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Montreal Archbishop opposes proposed secular charter

09/09/2013 09:37 EDT | Updated 11/09/2013 05:12 EST
The most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Montreal, Archbishop Christian Lépine, is speaking out against Quebec’s proposed secular charter, saying banning religious garb for public workers would be a violation of rights.

"I think it is a violation of the right to have a religion, and to be religious. Because it is not only about private religion, private life. It's also about public life," said Christian Lépine, Archbishop of Montreal.

Lépine says such a charter would be neither respectful nor democratic and although he accepts that some people don't believe in God, he says non-religious values should not be imposed on everyone.

“Normally if you talk about a charter, it’s about a charter of rights that gives space to different belief systems, so in that sense I don’t see this as a charter, it’s more of a credo,” said Lépine.

“Can you impose them on society and call them a charter of rights? I don’t think so.”

The Parti Québecois plans to roll out the controversial proposed secular charter tomorrow, and is expected to include plans that promote secularism and religious neutrality in public institutions.

These plans would include banning civil servants from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas and crucifixes while on the job.

Lépine said Christian symbols in public life, such as the crucifix in the National Assembly, acknowledge Quebec's heritage, though he would be open to a discussions about how they affect the inclusiveness of other religions.

However, Lépine said he has no problem with Catholic children being cared for by daycare workers who wear a Muslim hijab.

“I don’t think we have to be in the business to decide what people wear. People have their own way of expressing a belief,” said Lépine.

The PQ is planning to provide a five-year exemption clause for municipalities, hospitals and postsecondary institutions that wish to allow their employees to continue wearing religious symbols on the job, according to reports in The Globe and Mail and La Presse.

Over the weekend, le Journal de Montréal reported that elected officials will not have to comply with the ban on religious symbols or dress.

A prior leak said that teachers, daycare workers, healthcare professionals and people in authority will have to comply, and no PQ minister nor the premier has denied the leak.

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