Prayer in Canadian Public Life: a Nation Divided – Angus Reid Institute

Prayer_in_Canadian_Public_Life__a_Nation_Divided_-_Angus_Reid_InstituteThe latest polling on the Supreme Court’s ruling against prayer in public meetings. Key Findings:

  • Just over half (56%) of respondents are in favour of the court’s decision while the rest (44%) are opposed.
  • That support drops to one-third (34%) among the religiously inclined, and jumps to nearly four-fifths (78%) among those who say religion isn’t important to them.
  • In spite of the secularist view on prayer at public meetings, very few (7%) of respondents want to see the lyrics to O Canada changed so that reference to God is removed.

Prayer in Canadian Public Life: a Nation Divided – Angus Reid Institute.

Sex ed protest leaves 1 Toronto school almost empty

If memory serves me correctly (School prayer debate creates unlikely allies), this is the same school that allowed the Muslim Friday prayers at the school to combat Friday afternoon absenteeism among Muslim students, with gender-separate seating (girls at the back, not at the side):

A public elementary school in Toronto was left nearly empty on Monday as parents protested against the province’s new sex ed curriculum.

Between 200 and 300 protesters voiced their concerns with changes to the current sex ed system outside Thorncliffe Park Public School, said the CBC’s James Murray. Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird said 1,220 of the 1,350 Grade 1 to Grade 5 students are not currently in class.

Meanwhile, across the city, the Toronto District School Board recorded 34,762 elementary school absences.

That’s an increase of 144 percent compared to last Monday when there were 14,191 absences reported.

The board did not provide a breakdown of reasons for the absences, such as illness, etc.

In total, there are approximately 171,800 active elementary students at the TDSB.

A Thorncliffe parents’ group is currently running a Facebook campaign called Parents & Students on strike: one week no school is encouraging parents who oppose the 2015 sex ed curriculum to keep their kids at home.

“We are sending them to have their science, math and English and whatever … we are not sending them for sex education,” said parent Fatima Haqdad.

Sex ed protest leaves 1 Toronto school almost empty – Toronto – CBC News.

Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings and selected commentary

Lot’s of coverage of the SCC decision on regarding prayer city council meetings, starting with the basics:

In 2008, city officials initially changed the prayer to one it deemed more neutral and delayed the opening of council by two minutes to allow citizens a window to return follow the reciting.

The Supreme Court said Canadian society has evolved and given rise to a “concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs.”

“The state must instead remain neutral in this regard,” the judgment said.

“This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.

“When all is said and done, the state’s duty to protect every person’s freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non-believers in public life to the detriment of others.”

The City of Ottawa quickly reacts with a sensible approach: a minute of silence and reflection:

In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson replaced the prayer with a moment of silence — even though he said the prayer councillors have been reciting for years was non-denominational.

“I always thought that our prayer was very respectful of all religions and cultures. But the court has ruled and we’ll take the ruling seriously. The alternative I believe would make some sense is to offer, as we did today, a moment of personal reflection and people can pray themselves personally and privately,” Watson said.

Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings – Montreal – CBC News.

Best commentary seen to date:

The Court didn’t bite. It lacked evidence of the circumstances and purpose of the Commons prayer, Justice Gascon argued, and besides, it might be covered by parliamentary privilege. That might save it from the judiciary; it shouldn’t save it from Canadians’ scrutiny. While Maurice Duplessis’ crucifix still looms over the speaker’s chair in Quebec City, the National Assembly abandoned its introductory prayer nearly 40 years ago in favour of a moment of reflection — one in which members and others can gather courage and inspiration from whichever sources, earthly or otherwise, they choose. That’s an idea worth reflecting on.

National Post Editorial: The separation of prayer and council

But perhaps the part of the judgment that will be read most carefully by justice officials and their political masters is the section that spells out that a neutral public space is not one that obliterates religious diversity.

In paragraph 74 of the judgment, and almost as an aside from its core narrative, Justice Clément Gascon writes: “I note that a neutral public space does not mean the homogenization of private players in that space. Neutrality is required of institutions and the state, not individuals.”

He adds for good measure: “. . . a secular state does not — and cannot — interfere with the beliefs or practices of a religious group unless they conflict with or harm overriding public interests.”

That amounts to a red light flashing in the face of any government contemplating — as Quebec recently did — the imposition of a secular dress code on its public sector employees.

It also suggests that the federal government, should it want the court to give its ban on face-covering niqabs at citizenship oath ceremonies a green light, may have to come up with a pretty compelling demonstration of the “overriding public interest” served by such a measure.

Canadian legislators will have to pay attention to Supreme Court’s prayer ruling: Hébert