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Quebec Charter Misses Institutional Religious Favouritism

The Centre for Inquiry applauds governments courageous enough to debate secularism and to point out when religious accommodations have gone too far. The Charter of Quebec Values squanders that needed opportunity and risks alienating citizens across Canada against the positive benefits of church-state separation. Secular society should be seen as a prerequisite to guarantee freedom of religion.

The government speaks of being motivated by the desire to create consistency and clarity, but their proposal does neither. The Charter would prohibit teachers from wearing religious symbols, but children would continue to be indoctrinated at taxpayer expense through public subsidies to faith schools.

A secularism charter should take the crucifix off the wall at the National Assembly, remove Christian prayer at public city council meetings, and revoke special property tax exemptions for religious buildings.

The Charter has precisely the wrong aim, to take religion away from people, while ignoring institutional favouritism which biases the public square away from state neutrality and is therefore the more serious threat to equality of treatment between believer and nonbeliever.

Such equality also requires the same rules on government employees with respect to constraints on freedom of expression, regardless of the kind. Government employees are often subject to dress codes which limit freedom of expression. Where such constraints are already imposed, special exemptions for religious symbols has been as an exception to the rule.

CFI does not support a blanket ban on public employees wearing religious symbols. But we do stress that religious forms of expression are due no more respect than secular forms.  Where state neutrality or its perception is an issue the same rules should apply to all forms of expression.

Read more about the Charter here