Of course it's no coincidence that John Baird just gave a speech about the to be newly minted Office of Religious Freedoms at an event sponsored by a church opposed to gay rights (Seventh Day Adventists). And it was hosted by the Canadian Embassy (read: taxpayer money).
I've written about Carpay before. He was one of the more colourful candidates in the not-so-sane Wildrose Party that utterly failed to win the last Alberta election. He's been known to violently oppose Quebec government religious education curriculum. And rail at the Alberta goverment for not using the notwithstanding clause to opt out of a supreme court decision recognizing the rights of gays and lesbians.
All this seems like a rather coordinated rally - a beating of the drums so to speak - to drum up support for this new office that only people interested in keeping religion out of government oppose. Namely, the non-religious.
This fundamental freedom of religion and conscience is not limited to people who are religious as such. In Quebec, some of the opponents of the government’s mandatory ethics, religion and culture course are atheist and agnostic parents who do not want any religious teaching to be imposed on their children in public schools. But the Quebec government’s totalitarian impulse, sadly left unchecked by the Supreme Court of Canada, will result in indoctrinating the children of atheists, agnostics and religious people alike.Except that many Atheists, myself and Daniel Dennett included, are actually thrilled about the imposed religious teaching. Who's offended when their children are exposed to facts about as many different religious claims as possible? People who are interested in indoctrinating their own children and are afraid that reality may undermine their own totalitarian systems of religious dogma.
The fundamental freedom of religion and conscience, enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protects the rights of atheists, agnostics and theists alike to ponder these questions, arrive at their own conclusions, share those conclusions with their fellow citizens, and live out their lives accordingly. Likewise, Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This serves to protect atheists and agnostics from government coercion as much as it protects theists.Okay, so we already have these things. What will this new Office bring us exactly? What will it do? Why not have an Office of Human Rights and Freedoms that covers the whole spectrum of the Charter and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Why?
I would suggest to Carpay that if he's interested in protecting the rights of the non-religious as well as the religious then he should rally behind atheists and skeptics who truly are being persecuted - you know, the ones we actually know about (there are likely hundreds more) - like Alexander An in Indonesia and the president of the Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku, who is facing arrest for daring to question a supposed miracle involving water flowing from a statue.
Actually, there is another minority worldwide that is being systematically marginalized, hunted, arrested and executed. Like Atheists, who can't really choose what they believe, homosexuals cannot choose to whom they are attracted. If we're going to have an Office of Religious Freedoms then I propose we also have an Office of Sexual Freedoms which would stand up for gays, bisexuals and lesbians across the world. Why not Mr. Carpay (oh wait, we know where you stand on that one, don't we?).
Why not stick with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
The government is playing favourites and wanting to push their agenda. I leave you with this line from John Baird's speech:
"We know that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion."