Legal and Cultural Discrimination Against Non-religious People in the Law

Meeting Was Held On -

Sunday, January 14, 2018 8:40 PM

A big thank you to Ruth Henrich for her presentation.  There are several petitions that are taking on these issues in law.  In December 2015, The Centre For Inquiry launched a petition to end blasphemy being a criminal offence (Section 296 of the Criminal Code). This petition was sponsored by Ali Ehsassi, MP for Willowdale. It has received 3rd reading and is now before the Senate for review. It is part of Bill C-51.

The following is a synopsis of some of the material Ruth, and the group, covered: What is blasphemy and should it be removed from the criminal code (we agreed- yes!)  What IS blasphemy? Ruth distributed a map, created by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) MAP which demonstrated how only a small number of countries in the world have eliminated blasphemy from their statutes. Here is the LINK to CFI’s information and further resources on this topic.

Secular Connexion Séculierè began a petition to repeal of all Canadian laws and regulations that discriminate against the systemic discrimination against non-believers in Canadian laws and regulations, specifically, but not limited to: (a) the National Anthems Act, 1980; (b) the Criminal Code of Canada, section 319 3(b); and (c) Regulations for registered charities under the Income Tax Act. This petition has now received over the number of required signatures and will go to Committee for further research and consideration. It may be years before we see anything on this, but it is now being considered in Parliament. Marwan Tabbara, MP for Kitchener South-Hespler was the sponsor for this petition.

The 3rd petition that was presented comes out of Quebec and is still open for signature. It was brought by David Rand, President of Atheist Freethinkers Solidarity, Montreal.  This petition asks for the removal of the religious exemption in Section 319(3)(b) and affects women, the LGBTQ community, non-believers and other ethnic and racial groups. Here is the link.  Please consider signing this petition.

The group discussed when a comment (consider the right to free speech) becomes a hate crime which must be stopped? In other words, how do we differentiate between a stated opinion, and a remark that could be construed as inciting hate? Ruth quoted a theologian who made it clear that in a real democracy there must be a separation of church and state. We do not currently honour this in Canada. Here is the quote.

Theologian William Klassen has said:

“to mention God with a capital letter in the preamble to the Charter and then go on to say that the Charter provides a fundamental freedom of conscience and religion, is a contradiction which even a theologian, to say nothing of all the lawyers, must surely recognize… The cause of religion is never advanced by putting God’s name on a document, in a national anthem, on coins, or generally in the public sphere.”

Thankfully we can now ‘affirm’ in a court of law, instead of placing our hand on a Bible. Should an organization which cannot meet the standards of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms be eligible for federal funding?  When is this ok? When not?

Prayers in Council, free parking for church attendees on Sunday, honouring cultural values vs. expressing blatant discrimination; these were a few more of the issues which were questioned, challenged and discussed.

Once again, thank you Ruth for this well researched and important presentation!

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