Friday, 25 May 2012

Religious freedom vs religiosity established by law

I just read an article on the Globe&Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-had-lost-sight-of-religious-freedom-as-human-right-baird-says/article2443112/

where Baird's speech to promote Office of Religious Freedom to an American audience is quoted:

Mr. Baird spoke of the “moral call” that people like his grandfather answered in fighting the Second World War.

“And yet, after the war, some decision makers lost sight of our proud tradition to do what is right and what is just,” he said in a draft of the speech. “Some decided it would be better to paint Canada as an honest broker. I call it being afraid to take a clear position, even when that’s what’s needed.”

Now, I don't have any issue with the notion of "religious freedom" and, in fact, consider it as part and parcel of other human rights and freedoms. But "moral call" and "clear position" in world affairs coming from the mouth of Mr. Baird of the Conservative Party of Canada, I think we should be leery and weary because it is a very selective interpretation of "the age of darkness" that is Canada's great and noble legacy of peace-making and peace-brokering before Harper got into power.

Lester B Pearson, a minority Liberal 14th Prime Minister of Canada, who had overseas experience in WWI as a medical orderly, saw for himself the horrors of armed conflict brought about that decision "to paint Canada as an honest broker". It is most likely because he is a "wrong kind" of Canadian and world historic figure that Baird and CPC choose a "stiffer spine" rather than recognizing the legacy of peace and diplomacy that made a heavy-weight of such a small player as Canada in the world stage (much like the Wolverine of the X-men fame).

Pearson was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis. A Wikipedia entry says of him:

During Pearson's time as Prime Minister, his minority government introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the current Canadian flag. During his tenure, Prime Minister Pearson also convened the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. With these accomplishments, together with his ground-breaking work at the United Nations and in international diplomacy, Pearson is generally considered among the most influential Canadians of the 20th century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester_B._Pearson

Going back to the title of this blog entry, and why I'm so worried about Baird's comments, is that I read in Thomas Paine's Rights of Man recently that religion in its prestine state is a beneficent force. But it is when it becomes established by law that sectarian violence, bigotry, fundamentalism, etc. arise. The notions of religiosity and orthodoxy have always been used historically to crush dissension within the community itself. And it doesn't even have to be religion, any system of faith will do: Communism, American patriotism, revolutionary movements, fascism...

CPC's simplistic black and white worldview is a regression. The Office of Religious Freedom sounds like double-speak for a hawkish foreign policy. Perhaps like the budget omnibus bill intended to destroy environmental and labour protections that annoy oil lobby interests, the Office of Religious Freedom is an atom bomb to swat a fly. Harper and his minions truly are blunt little tools.

Jay

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