08/21/2013 01:13 EDT | Updated 10/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebec's Secularism Is Religious Control

The Québec government is flying a trial balloon that would ban some religious symbols and religious clothing form public service buildings in Québec, particularly on the persons of civil servants. There is a hint that the ban would include teachers and day care workers. This lead balloon is an objectionable distortion of the concept of open secularism.

That concept does promote the idea that public places should be free of religious rites and symbols, but the "open" part of the name indicates that the concept does not include limits on the right of individuals to identify their faith. In other words, while there should be no religious music, or religious symbols on the walls, or service hours that kowtow to religion, religious articles of clothing or religious "jewellery" should raise no eyebrows whatever.

This goes to the very nature of multicultural society. Basically, we should all agree that common areas -- public business-government offices, municipal council chambers, legislative assemblies, parliaments, and schools -- should be religion free. Then we can all do business equally in our public institutions without the influence of religions. At the same time, we can bring our religious or philosophical concepts to that public forum in the spirit of contributing positively to the growth and improvement or our society.

Bernard Drainville, the Québec government minister responsible for this perversion of a simple concept, has refused to confirm that the Marois government plans to move forward with this. However, at the same time, he claims that the move would remove religious influence from public offices. The partial ban on personal religious attire or symbols is simply not necessary to accomplish that.

This seems to be part of a convoluted policy regarding religious accommodation. Often it looks more like an attempt to mask religious control. Literal translation, "we'll accommodate you by telling you what you can wear and when." One must note that kippas and hijabs would be banned outright, but crosses and crucifixes would be limited only by size.

I have never quite figured out how someone else's attire affects my philosophy. Seeing a man wearing a kippa has never pressured me to consider Judaism as an option for my personal philosophy. No hijab has ever frightened me into going to a local Mosque to beg for admission. I doubt that the sight of a Humanist logo has ever shaken the faith of any believer.

Why is there the need to accommodate religion in this way? Why would any free society, outside of guaranteeing "freedom of conscience and religion," and "freedom of personal philosophy" need to comment on the appropriateness of religious symbols or garb?

This latest foray into "accommodation" by the Marois government is, at best, a sop to paranoid, close-minded voters, and, perhaps simultaneously, at worst, the thin edge of a sledgehammer aimed at religious freedom.

Quebec Religious Headwear Ban