As we approach tax season for most Canadians, CFIC has released The Cost of Religion in Canada: More Than Just Money, the final report in our five-part Cost of Religion series. In this concluding report, CFIC summarizes the financial costs and, further, explores the societal costs of Canadian religiosity. The Canadian government subsidizes religious institutions by over $5 billion each year. This funding comes with real and measurable social costs.
More Than Just Money points out that there exists a negative correlation between state religiosity and quality of life: “Where faith determines (or significantly influences) public policy, society suffers from greater rates of homicide, violent crime, poverty, obesity, diabetes, child abuse, unemployment, and teen pregnancy. Conversely, where government neither supports nor suppress religion, incomes tend to be higher, life spans longer, and people happier. This is true both between countries (Japan and Netherlands vs. Colombia and Pakistan) and within them (Vermont and New Hampshire vs. Mississippi and Alabama).”
This report summarizes the costs ($5.6 billion in 2019) associated with organizations which have obtained charitable status for the purpose of advancing religion and reminds readers of the social costs of religion in Canada. Most grievously:
- human rights violations caused by religious organizations’ exemption from government regulations related to anti-discrimination and human rights legislation, and
- crimes against children, including those committed in Canada’s residential school system and Quebec “Duplessis” Orphanages.
Census data clearly illustrates that the number of non-believers in Canada is on the rise. Between 2001 and 2011 the number of people who indicated that they had no religious affiliation increased from 16.5 to 23.9 percent (2021 census data on religious affiliation is not yet available). However, CFIC raises concerns about the accuracy of this number. The wording of the question — “Indicate a specific denomination or religion even if this person is not currently a practicing member of that group” (emphasis added) — artificially inflates the number of people identifying with a religion.
CFIC supports government neutrality in matters of religion. State support of any faith, or belief over non-belief, violates the principle of political secularism. CFIC is helping Canadians understand both the financial cost of these policy choices and the resulting societal harm.
This year, say no to a “religious institution support tax” that amounts to $145 per Canadian per year. Tell your Member of Parliament that it is time to end the inappropriate and expensive policy of treating proselytization as a charitable activity. Canada is at its best when it lives up to its secular ideals: remaining neutral in matters of religion, showing no preference to any individual faith, nor to believers over non-believers.