relied on the Christian right and owes them far too much to risk their anger, especially with an election so close.

Erin O’Toole’s decision not to require that all Conservative MPs be vaccinated against COVID-19 has annoyed many of his caucus, but placated those who see him as far too liberal on their chosen obsessions. Yet he still hasn’t gone far enough for many. At the end of last week it was announced that a group of 15 to 30 Conservative MPs and senators intended to start a “civil liberties caucus.” Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu says that it will speak for those who may be losing their jobs for refusing to be vaccinated.

It’s a tangible threat to the leader, already in a precarious position, and there are a number of potential rivals waiting in the shadows. One of the more prominent and ambitious is Leslyn Lewis, the newly minted MP for Haldimand-Norfolk. She did extremely well in the party’s leadership contest, and her candidacy was supported by a number of socially conservative groups who now oppose vaccines. She’s the darling of religious conservatives, with some “interesting” opinions on many of the issues that the Tory base in rural Ontario and Western Canada still consider vital. When I mentioned her views in a column more than a year ago she immediately blocked me on social media, and I was harshly attacked by some of her supporters. In other words, she’s not someone to take lightly.

One of the ironies of all this is that for a party that boasts of its patriotism, this new conservatism is far more American than Canadian. The progressive Toryism of former years, one that had far more in common with conservative parties in northern Europe and Britain, was abandoned long ago, and Canadian conservatives now look south to the U.S. Republicans. That party, in turn, has had to bend to the Christian right, because without that vote no Republican can ever hope to become president.

The conservative Christian world is much smaller in Canada, but it’s far from insignificant and punches well above its weight. It’s also become more energized and organized in the last 15 years, largely because it sees what has been achieved in the U.S. Canadian right-wingers witness the victory of Donald Trump and other hardline leaders and regard it as a triumph. The truth, however, is that the crisis faced by modern Christianity is largely due to its perversion by the very people so revered by the Canadian conservatives who are currently influencing policies on vaccines and public health.

Religion and politics. Pray, and pray hard, that in this case they stop mixing.

Source: Religion and politics shouldn’t mix when it comes to COVID-19

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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