Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Word Back From Conservative MP About Persecution of Atheists: "Try calling the ORF".

Conservative MP Bev Shipley
So a few days ago I did a post on Motion 382, put forward by Conservative MP Bev Shipley and passed this past April.

On the whole, I thought it was a pretty good motion. It just suffered from one critical flaw: it didn't ever recognize the existence of those non-religious who are persecuted for their lack of belief in a country's dominant religion.

So I wrote Bev the following e-mail.  It's not the most elegant piece of prose, but I didn't particularly expect a response anyway.
Dear Mr Shipley, 
I recently read about the passing of Motion 382. Congratulations on this achievement!
I wrote about this recently on my personal blog: 
I was surprised that you were surprised that the Bloc agreed to go along. I put up a theory of mine - the secularist nature of that party - but on second thought, I would like to get your opinion on this in case you had a different reason for being surprised. 
Being a secularist myself, I support your bill.   I have severe reservations about the Office of Religious Freedom, but I would vote for your bill in the name of all those who are being badly persecuted because of their religious belief. I subscribe to "Gospel for Asia's" newsletter and I read about these problems in India. 
The only thing I take some issue with is the situation for many non-religious people in highly theocratic countries across the world. 
Your bill would have been perfect if it included the plight of the non-believer who is being persecuted for being an "apostate". 
Please share your thoughts on this. 
Thank you!  
I really thought it would be good to get Bev's input on this, or at least let him know what I did make a few hypotheses in the post about why he may have found himself surprised that the Quebec government took the same position as him on his bill.

Well, a couple of days later, to my surprise, I get this response from one of his assistants.
Dear Mr <   >, 
On behalf of Mr. Shipley, I acknowledge receipt of your email. Thank you for your interest in his Motion 382 on Religious Freedom. Mr. Shipley recommends you contact the Ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom with your concerns surrounding discrimination of “apostates”. 
Sarah Brown
Parliamentary Assistant to
Bev Shipley, MP
SW Ontario Caucus Chair
I guess this means the e-mail was passed on to him and he read it? So I presume he now knows about the plight of persecuted atheists and non-religious folk around the world?  I guess so.

Sadly, Mr. Shipley doesn't have much to say about the situation of so many of our international brothers and sisters in non-belief - although he has a great deal to say about the reverse situation.  He did champion and pass a bill that appears to work for the human rights of pretty much everyone except the non-religious when it comes to religious persecution around the world.

This isn't particularly surprising. One shouldn't jump to the conclusion that it was done intentionally at all. The atheist community is so small across the world and so silent (often for its own survival) that it often doesn't make it onto people's radar.

And as for not jumping to our aid after being reminded about atheists, I really shouldn't be surprised by his response either, especially after I did a little more research on Shipley.

The rightwing watchdog website Reform Parliament's Watchdog sums up Shipley's positions on social issues like this:

What ever possessed me to write this guy? Here's some information I dug up myself since the above site is sort of old and it's not good to rely on just one reference.

Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions to present today. Each of them calls on the House to enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible. These individuals have a strong personal conviction for the protection of the unborn. 
The petitions come from Grace Canadian Reformed Church in Kerwood, the Providence United Reformed Church in Strathroy, the Association for Reformed Political Action, and also the students and teachers at Providence Reformed Collegiate.
In fact, Campaign Life Coalition gives Shipley a "green light" when it comes to abortion issues. This is a red light for me.

Same-Sex Marriage:
That is what this whole debate is about. It is about the fundamentals of what this country was based on. It is about the definition of marriage and it is about the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of others.
 Fundamentalist church:
Bev is an active member of Community Bible Church, Middlesex Centre, and is a volunteer in numerous community organizations.
If you check out the Community Bible Church About Us page you'll find that they "believe that the Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the written Word of God and, therefore, inerrant in the original documents and absolutely authoritative." I wasn't able to find his position on Evolution, but I can only guess it's likely to be not so good.

So this guy is obviously not going to be too helpful and publicly denouncing the poor treatment of non-believers in the name of religion is just not his department.  His kind assistant did let me know who is supposed to deal with this particular matter: a smallish government office by the name of the Office of Religious Freedom.  Gee, never heard of it. Gee, I wonder who heads it.
Mr. Shipley recommends you contact the Ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom with your concerns surrounding discrimination of “apostates”. 
So apparently it is the job of Andrew Bennett's ORF to protect the rights and freedoms of the unbelievers. Well, at least from the pen of Bev Shipley. Unfortunately, the atheist community has gone down that path before and Bennett has even commented:
So the concerns of atheists, I understand it. And we will monitor it. And we will speak out if we need to. But I think we can’t lose sight of the fact that disproportionately the people being persecuted for freedom of religion are believe
Oh bureaucracy! Oh typical government run-around! Was not Rome just like this before its Decline and Fall? Oh, Fie.

For fun, I responded back asking if I could have a direct e-mail for Bennett, since I am rather keen to send him an e-mail with these concerns.
Dear Mr. < >,

Upon making inquiries, I have been provided with the below contact address for Ambassador Bennett.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Attn: Office of Religious Freedom
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0G2

You may also wish to check their website for information on the office:

Have a nice evening.


Sarah Brown
Parliamentary Assistant to
Bev Shipley, MP
SW Ontario Caucus Chair
No direct e-mail there. 

Now apparently, Bennett is also dean of Augustine College, so I could try

But I think I'll try out good old ink and paper. It got me a letter back from John Baird.  Perhaps I'll get one from Andrew Bennett to add to my collection.

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