Kelly McParland’s analysis reads about right: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/02/20/kelly-mcparland-canadian-voters-are-the-real-target-of-stephen-harpers-new-religion-office/
He’s probably right on the money when he says the newly created Office of Religious Freedoms has a lot more to do with garnering favour among the domestic faithful than it does with protecting the rights of foreigners.
It’s only $5 million. As government spending goes, that’s a pittance. But even if the expense was $5 I’d have a problem with it, not because I’m a hardcore atheist – I'm an agnostic with atheist leanings – but because I’m a staunch believer in the separation of church and state.
Even if we want to say advocating for persecuted religious minorities in other countries is a duty of the federal government, that doesn’t require it’s own office. We can advocate for human rights and freedoms of all kinds under a general foreign policy mandate.
You may have come across this headline: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/02/21/kelly-mcparland-the-intolerable-bigotry-of-saying-grace-before-meals/
Interestingly, Kelly and I view this case on religious freedom differently. Forget Ashu Solo’s buffoonish thumbs down photo (didn’t he know that was a terrible idea?), as well as his silly campaign against Merry Christmas appearing on buses (Christmas has long since passed from being solely a religious event to becoming the biggest holiday in the secular calendar, too). Forget even his histrionics about oppression. At its core, his complaint is valid: An event sponsored by a government office, or an agency receiving all its funding from the government, should not begin with a prayer, period.
It happens more often than you might think. The grad ceremony at the high school last year led off with a prayer. I believe at least one town council event I’ve attended involved a prayer – perhaps the swearing in of the new council members?
It’s not appropriate. Without veering into the overblown claims of Solo, it does perpetuate the idea government is a particular religion, or at least religious. And it’s an imposition of the private into the public. Church and God are something of interest to many citizens, sure, but so is hockey. We don’t begin a town meeting with a somber recounting of last night’s game, regardless of how many fans there are in the audience. It’s simply not the business of government, and neither is religion. There’s nothing complicated or difficult to comprehend here.
Worship your god on your time, not the public dime.