Freedom of conscience and the Quebec Charter of Values

Thoughtful commentary by Jocelyn Maclure of Université de Laval on the Charter.

First, we can be bothered by many things in our interactions with employees in the public and parapublic sectors. Putting up with aggravation is a necessary condition of social cooperation and peaceful coexistence. Happily, freedom of conscience and religion do not entail the right not to be exposed to other people’s appearances and beliefs that we may find disagreeable. If that were the case, tolerance and freedom of conscience would be a spur to the segregation of communities, a little along the lines of the “pillarization” model in the Netherlands, where for many years Catholics, Protestants and Social Democrats have all had their own separate social institutions.

Second, although wearing a religious symbol is clearly an expressive act laden with meaning, we must not attribute to that act ana priori unambiguous meaning in conflict with shared public values. For example, we often infer from the struggle of some women in Muslim countries against the imposition of the veil that the veil is necessarily a symbol of the domination of women by men. But this is a false inference. In a liberal democratic society such as Quebec, a Muslim woman may have other reasons for wearing the veil that are bound up with her faith and identity.  And we must not yield to a form of magical thinking that leads us to imagine that barring overt religious symbols from public institutions will somehow help women who are oppressed by men in their daily lives. Not only does the ban restrict the freedom of those who wish, of their own volition, to wear an overt religious symbol, but it does virtually nothing to help the most vulnerable women, who are scarcely represented in the public and parapublic sectors.

The analogy with political symbols does not succeed in justifying restrictions on freedom of religion or equal access to job opportunities in the public and parapublic sectors. Our civil and political rights safeguard our basic political interests, while freedom of conscience and religion protects the religious and secular convictions and commitments that endow human life with meaning. We can rightly be proud that our democratic institutions properly uphold both these rights and freedoms.

Freedom of conscience and the Quebec Charter of Values » Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett: Religious Freedom Is About More Than Religion – WSJ.com

Good piece on religious freedom, and how it has to be based upon the freedom of coercion.

Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett: Religious Freedom Is About More Than Religion – WSJ.com.