There are two conflicting definitions of the phrase “religious freedom”. The correct definition is that a person should have complete liberty to believe as they wish – perhaps “freedom of belief” is a better phrase. The stupid definition is that people should be allowed to do whatever they want, so long as it’s licensed by their religion, and that the law cannot interfere with that practice. Of course it’s trivially easy to pick apart exactly why that second definition is so stupid – sincere religious belief can justify all kinds of illegal and immoral acts. Interpreting “religious freedom” in this way is dangerous.
Here’s a little factoid for all you Yanks about my great country: we’re really not all that different from Americans. I will probably lose my maple syrup license for saying so, but aside from some historical differences that continue to inform our national identity, Canadian society contains all the same elements that American society does. At the moment, this means that our version of the theocrats are in power. Now, to be sure, our theocrats aren’t nearly as terrifying as theirs are, but they’re into the same wacky stuff.
Oddly enough, whereas the USA has its vaunted (and currently besieged) Constitutional separation of church and state, Canada has a Charter that explicitly enshrines the involvement of religious institutions in federal law. I call this ‘odd’ not simply because I think it’s a bad idea, and I do, but because it’s rarely been an issue. Canadians have, for the most part, unconcerned with arguments over religious involvement in public life. This, however, is changing under our current Parliament, and has been steadily ramping up over the past decade or so. More and more, we begin to see nonsense like this:
Please read the rest of this post over at Freethought Blogs.