Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Kremlin Could Step In With 'Government Opera Approval Process' To Avoid Offending Religious Sensibilities

Scene from 2008 Barcelona production of Wagner's opera Tannhäuser where Venus is kicking some bloody ass. (source)
I'll admit that I'm no huge fan of opera, but what's going on in Russia with Wagner's Tannhauser, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin is a whole drama unto itself.

In a nutshell, Russian opera director Timofey Kulyabin produced an opera that had Jesus in it. This offended a Russian Orthodox cleric (who never actually watched the show). The cleric brought the Kulyabin to court but the court threw out the case. Then, the Minister of Culture went and fired the opera house boss Boris Mezdrich

CORRECTION: In my last story, I had confused Mezdrich with Kulyabin. The government stepped in and fired the boss of the entire opera house in order to deal with this single opera -- which won in court. 

Now, according to SlippedDisc, the Kremlin is stepping in to control the opera repertoire, with a government approval process, so as to not offend anyone's religious sensibilities!
‘Today I spoke with the Ministry of Culture. Probably, it will be necessary at some stage to approve the repertoire, especially at state theatres … They should no be allowed to hurt the feelings of believers. We have no right to produce works that outrage part of the population and cause feelings of insult. This should not be allowed.’
What the hell is wrong with believers and their feelings? The sanitizing of artistic expression is, truly, a horrendous sign that Russia is descending further into a sort of puritanical theocracy. This does appear to be fascism.

Anti-LGBT, Anti-Abortion, Anti-HPV Nominee to Toronto Health Board Sparks Controversy

Catholic School District Ward 11 Trustee Angela Kennedy
Angela Kennedy has been a trustee at the (publicly funded) Toronto Catholic School Board for fourteen years. As one might expect, our friends over at Campaign Life Coalition give her top marks for being really anti-abortion. She was their preferred candidate for ward 11.
Angela has been a heroic defender of the Catholic faith on the Toronto Catholic School Board. She has proven her faithfulness to the Church by co-sponsoring amendments to defend the faith against hostile, secular influences. In public and private board meetings, she has vocally advocated for the defense of Catholic moral teaching in our schools. Angela also has a perfect voting record on all the moral/faith issues that came up in the TDSB. Due to the fact that Angela has acted to defend the faith, CLC has given her the highest possible rating of 'Preferred Candidate'.
Well, it seems like she's been appointed to be on the Toronto Board of Health. Some members of the board are understandably uncomfortable about this.
Kennedy, a registered nurse specializing in diabetes education, has voted against homosexual-activist clubs being permitted in schools, opposed HPV vaccinations in schools, and self-identifies as Pro Life.
Right, can we put an end to this bad idea right now?

Apparently, Kennedy brought a letter with her from the Catholic School Board -- they're upset that they're not getting proper representation on the Board. I mean, they already get their own publicly funded religious school board, so why not go for broke, right?
This time, Kennedy’s nomination was accompanied by a stern letter from Toronto Catholic District School Board Chair and former Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Mike Del Grande, who said “this ongoing lack of representation on the Board of Health is an enormous disservice to this large constituency.”
The larger constituency in Toronto are suffering from an acute state of access to legal abortion, HPV vaccines so they don't get cancer, birth control, sex education and GSA clubs where they don't have to be constantly bullied because they're gay. You know, these are problems that apparently need solving. The Church has already got the solutions -- but the secular masses just aren't benefiting from these ideas when it comes to their healthcare.

The Chair of the Board, Joe Mihevc, tried to point out this horrible idea with some metaphors:
“You cannot put on the recreation committee someone that is against sports and recreation,” he said. “You cannot put on the committee of adjustment someone who’s against development. You cannot put on the TTC someone who believes there is a war on the car. There are certain bottom lines to membership on the agencies boards and commissions. You have to understand the broad agenda and be good with that agenda.”
In other words, you can't put someone who's against the best modern healthcare available on a board responsible for delivering the best healthcare available. Pardkale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks comes right out and says it like it is:
When I served for four years on the Board of Health I was always impressed that the foundation of decisions was evidence-based decision making to improve the health of Torontonians, and from the materials I’ve seen Ms. Kennedy doesn’t support evidence-based decision-making for health outcomes in Toronto. So I won’t support her candidacy,” he said.
In other words, her faith-based Catholic superstitions will distort and undermine any sort of evidence-based healthcare policy. Last I heard, the human papillomavirus didn't give a rat's ass about transubstantiation, the Holy Trinity or the sanctity of life.

Who Frames the Secular Charter? Why Can't We Work Together?

So there was a bit of a scuffle here in Montreal on Sunday between people who claimed to be pro Secular Charter vs those who claim to be anti-racist. I grow weary of the sort of framing secularists get in the English media here in Canada -- I don't think it helps anyone, even moderate religious people.
Anti-Muslim radicalization and anti-racism protesters clashed outside of a Montreal post-secondary institution on Sunday afternoon, leading to one arrest.

Duelling demonstrations by a small group of secular charter supporters and a group of anti-racism protesters turned violent after a man was attacked with picket-sign sticks. 
The anti-radicalization marchers were there to protest Collège de Maisonneuve allowing Adil Charkaoui to resume teaching his Arabic and Quran course after two of his students were linked with six youth who ran off to join ISIL in Syria. Four of the six attended the college.

As far as I know, there is insufficient evidence to implicate Charkaoui into any sort of ISIL recruiting or direct radicalization of youth. So I wonder why these secularists and anti-racist protesters cannot work together to find a solution to the broader question of radicalization? Am I naive? Surely both sides do not wish anyone's children to run off to Syria.

I would think that there could be no person more noble than an anti-racist person who is also against Muslim radicalization and is strongly in support of a secular state. So what went wrong here?

I keep asking the questions, then in the same article, perhaps I find a clue.
A couple of dozen people who said they supported Quebec's failed secular charter — a proposed bill that would have imposed rules on head coverings in Quebec — ultimately showed up at the school. About 50 people from the anti-racism camp were there to denounce them. 
This is the tragedy of the charter that keeps disappointing me. A noble idea that everyone should be able to get behind boiled down to the pettiest and most irrational of suggestions possible. Yet this is how I see the original charter framed, time after time -- dumbed down to nothing more than apparently xenophobic wardrobe fascism.

Don't get me wrong, a proper secular charter would include some limitation to religious wardrobe. It would be fine for a woman to take her citizenship oath or appear in court wearing a chador or less -- the same as as a Catholic nun, for example. This is for practical purposes -- for identification. Otherwise, they may wear their niqab wherever they like.

But this would be a minor aspect of a proper charter. Bigger fish to fry would be the eradication of tax breaks for the clergy, churches and religious institutions. Private religious schools would no longer receive a per head government subsidy either. Religious symbols -- mostly Catholic -- would be removed from city halls and other government buildings, including the National Assembly. Prayer before government meetings would be eradicated completely.

I personally do not have a problem with government workers wearing religious symbols or hijabs, so long as the do their duties and do not discriminate. Although I tend to flip-flop on this one from time to time -- I still see this as being their own personal expression and do not assume that it is an expression of the government itself just the same as I do not consider the hue of lipstick they are wearing to be an expression of government endorsed cosmetic.

Even that last point -- being the most contentious and probably best left out of any Charter if we want to have any charter at all -- need not stand in the way of reasonable people -- religious or not -- working together to fight radicalization and promote a democratic secular state that allows us all freedom to exist and express ourselves.

Why can't we work together?

Really, this debate is much more nuanced than this -- and I think we all would actually agree on a lot more if we stopped and listened to each other.

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