Showing posts with label ontario. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ontario. Show all posts

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Religious & 'Conscientious' Objections to Vaccination Up 50% In Ontario



Remember that group, Children of God for Life? Their goofy website warns good Christian parents not to vaccinate their children because the vaccines contain 60 year old dead BABIEEES! Well, according to a report over at the Catholic Register (funded with your tax dollars), Children of God's website could be one thing influencing more and more Ontario parents to not get their kids vaccinated.
A petition launched on LifeSite- News.com six months ago protesting vaccines based on aborted fetal cell lines has attracted just over 4,000 page views. Anti-abortion blogs such as Children of God for Life and anti-vaccination sites such as Vaccine Risk Awareness have been campaigning against the vaccines based on the link to abortion.

Public Health Ontario researchers could only collect the number of religious and conscientious objections and not the precise reasons for objection.
Do you think it really matters what the precise reasons for the objections are if they're all based on unproven mythological foundations? Probably not, right? The article goes on to mention that Catholics ought to listen to the Vatican and get their kids vaccinated - even if the measles vaccine is apparently derived from an aborted fetus in the 60s.
The vaccine was originally created in 1964 in the United States using a human cell line prepared with lung tissue from an aborted fetus. A second cell line was derived from a 14-week-old fetus in in the United Kingdom in 1970.
Anyway, it turns out that the rate of unvaccinated kids is up 50% because people can just get a notarized letter saying their religion allows them to put a strain on herd immunity. I'm sure that immunized kids who get sick (vaccines are not 100%) will completely understand.
The study by epidemiologists at Public Health Ontario found that between the 2003-04 and 2012-13 school years, the percentage of seven- and 17-year-old children with religious and conscientious objection exemptions from getting the standard vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella had risen from 1.05 to 1.54 per cent of students.

With just over two million kids in the combined public and Catholic education systems in Ontario, 1.5 per cent of students would translate into more than 30,000 unvaccinated children. The 50-per-cent increase equals to about 10,000 more unvaccinated kids.
I wonder if children with compromised immunity who cannot get the vaccine will be totally cool catching measles from unvaccinated kids? I mean, if they believe Jesus doesn't want them to get vaccinated then it's just as good an excuse, right?

Nope, I can't say it is.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Beaverton: Wynne's New Sex Curriculum Contains Too Much Orgy & Satanism Homework


So the current premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, who happens to be lesbian (just like millions of other people), decided that the province's sex education curriculum needed an overhaul. If memory serves, it hadn't had any changes since 1998 - over 15 years ago. Do you remember what people were saying about gay people and transgender folks back then? I do. An overhaul was necessary.

Anyway, some parents are going nuts over the new curriculum. You can read all about this over at Canadian Atheist, they've been doing a great job of covering it. Unsurprisingly, it seems to be mostly conservative religious sorts who have problems with an updated program which acknowledges same-sex marriages and texting.

I have little more to add to these other than to point out this clever little post over at The Beaverton - a satirical Canadian news blog: Ontario middle schooler can't believe he has so much orgy and Satanism homework.
The homework, as mandated by Premier Kathleen Wynne, promises to teach children about gender identity, the dangers of sexting, and avoiding abusive relationships. However, its main focus is on how to properly worship the Prince of Darkness and the best ways to host and participate in an orgy.

“How the heck am I supposed to know how many points a pentagram has?” complained Donaldson, looking over his demonic summoning assignment. “Wait… ‘penta’? Five! Just like how there are five hands in a penta-fisting!”
With the way you hear websites like LifeSiteNews scream about the program, you'd think the Beaverton article is true. It isn't though. The program as described by LifeSiteNews sounds just fine and I would have no problem sending my own kid through it.

Go check out the short article. It's worth it for a chuckle.

(Image source)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Richmond Hill Teacher Gets Fired For 'Racist' Tweets

Michael Marshall
I honestly haven't been following the story of the secondary school teacher, Michael Marshall. He taught at in Richmond Green Secondary School in Richmond Hill and was fired after a 10 week investigation into an alternate Twitter account he kept outside of his work hours which apparently contained racist remarks.

The account @firstatheist - which apparently dealt with atheism and the problems with religion - has been deactivated. Still, The Star gives us some examples of some racist remarks.
“I get sad when girls I teach decide to wear the hijab. I feel like a failure,”

“Hijabs make me sad.”


“Just have a trailer full of guns roll down the street and arm the ghetto. Oh wait that’s black ppl.”

“Kinda have this perverse urge to wear a hijab for a day and twerk in the street.”

“There is an absolute s***-ton of Muslims at Ikea tonight. Any special occasion?”

“I’m sorry but sharia law is incompatible with my democratic secular nation. You can have it, but keep it over there in backward land.”

“Decided that I am way too racist to be a teacher #theycantbreathe”
I can see where the trailer full of guns tweet is disgusting. Unless there is a very good explanation for it, that appears racist to me, plain and simple. Likewise, the #theycantbreathe tweet seems objectionable - if only I could understand his point.

The Muslims at Ikea tweet also seems to be belittling of a group of people rather than a religion itself. It does seem like a ridiculous question.

It's the lumping in of the other tweets that concerns me a little. These are apparently also racist.

How is him feeling sad when girls wear hijabs racist? How is his dislike of hijabs racist? It could very well be anti-Islamic. I too have problems with Islam.

He also mentions wanting to twerk in the street wearing a hijab. Again, I do not see why this is anything but perhaps a little goofy. Would suggesting dressing up as a Catholic nun and twerking in the street get a similar response? 

Finally, he's right about sharia law being fundamentally incompatible with a democratic secular nation. I'll also happily chime in that countries with Sharia law are backward lands. How is this controversial?

It turns out that Marshall's star slam poetry society member is a Muslim who wears a hijab and I see nothing but praise for her along with the other students on his official twitter account, @marshallisboss.

Of course, I do not have the full story and that single tweet about the trailer of guns is pretty vile. The others I pointed out are bad too and these likely go against some code of conduct - as he is representing a school. However, those other tweets - can someone fill me in? I promise you, I'm not playing dumb - I am apparently this dumb.

(Image source)

Monday, 7 September 2015

Judge in VIA Rail Terrorism Trial: Psychiatrists 'Too Secular' to Diagnose Religious Man

Chiheb Esseghaier (source)
There's been a disturbing turn of events with the ongoing Chiheb Esseghaier case. Remember, he's one of two convicted terrorists who plotted to blow up a New York bound passenger train and assassinate public figures.

He's repeatedly refused any representation in court in his defence because he will not settle to be judged by secular law - just Quranic law. Now news has come out that he's convinced he'll die and be brought off to Heaven on December 25th, 2014... and that he believes this date hasn't happened yet.
“You are lying,” he told Klassen. “Which delusion, which schizophrenia and which mental illness? We are before December 2014, because I am alive. If you say it’s a delusion then the Qur’an is a delusion.”

Esseghaier has said in court before that he believes he will die and his soul will be taken up to heaven on Dec. 25, 2014. Because that has not yet happened, he said he doesn’t believe it is currently September 2015.
In fact, two psychiatrists believe he is schizophrenic. He's also spit at his defence lawyer to the point of being kicked out of the courtroom.

So he should be treated for this, right? I mean this is the humane thing to do. The disturbing thing here is that the judge wasn't satisfied with the first psych assessment and ordered the second only to disagree with the spirit of that one too.

The judge Michael Code seems convinced that the psychiatrists don't get it because they're too secular, or something, to recognize the influence of religion on people -- or something. Esseghaier's representation, Russell Silverstein, was rather shocked when the judge refused to get his client proper treatment for his psychosis.
Silverstein asked Code to have Esseghaier hospitalized, where he would likely be forcibly treated with anti-psychotic medication, before sentencing. The goal, in Silverstein’s view, was to puzzle out the core unanswered question in the case.

Esseghaier’s descent into mental illness appeared to coincide with his increased religiosity and eventual radicalism. If the mental illness caused the radicalism, then it could be argued he was not responsible, or at the very least less responsible, for what he did.

But when Silverstein rose to make that argument, Code interrupted him at every turn. He disputed the idea Esseghaier was necessarily mentally ill, or at least as mentally ill as the two doctors made him out to be. He expressed concern with the fact two “secular” psychiatrists had come to such conclusions about an obviously religious man. And he repeatedly scoffed at Silverstein’s interpretation of the evidence.

The lawyer appeared by turns frustrated and baffled by Code. He wasn’t asking the judge to let Esseghaier off. He said he didn’t know what role the man’s illness played in his crimes, but treating him was one way to potentially find out.
Listen, it's a grey line between extreme religiosity and psychosis - the two go hand in hand and are often rather indistinguishable. One could argue that religion might be some form of delusion. However, symptoms of psychosis should be treated - whether they be laced with some mythology or not. The judge's own bias seems to muddy an already screwed up case even more.

Religion can drive people to do insane things. It can definitely be used as a framework to legitimize all sorts of actions - and in the mind of someone already suffering from mental illness, it can be extremely dangerous. However, it is not up to a judge to overrule the diagnoses of trained mental professionals.

The judgement has been delayed until the 22nd of September. I hope this man gets treated for whatever psychosis he has developed - religious or not.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Carolyn Hyppolite's Speech From Non-Conference 2015


Last week, My Secret Atheist Podcast featured a discussion with author, speaker and atheist activist, Carolyn Hyppolite. We spoke about the topics covered in hew recent talk at the second annual Non Conference which took place in Kitchener recently.



During the podcast we referred to her talk at the Non Conference of which she had provided me with a hard copy in advance. After our interview, I asked if I could publish her speech on my blog and she was nice enough to oblige!



Setting the Captives Free: Why Critiquing Religion in a Compassionate Act

In my mid-twenties, I had a religious conversion and I would spend the next eight years intensively, desperately trying to attain some notion of sanctity. I wanted to be a saint. In the pursuit of sanctity, I gave up much of the goods of life: I committed to pre-marital celibacy, when I was working full-time, I gave hundreds of dollars a month to the Church or to religious-based charities, I spent hours a day in prayer or in mass, more hours a week in Sunday service or volunteering in religious-based organizations, such as an anti-abortion group, which used guilt and deception to compel women to not have abortion. Most tragically, I spent years learning dead languages and studying a non-subject so that I can better understand something that simply isn’t so.

On the Sunday morning that I realized I would never return to Church, I woke up feeling robbed, robbed of time, effort, money. Most distressingly for me was acknowledging how my mind had received and assented to notions that are obviously mad. I felt like a fool.

And it would soon occur to me that while I had been a vocal and passionate fool for Christ, I had very rarely met an equally passionate and vocal non-believer who challenged me on the demonstrably false and irrational notions which formed my worldview. Despite all the complaints about radical, fundamentalist atheists, during my eight years as a Christian, there was only atheist who actually ridiculed me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was a Christian and as a Christian, I had a healthy dose of martyr complex. I felt victimized all the time. There was the one time, I tried to use the public parks to arrange proselytizing events for my church and when I discovered that I could not, I felt victimized. There was another time when I was yelled at for trying to trick a woman into not having an abortion and I felt oppressed. Oh, there were those times that Christian Biblical scholars tried to teach me about the many textual and historical errors in the Bible and then I was sure that I was under demonic attack.

However, despite my oversized capacity for self-pity, enhanced by belonging a community eager to discover evidence that the devil is mad at you and sending his godless minions after you, the fact is that my unhealthy worldview remained unchallenged. No one ever asked me “How do you know that?” “What evidence can you offer to support that claim?” Or “How would your consciousness persist beyond the death of your body?”

Most non-believers who encountered my religiosity, probably because I was trying to convert them, simply smiled or said, “Well, if it brings you peace, that’s great.” These responses were politely condescending; they failed to take seriously that I was a person who was capable of wresting with difficult truths. I spent years living in a deceptive system that when put into practice—and practice I did—is actually quite psychologically abusive without facing real challenges.

Perhaps, I am speaking to the choir. You are here presumably because you understand that religion is quite harmful. However, often when we think about the harm that religion does, we focus on the external victims of religion. We focus on the homosexuals who are discriminated against, the atheist blogger who is murdered, the school children who are deprived of a fact-based science education.

However, I would like to posit today that the first victim is the believer, and that it is an act of respect and compassion to challenge that person with a dose of the truth and reason.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is reported to have said of himself:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18)
And I would like to posit to you today that Christianity has not brought good news to the poor but instead made them vulnerable to exploitative institutions that extract the little that they have, it has not set prisoners free but as created societies where repression and prisons abound, it has not given sight to the blind but has caused some believers to linger in illness and condemned millions to intellectual blindness, it has not set the oppressed free but rather led to the needless psychological oppression caused by cultures of guilt and shame in which people are compelled to hate their own flesh.

First, let’s start with Money and Christianity. It should be obvious to all of us that the many billions of dollars invested globally to the building and maintaining religious structures is a problematic use of our finite resources. However, what is most pernicious about this misallocation of material resource is that it disproportionally burdens the poor.

The correlation between poverty and religious adherence is astoundingly high. According to a 2010 Gallop pole, in nations where the per capita income was $2,000 a year or less, 95% of those questioned said that religion is an important part of their daily life. That number drops significantly to 47% where per capita income is at or above $25,000. Thus, we find that where desperation is the greatest—in places such as Bangladesh, Niger, Malawi, Indonesia—99% of the citizens say that they are religious. Conversely, in countries where most people enjoy a high standard of living—such as Sweden, Denmark, and Japan—less than a quarter say they are religious.

The relationship between religion and poverty is too complex to discuss here and I am not suggesting that religion causes poverty per se. However, we have good reason to think that religion exploits the poor (it exploits their hope and desperation). A recent study by the Leadership Network in the United States found that regions of the countries with the lowest income had the best paid preachers.(1)

In the United States, where GDP is high but income inequality is also high, the parasitic relationship between the Church and the poor is quite obvious as one drives through urban ghettos and post-industrial towns. In many of the most economically challenged areas with high-concentrations African-Americans, the only economic institutions still standing in a neighborhood might be a liquor store and a church. In such settings, prosperity preachers abound and they preach an exploitative message, “God will bless you financially after you give to the Church.” That there are hundreds of millions of poor people all over the world being exploited this way is a very good reason to challenge the Church’s claim to be serving the poor.

In addition to exploiting poverty, religion should be challenged because it is negatively correlated with pro-social behavior. Far from setting the prisoners free, religion is positively correlated with incarceration.

As non-believers, we have all had the experience of people challenging our morality. Poll after poll show that many people believe that atheists are immoral devil worships. To whatever extent incarceration is a measure of one’s morality, it is atheists who have the higher moral ground. I am sorry I don’t have Canadian numbers on this but again in the United States, atheists are terribly under-represented in prisons, making up less than 1% of that population. Again, this is not to say that being religious causes one to commit crime, but it might be that by encouraging a society where people are more educated, we both increase their economic productivity and decrease the likelihood that they would engage in antisocial behavior. You might also be aware that non-belief is positively correlated with education and that is positively correlated with pro-social behavior.

We can also conclude that Jesus does not set the captives free by noting the fact that the more religious a society is, the more likely it is to criminalize human behavior. The most religious societies are more likely to penalize the use of recreational drugs, homosexual activity, and in some cases religious dissent. Our highly religious neighbors to the South boasts the highest incarceration rate in the world with 4.4% of the world’s population but 22% of the world’s prison population —Over two million men and women, mostly black, mostly religious, and mostly imprisoned for nonviolent drug possession.

This is not a coincidence. Religion seems to make people more conservative, more likely to want to be “tough on crime.” Far from increasing one sense of compassion, religion increases one’s punitive instincts. A few months back, I was talking to my religious sister about the fact that religious people are more likely to support the death penalty, and she rightly pointed out that religious people do believe in punishment.

This preference for punishment over compassion is not only extended to others but first and foremost towards the self. Religious people are caught in a web of guilt and shame. Having been raised in restrictive environments, their repressed natural urges often lead to a cycle of acting out and shame.

For example, Christians are as likely to engage in pre-marital sex as non-Christians but then find themselves constantly living in a cycle of guilt, repentance and backsliding. The cult of shame around sexuality means that often couples do not acquire contraception because buying a condom or getting on the pill would mean that one is “planning” to sin. And since it is better to fall into sin than to plan it, women trapped within these religious cults often experience unplanned pregnancies, sometimes choosing abortion and thus exacerbating the cycle guilt and Human sexuality is perhaps the area where churches do the most damage. When I first became a Christian, I freely admitted to my father of confession (that is the priest who regular hears my confession) that I found celibacy very hard and that I often sinned by falling into inappropriate sexual outlets, in other words masturbation. The priest assured me that this was normal but that in time through prayer, fasting, and regular confession that I would overcome.

So, I did as I was instructed. I prayed. I fasted. I went to confession once or twice a month. Yet, I still found myself falling into sexual temptation and running to the confessional. Seven years later, I explained my problem to a different priest and he assured me that in time through prayer, fasting and regular confession, I would overcome.
As I listened to him, I remembered my previous confession. “But I had prayed. I had fasted. I shared my most personal and embarrassing failings to a man in a dress regularly. And yet, I did not overcome. Where was God’s grace? At the time, I was already having doubts in other areas and this was just one more indicator that there was something very flawed in my world view.

Often when we talk about the problems that religion poses, we focus on the most egregious abuses, especially religious violence. However, the most tragic aspect of the God delusion is all the little ways that it can rob of you of your very limited moment in consciousness, all the ways that it steals your time and effort by trapping in moral and intellectual dead-ends. This is the real and often unchallenged cost of religion. All that time wasted smashing one’s face against the brute facts of reality over and over again. All those hours of a short life!

All that time prostrating, reciting prayers, waving incense in hopes that an invisible, silent being might change the laws of nature or probably in your favor. And this. The way religion robs us of time deserves to be challenged.

When you encounter a Christian, keep in mind that it is very likely that you are talking to someone who has often been disappointed by a being who does not exist. This is most especially the case for the most committed believer. The more confidently someone speaks about his or her faith, the more likely it is that he or she has had numerous occasions to be disappointed and wounded by it. But having invested so much of herself into it, it’s hard to admit that the struggle is futile, that the constant stream of unanswered prayers is a sign of a silent heaven. The believer is more inclined to doubt the strength of her own faith or the righteousness of his own life instead of acknowledging that he has simply been wrong about God. And this. The way religion robs the believer of emotional health by compelling otherwise rational humans to talk to an empty room deserves to be challenged.

At the heart of the Christian faith is both a false and psychological damaging idea. It is the idea that we, you and I are so broken, that God had to take on human form to be tortured. No matter how ethical the believer is, he is compelled to believe that if he were the only person on Earth, Jesus would have loved him enough to die for him, but the implication of that is that he would have needed to be died for. And this. The way religion saddles so many well-intentioned people with guilt and shame, forcing them into lives of hypocrisy needs to be challenged.

For thousands of years, religion has slowed us down in our pursuit of knowledge, has fed our basest temptations by compelling us to use violence against sinners or virgins, has saddled us with guilt by vilifying the healthiest aspects of our humanity, and has created opportunities for charlatans to make false promises, especially to the most ill-educated and ill-fortunate. This deserves to be challenged.

There are billions of people trapped in prisons of ignorance, delusion, and needless guilt.

Many of them are great people. They are bright. They are kind. They generous. They are thoughtful. But they are wrong. They are wrong in ways that harm themselves and others. Let us actually set the captives free by calling them on their bullshit.

Notes

(Image source)

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ontario Woodworking Company Closes Company After Staff Join Union, Because: BIBLE!

Leon's the expressive one on the left.
Hey, did you know Jesus was a carpenter? Yes, he was! Jesus was many things, but the one thing he never did was join an evil trade union! That would have been against the Bible.

In very very rural Ontario, there is this tiny place called Devlin. Living there is an apparently soft spoken man, Leon Gingrich, who ran a small woodworking company, Gingrich Woodcraft, which made custom drawers and things for people.

One day, his 25 employees decided to form a union - decidedly unbiblical behaviour! Poor Leon had no recourse other than shut the entire factory. It wasn't because he was threatened as a capitalist by his labour force organizing itself. Oh no! Not at all! It's just because it goes against his deeply held religious beliefs, and who can argue with that?
Gingrich Woodcraft said in a statement that, as Christian business owners, their personal beliefs do not allow them freedom to work with a labour union.

The company stated, "We are required by scripture to 'live peaceably with all men,' and not to use force to gain what we want or for what is required to succeed."

Earlier this month, 25 workers at the plant voted 69 per cent in favour of joining Unifor, the largest private-sector union in the country.

Less than a week later, workers were told the plant would be shut down.
You see? His hands are really tied. He's not using force, he's just firing 25 people because they formed a union, that's all. Right, I don't really get it, but RELIGION! There, that's a good reason.

Understandably, the union is a bit upset about this. Especially since Leon was apparently very cooperative with them right up to the vote - which is... well... sort of a bit psychotic, but that's just my personal opinion on this.
"All I can tell you is this: This is against the law," said Unifor national representative Stephen Boon. "You cannot threaten or intimidate workers and take action directly aimed at unionization, and that's what this employer has done."
In addition:
Boon pointed out Gingrich participated in the union voting process at every step along the way. He accused the owner of intimidating workers under the guise of religious beliefs because Gingrich didn't get the union vote result that he wanted.
So it looks like legal action may be taken. They've lodged a complain with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell is offering support for the families of the 25 employees - the community will take a substantial financial hit for this.

Stephen Boon, national representative for the union points out that the company's actions are not what many would consider meek or mild.
"You've thrown 25 employees out of work and left their families in a precarious situation in terms of earnings and making mortgage payments. You've contravened the constitution, the Labour Relations Act, you've left suppliers in a precarious situation because orders are in transit, orders are half-complete. If this isn't aggresiveness, I don't know what is.

"To take the position that you want a peaceful relationship between men, the employer's actions are far from that."
Yeah but... isn't this just his religious freedom?

Okay, so while you try to figure out Leon's reasoning, why not watch this nifty interview with him? I think you'll thank me for it. Leon's gaze is mesmerizing.


*Some additional information was added shortly after first publishing.

(Image source)

Friday, 10 July 2015

Why Did Child Welfare Agencies Pussy-Foot Around With The Lev Tahor Case?


The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, Lev Tahor, fled Quebec back in 2013 because the province was trying to get them to allow their children a balanced education where they learned more than Yiddish and the Talmud. They went to Ontario for awhile, but then eventually fled mostly to Guatemala.

They were about to have their children taken away for not only violating their rights to a useful education but also real physical and mental abuse. We're talking about pee filled beds, forced taking of prescription drugs, forced under age marriages and extreme corporal abuse.

Well, a report was just released, concluding that child welfare agencies did a lousy job of protecting the well-being of the children.

The Montreal Gazette writes:
Camil Picard, the vice-president of youth issues for the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, said the delays in this case were “incomprehensible,” considering the fact it took 17 months for youth protection officials to move to seize the children after the problem was first identified.

It also took school board officials 15 months to take action to get proper schooling for the children in the community. The children were receiving a strictly religious education, and spoke neither English nor French. Picard said children have the right to receive a proper education, and if they don’t get that, youth officials must intervene.

“In this situation, it’s clear that the (parties) systematically failed in their role to protect the children, including health services, the education department and youth protection,” Picard said.
You can read about the extreme foot dragging over at CTVLaPresse and Radio Canada. It's awful.

Here's something I find a little nauseating though. It has to do with how certain, mostly English (Rest of Canada) news agencies report about religion, in particular. I'm sorry to report that I've seen it time and time again - a sort of freakish deference to religion exhibited by the anglo media.

The French stories I read all contain a reference by the commission's president, Jacques Frémont alluding to why the agencies may have been really soft on this cult. So soft and cautious, so as not to offend religious sensibilities that the very lives of the children were put into peril.

CTV is the only story I found in English to carry Fremont's comments on religion:
Jacques Frémont, the commission’s president, said Thursday it appears “other considerations,” not the best interests of the children who were the subject of the hearings, played a role in the way the youth protection, school officials, social services and even the police handled the interventions with the community.
What were these other considerations?
Some of the issues the report highlighted include that youth protection and school officials spoke to community leaders instead of the parents, and school officials gave community leaders 15-months to comply to the law requiring children attend school. Lev Tahor children were homeschooled.

“Freedom of religion cannot – in any circumstances – be used as a pretext for abuse and neglect. It is therefore essential that, from now on, all organizations intervening in this type of environment better understand public interests involved and favour, in all cases, the protection of children's rights," he said.
This statement was missing from the Gazette and the CBC report, while always present in some form in the French sources I read. I wasn't the only one to notice this:

This article leaves out a key statement from the report:

« La liberté de religion ne peut en aucun cas constituer un prétexte pour la maltraitance ou la négligence. »

In English: "Freedom of religion can never constitute a pretext to abuse or neglect."

Why this omission?
How very curious, indeed! I wonder why the CBC and Gazette both missed this?

Friday, 3 July 2015

Lawrence Krauss & Many More At Non-Conference 2015 In August!

Lawrence Krauss will be one of the speakers. (source)
Last year, I wrote about a brand spanking new conference for the nons - non believers which took place in Toronto. This was The Non Conference 2014.

Well, the conference is back this year!
Are you an atheist or care about ideas, policies and institutions that affect non-believers? Then The Non-Conference is for you!

The Non-Conference is Ontario's largest annual conference that is specifically geared for non-believers, non-theists, the “nones”, atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, materialists, rationalists, secularists, pantheists, skeptics, empiricists, naturalists, friendly theists...well, you get the idea.

The Non-Conference got its start in Toronto in November last year and now we are back with NonCon2015 in Kitchener, August 22nd, 2015.

Join notable speakers from across Canada and the US for a day of discussion and debate on topics relevant to secularism, human rights, and free-thought in Canada.

I've known about this for awhile now, but have done a magnificent job of totally procrastinating and not posting anything about it. So here's a first post on this conference -- just in time for all of you to buy very reasonably priced tickets and get your non-believing butts down to the Kitchener this year - a not Toronto part of Ontario.

Here are my pathetic excuses for not attending. I am addicted to the Internet and blogging and I saw no reference to WiFi, which makes me twitchy. I am also a car-less, nomadic hippie type here in bohemian Montreal. Although the location looks natural and idyllic, I couldn't see it working by train or bus. Alack alas, Toronto was better suited and I supposed I should have attended last year. I wonder if there are many others in my situation?

All done with the excuses! Now let me tell you about the guest speakers!

Lawrence Krauss - This already should sell it.

Faisal Al Mutar - For someone who's been covering the atheist/skeptic struggles in the Middle East, this is fascinating! Watch his INR5 talk.

Ensaf Haidar - If you follow this blog, you'll know who Ensaf is! She's the strong and courageous human rights activist working to free her husband Raif Badawi from Saudi imprisonment.

Armin Navabi - The founder of Atheist Republic. I recently covered the insane reaction of Twitter Muslims to AR's Rainbow Kaba picture.

Sandy Donaldson - I'm ashamed to say I don't know much about Donaldson. He is starting up the Atheist Community of Toronto, though. If you're an atheist and live in Toronto, you'll want to track him down.

Doug Thomas - Doug is by far the most uber black belt level Humanist for miles and miles around. He blogs over at Canadian Secular Humanist.

Eric Thomas - Eric is not only a great guy, he's also prez of Humanist Canada

Carolyn Hyppolite - Author of the compelling Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born-Again Atheist. I've written about her here, here, and here.

Stephanie Guttormson - Member of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Master student group organizer. Awesome cross-country educator on transgender issues and skepticism.

Christine Shellska - Christine is super awesome and the prez of Atheist Alliance International. She's also a regular on the Legion of Reason.

David Rand - If you're into intelligent conversation about secularism, Quebec/Canada politics and atheism, then you're going to want to speak with David. In addition to being a really fun guy to have dinner with, he's also prez of the Libres penseurs athées -- Atheist Freethinkers right here in Montreal!

There you have it! Go take advantage of the (still very cheap) regular cost tickets until August 7th -- then they will become sought after procrastinator tickets.


Although I won't be able to make the conference, I have secured an agreement with a fellow blogger who will be attending to make short guest posts on this blog about the talks. So stay tuned in August for updates!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Ontario Court Upholds Law Society's Denial of Accreditation to Trinity Western Law School

(source)
Good news concerning the status of the proposed Trinity University Law School so far as its accreditation in Ontario.
An Ontario Superior Court has dealt a blow to Trinity Western University, ruling that Ontario’s law society acted within its rights when it denied accreditation to the proposed law school from the Christian-based, B.C. university in an April, 2014, vote.

The decision by directors of the Law Society of Upper Canada infringed TWU’s freedom of religion, but the court considered that it did so to protect individuals’ rights to equal treatment. Since announcing its plans to open a new law school, TWU has been at the centre of a national debate over its Community Covenant, which asks students to agree to abstain from sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage or face possible suspension or expulsion.
You can read the ruling online here.

They're having similar problems in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The school promises that this will be appealed. If this doesn't bring them to the Supreme Court, I bet they'll make it there in the next year.

The school itself released a dramatic statement about knives being plunged into freedom of faith communities (to discriminate against minorities based on sexual orientation or just getting it on outside of heterosexual marriage). Seriously, Christians who are really being persecuted around the world should stop, take notice and feel sorry for this organization here in Canada who aren't allowed to set up a Law School which denies access to people who don't comply exactly with their religious edicts. Poor souls.
“The Court’s finding that there has been a breach of religious freedom rights in this case is critically important,” said TWU spokesperson Dr. Guy Saffold. “The Court’s ultimate decision against TWU is starkly at odds with the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2001 decision directing approval of TWU’s teacher education program. It points a knife at the freedom of faith communities across Canada to hold and practice their beliefs.”

A faith community’s commitment to a traditional view of marriage should not become grounds for denial of religious rights and refusal of full participation in society. TWU asks students to adhere to a Community Covenant that calls for refraining from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”  The court maintained that this requirement is discriminatory, and therefore the TWU Law School proposal could not be approved.
Isn't it neat how nobody is saying they cannot have a school or teach their religion?  Sure they can! It's rather their hellbent intent on discriminating against LGBT people is what's keeping them back. They're complaining about how they are being discriminated against because they are not being allowed to use their firmly held religious beliefs to discriminate?

You'd think they'd welcome LGBT people so they could preach to them the good news.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Peterborough City Council Poised to Permanently Drop Recital of Lord's Prayer

Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass filed a suit against reciting the Lord's Prayer in Peterborough City Hall in 2012.
Photo credit: Sarah Frank at MyKawartha.com (source)
Shortly after the landmark Supreme Court ruling banning prayer in Saguenay city council meetings in mid April, the city of Peterborough put their own council meeting prayers on ice to re-evaluate the question of state sponsored invocation of deities. In fact, they were praying the Lord's Prayer which had been ruled against fifteen years ago by a provincial court.

For at least three years, Veronica Abbass, who blogs at Canadian Atheist, has been trying to get the city to comply with the law and drop the Lord's Prayer. Well, it looks like the city has finally complied.

A proposed change to the city's Municipal Act aims to replace the reciting of the Lord's Prayer with this invocation:
The Council for the City of Peterborough recognizes the principles contained in our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that enshrine rights and freedoms for all. We also acknowledge that our Constitution provides that Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.
That last line is factually correct, but is obviously some piece of red meat or token offering to those who just cannot deal with dropping any God mentions at all. Even with that, it's an improvement over an obvious prayer and Abbass is not concerned.
Ms Abbass says she’s not concerned over the new wording for the opening of municipal meetings, she just wanted to ensure the City didn’t continue to go against a court ruling prohibiting the practice.
Remember, her case was about the Lord's Prayer.

The council endorsed the removal of the prayer on Monday, but it still awaits final approval at an upcoming council session. However, the city has already signed off on her case, which ought to bring the matter to a close.

Congratulations to Veronica!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Canada's Youngest LGBT Activists to Open First Ever Elementary School GSA

Quinn Maloney-Tavares and Polly Hamilton (source)
Remember the two 12 year old Ottawa LGBT activists, Quinn Maloney-Tavares and Polly Hamilton? They were the Catholic school students who were assigned a project about social justice and so naturally chose to do one on LGBT equality. Well, this prompted the principal, Ann Beauchamp, to put a lid on their project.
The students’ projects go on display at a social justice fair in January, attended by students from Grades 4 to 6. Beauchamp didn’t feel gay rights “was a topic that was appropriate for that age group,” Maloney said.

The principal was also concerned that she’d face criticism from “right-wing” Catholic parents if she allowed the project to proceed, Maloney said.
Then a media firestorm happened, and so the school said it was all a really big misunderstanding -- they could totally do the project and everything! Well, they should have just let them do the project, because by then, the girls had gotten in touch with gay rights activist Jeremy Dias and they were talking about starting up the first ever GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) in a Catholic elementary school.
In addition to doing their project, Quinn and Polly are now also hoping to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at St George’s. They got the idea after meeting with Jeremy Dias, who runs Jer’s Vision, an anti-bullying and -homophobia organization, after news about the vetoing of their project broke.
This was back in December and I have wondered on and off how things were progressing -- if at all. Happily, the Huffington Post has done an excellent job telling the entire story up to last week!

So, in December, they put in their request and began to observe how a nearby Catholic high-school runs their GSA. However, months went by and the girls are set to graduate from their current school in June. 
"The teacher that they gave us … just doesn't have enough time. All the recesses that we would be doing the GSA, she's not free," said Polly. "And we don't really get any explanations from anybody. Recently we were told to make a proposal to the principal, we have no idea what that meant. Like, proposal on what? Marriage?"
How mysterious! No, wait, not mysterious at all. This is what the school's been up to for awhile now.
"I think the principal is trying to make it go away until next year," said Quinn, "and we'll be at the other school so…"
Yup. However, these girls are unstoppable! 
"But we have a couple Grade 5s that could start it off next year, too," piped in Polly.

"Our friend, her grandma is lesbian, so it would be a really good thing because she agrees with us and she's totally with it," added Quinn.
I think what this is really making clear to me is that it's the school administration that are the odd ones here! Being gay is now so normal in society that the principal and the school really do look like that old homophobic uncle you might run into at a family reunion.
"My parents and me, we have a lot of gay and lesbian friends," Quinn added. "So I just want to show them that I do actually appreciate [them]."
Huffpo contacted one of the school administrators and asked how it could possible take six months to start a club and if any other clubs have ever taken this long. According to the official, it's actually the girls' busy schedules that have caused delay!

This whole insanity has taken a toll on the girls faith in humanity -- or shall we say, faith in the Catholic school system? 
"We're a practicing Catholic family … until recently," she explains. "I really like the way the Ottawa Catholic School Board did French, and my husband and I have been 100 per cent happy with the academics. But we hadn't anticipated this."

She added both Quinn and Polly refused to be confirmed this year. "I get that. How can you be confirmed in a faith that you've been so disappointed in?"
However, just last week, they submitted another proposal to the principal and it was accepted. The first ever GSA in an elementary school in Canada is finally... probably... hopefully a reality!
"We have a bunch of books that are for, like, the little kids. That's our rainbow library, that's what we call it. And we're going to set up a couple boxes in classrooms so that people who want to see a change in our school, they could just put [ideas for] what we could do better in that box," said Polly of heir plans.

"And we could just talk about equality and stuff."
Six months of struggle for this! Think of what might be possible if you didn't have to literally swim up river against the retrograde teachings of the Catholic Church when it comes to LGBT! I'm happy for them -- they are amazing! -- their school, on the other hand, needs all the help it can get.

Then you have comments like this one...

Terrible job raising these kids especially claiming to be catholi (sic). Homosexuality is clearly a sin in the catholic faith. Sure rebel against how God commanded you to live. The parents should have taught them to respect their faith and not to be like everyone else who lives in the world including non believers. God does call believers in the faith to be different than those who live worldly secular lives. Being gay is NOT ok, it is a sexual sin that is so bad the bible refers to it as an abomination. If you disagree take it up with God! This isn't a public school this is like these school officials bowing down to Satan, utterly disgusting.
Except that this isn't a private school. In Ontario, the Catholic schools are publicly funded. As such, students should have every right to start up GSAs like what these two brave and intelligent girls have done! Kudos to Quinn and Polly! I can tell they're going to go a long long way!

Monday, 11 May 2015

'Get Out of Forced Catholicism' Coupons Handed Out At Peterborough School


Back in January, I posted about ingenious Get Out of Forced Catholicism information leaflets that were being distributed by Secular Ontario. Ottawa's Metro News summed up the effort:
Members of a secular humanist group say they will be handing out “get out of jail” coupons to Catholic high school students advising them they have the right to opt out of religion classes.

An email from Secular Ontario said supporters “will be on public property in front of a selected publicly-funded Catholic secondary school to distribute coupons to students,” when classes finish in the afternoon.
Well just today, Veronica Abbass from Canadian Atheist joined a small group of secularists in front of another high school, this one in Peterborough, to hand out the leaflets.
Ms Abbass stood outside of school property when school let out on Monday (May 11). She was hoping to catch students who were walking home, to hand out a coupon that encouraged their right to get out of what the coupon describes as “forced Catholicism.” Ms Abbass argues no student is legally required to attend religion class, and that schools who force the issue are breaking the law.

But Ms Abbass ended up spending most of her time chatting with the school’s administration and one concerned parent who wanted to make sure she wasn’t forcing student who didn’t want to talk about the issue to stop.
Veronica informed me that two teachers even told her they would pray for her. We all know what that could be code for.

(If you would like to enquire about how to obtain some of these coupons for yourself, send an email to religionfree@secularontario.ca)

So then the school administration made this totally unnecessary fuss. It seems to me, as it did to Abbass, that they would much rather the students not be aware of their right to skip religious classes -- nor their parents, nor the media. Nobody should know about this.

One parent suggested that Secular Ontario forward their complaint to the government -- as if nobody has thought of that before!
A parent, who declined to give his name, says Ms Abbass is taking up her issue with the wrong people.

He says if she has a problem with publicly-funded Catholic schools, she needs to forward her complaints to the government, not hand out coupons at schools.
What's the government going to do? No politician would ever dare lift a finger against the Catholic church's privileged status.

No, the best approach is to hand out these coupons at schools -- all Catholic schools in the province. The courts have ruled in favour of students opting out of religious classes and this would be the best tactic of all. The more parents who take advantage of this, the more likely Catholic schools will begin going truly private and perhaps voluntarily opt out of Ontario's pseudo-public education system.

Well, I can dream.

For more information on how you get an exemption 
for your child from religious instruction visit:

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Niagara Falls City Council: That's Not a 'Prayer', That's A 'Deputation of Peace'

Niagara Falls. (source)
So on April 15th, the Supreme Court decided that politicians ramming Christian prayer down people's throats at City Council meetings in Quebec was not legal. Then many other cities across the country had to react. Some did the right thing and dropped prayers, some dug their heels in to try to fight the court ruling, while others -- like Niagara Falls -- waffled about and said they would investigate their options.

Well, on Tuesday, Niagara Falls City council did something sort of sneaky!
Rather than a prayer or invocation, Niagara Falls city council opened its Tuesday meeting with a “deputation to peace.”

Coun. Victor Pietrangelo read the deputation, which referenced God and Lord.
Oh, you see, this isn't the Lord's Prayer -- which they were praying illegally before! On no! They've caught up with the 1999 ruling against praying the Lord's Prayer now that the Supreme Court has ruled against any prayer by substituting a non-denominational prayer which was written by a Catholic Pope and goes like this:
Prayer for Peace (By Pope Pius XII)

Almighty and eternal God.

May your grace enkindle in all of us a love for the many unfortunate people whom poverty and misery reduce to a condition of life unworthy of human beings.

Arouse in the hearts of those who call you Father a hunger and thirst for social justice and for fraternal charity in deeds and in truth.

Grant, O Lord, peace in our days, peace to souls, peace to families, peace to our country, and peace among nations.

Amen
Oh no! That's not denominational at all! It was just written by a Pope and references God and the Lord, that's all!

In fact, it's not even a prayer, right? It's a deputation of peace!

Who exactly do these tricky folks think they are fooling?

Well, Niagara Falls resident Clarke Bitter wasn't fooled.
Niagara Falls resident Clarke Bitter, who during October’s municipal election campaign publicly questioned whether it was time to stop council opening prayers, said council couldn’t have made a human-rights complaint “any easier.”

“I spoke to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal this morning. I’m strongly considering (a complaint). I’ve also spoken to the clerk’s office,” said Bitter.

He said council can’t be all-inclusive if it references God or Lord, saying it goes against atheist constituents. He said the Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that atheism is protected as a creed. He said referring to God and Lord in a saying also makes it denominational to certain religions.

“This is about the rule of law. The Supreme Court has ruled and all I’m asking for is that council follow that decision.”
Personally, I think that nothing is going to get done without another Supreme Court ruling banning this nonsense from all city councils along with Parliament. I mean, city halls have already been essentially ignoring the 1999 ruling against the Lord's Prayer. I am a bit of a pessimist sometimes, though -- I wouldn't have ever thought the Supreme Court could have ruled the way they did and had to pinch myself a couple of weeks ago.

I find it remarkable how far city councils are going to defend this tradition. It seems like they are willing to get very creative to get around the law.

Oshawa City Council Drops Lord's Prayer After Initially Vowing to Continue Praying

Oshawa Mayor John Henry (source)
A couple of weeks now after the Supreme Court ruled that prayer is banned in Saguenay City Hall, and after vowing to continue praying, Oshawa Mayor John Henry has decided that the Lord's Prayer will not be recited at Oshawa City Hall.
Following the initial court ruling, Oshawa Mayor John Henry said he didn’t believe it applied to Oshawa because members of council recited the Lord’s prayer prior to the beginning of the meeting. However, Mayor Henry said that he has since gotten a legal opinion on the issue.
Apparently, his reasoning was also influenced by him having never personally received any complaints about the practice. However, since the ruling he's had a couple of complaints.

Of course, the number of complaints should have no bearing on whether or not you follow the law. I would remind everyone of the 1999 Court of Appeal ruling -- which applies to Ontario! -- that determined that reciting the Lord's Prayer is not allowed. Apparently, though, mayors only listen to the Supreme Court in Ontario.
On April 27, council voted 10-1 to end the practice of praying at Oshawa council meetings, rescinding two resolutions from prior councils including a 1999 resolution “That the council of the City of Oshawa re-affirm its recognition of Oshawa’s traditional Communities by continuing to recite the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ at Oshawa council meetings”.
Don't these people write laws? I mean, yes! Good work! Nice to see them doing the right thing!

Municipal law specialist John Mascarin sums it up:
“The court very clearly appeared to say the state must be neutral with respect to its application of freedom of religion, including the right of someone to be a non-believer and not have some sort of Christian or other religion pressed upon them and it has to make its public spaces -- the municipal office, the council chamber -- neutral.” 
Exactly.

John Henry is now concerned that the next target may be the reference to God in the national anthem. Sure, why not?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Mississauga City Council By-Election Candidates Answer Questions About State-Church Separation

Mississauga City Hall. By Mikerussell (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that prayer before city council meetings is not legal - at least when it comes to the city of Saguenay in Quebec. Over the past few days, cities and provinces across our country are trying to decide how this ruling applies to them (read: often, how they can keep praying).

Mississauga citizen Derek Gray, who appeared before his city council to inform them that their reciting of the Lord's Prayer is against the law in Ontario, recently sent the current batch of candidates in the next city by-election a questionnaire. It's about the separation of church and state and the place of prayer in the council chamber. He was nice enough to share the results with me.

Out of 26 candidates, 8 actually responded in some fashion (mostly partial responses). Remember, the questions were sent before the Supreme Court decision came out. Derek added a column for post-ruling responses, but it remains mostly empty of answers. What is there is uninteresting agreement with the ruling.

Now it looks very much like, at long last, the Mississauga city council will stop prayer before meetings. Although this could make the particular Mississauga case moot, I still think that some of the responses to the questions are pretty enlightening. They sort of act like a lens into the minds of would be city level politicians. I really think that questionnaires should be sent to all city councilors and candidates, especially those who want to keep prayer in council. Mind you, they'd probably not respond to it.

Although there were eight questions, I will skip a few of them because the answers were not interesting to me. If you would like to request the results to Derek's questionnaire, you can contact him at secular@mudflye.org.

The first interesting question is Do you support the concept of "separation of church and state"? Most everyone who bothered to do the survey answered with a simple affirmative. A couple were quite passionately in the affirmative.

Some were quite passionate:
Yes. There are many values that are promoted by all religions that can build great people. The people can participate in politics, not the religions. However, people do not exist in a vacuum. I don't think all mention of religion needs to be banned from politics. Religious values can be shared, but should not be a component in political decisions. - Jason Frost

Yes, absolutely. I don't think clerics should be running government unless they have been freely elected to do so. - Michael Madej
One in particular really stood out, though and surprised me. Rabia Khedr's idea that separation of church and state is an American-only thing.
Separation of church and state is an American concept, not Canadian. In fact, our defining document – The Charter of Rights and Freedoms – in its opening statement and preamble says:  Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:  Yes. We are a multicultural and multifaith (including non-faith affiliations) society with a tradition of Aboriginal spirituality and Christianity and significant Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish populations whose needs have to be respected and balanced. - Rabia Khedr
All the more reason to get this nonsense out of the Charter! This is why we must be vigilant to not allow any words of religion seep into our government papers or ritual. As much as many evangelicals would like to deny it (when convenient), it's more than just a tradition or ritual, it really is a flag planted into the ground on behalf of religion -- namely, the Christian one. With Christian markers such as these, people -- even non-Christian politicians -- believe that Canada is a Christian Nation.

I found it a little surprising that Rabia, a member of a minority religion (Islam) who also has a physical disability (blindness), doesn't understand the idea of not setting up situations where one group has a clear and demonstrable privileged position over others.

Rabia also had this interesting response to the follow-up question: Brampton city council acknowledged the 1999 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling when it recently stopped reciting the Lord's Prayer at council meetings. A 2013 Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling also confirms that recitation of any form of prayer for the opening of city council meetings is illegal. If elected, would you commit to respecting these decisions?
Tribunal decisions are necessary to address competing rights. No prayer at all would satisfy the 25% of the population who have no faith.  Some form of silent reflection or rotating prayer would satisfy just about everyone. In a diverse society, competing rights and interests are natural. It is necessary for leaders including elected officials to find balance and resolve in order to foster a greater sense of inclusion for all before legal avenues are pursued. - Rabia Khedr
Why must we have this prayer everywhere? Can we keep it out of just this one place? Shouldn't that make everyone happy? A moment of silent reflection would do.

Incidentally, 3.2% of Canadians are Muslim, which is considerably less than 25%. Of course, if all prayer were banned, this wouldn't matter at all.

Anyway, I've run into this idea that strict secularism is not a Canadian ideal. This is the idea that rather than keeping all religions out, we can somehow have all religions in. We would have a huge fantastic party! We all know how well religions mesh and agree with each other when it comes to policy, don't we? We also all know how well religions foster inclusion and encourage equal time to other, competing, belief systems, don't we?

So, it does make sense that Rabia answered in the affirmative to the next question: Do you support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the protections that it affords to minority cultures and beliefs?
Yes, I fully support our charter protections and human rights laws. Section 27 makes it clear that Canada is indeed a multicultural nation. - Rabia Khedr
Another question: Do you support the recitation of the Christian "Lord's Prayer" at the opening of city council meetings? This got a unanimous no-ish from all respondents -- so we can be fairly sure that the yes team didn't bother with the questionnaire at all.
Although I am very comfortable with public expressions of individual faith, I don’t feel that one should be given preference over others in the public sphere in a diverse society. - Rabia Khedr
Yes and No.  I don't mind religious values being shared as a commencement to council chambers, but I don't think that it should be the exclusive recital.  I think that tradition is important, and Mississauga has a long tradition of great representation in municipal politics.  I think that Christians would be surprised at the insights of similar prayers from different religions and cultures. - Jason Frost
Someone call the Satanists! By far, Steven King's response is the most interesting here:
No, and I'm sure even Jesus would agree. Even though I am comfortable with the Lord's Prayer from my public school youth when it was the norm, and having been baptized a Catholic, it is not a generic prayer. It is indeed a Christian prayer. It was taught by Jesus to his disciples as a personal meditation and not meant to be a public prayer or statement. Before Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer he gave instruction in Mathew 6:5-6

"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites/gentiles; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.…"

 So, in actuality, the public recitation of The Lord's Prayer contravenes Christ's original teaching,  may suggest favouritism, could be offensive to other faiths and beliefs, and in Ontario goes against court order. -- Steven King
Love it!

The last of Derek's questions I found interesting was: If you answered 'no' to the previous question, what do you feel is the best way to open city council meetings?
Hello everyone, may God bless you all. As humans we as councillors can make mistakes but knowingly we will never do it and we'll serve people in full honesty. - Amir Ali
There are a variety of ways to foster a greater sense of inclusion including a moment of silent reflection, a non-denominational supplication, a spiritual artistic expression, rotating prayers of different faiths, etc. We need creativity and courage to break with tradition while keeping the core principle behind it. - Rabia Khedr
I would have to understand the specific context of your question.  If we are trying to apply a ruling on a provincial matter to municipal tradition then I would have to explore it in detail.  My comments above though still stand that often literal law stifles human interaction.  If we are talking about The Lords Prayer, then I don't think this is about law. I think it's a small tradition that is fine, but needs to be "adjusted" not extinguished. - Jason Frost
"I would suggest the playing of ""O Canada."" It seems to be the the new norm in schools. Jehovahs Witnesses might not stand, or leave the room as their take on religion is to make no importance of anything but Jehovah. Atheists might object to the generic mention of God in the English version. Definitely the French version has  Christian overtones in ""portez la Croix"" - although historical research shows the cross has been around a long time before it was picked up as a Christian symbol.

For the most part I think O Canada is the best choice as it demonstrates the reason for meeting: our commitment to community,  city building and hence nation building. I suspect the wording may one day also be challenged in the courts but at the moment it stands as legal.

Alternatively, a moment of silence as only the melody of O Canada  is played might work the best."  - Michael Madej
"O'Canada would be a good start.

If not that then it does not matter to me, I am there to get down to business and get to the job of service before self." - Steven King
Exactly! City councillors have a job to do and they represent all of us. So if elected, this batch should get down to business and put the service before yourselves!

Thanks again to Derek Gray for his stand in front of the council in defence of secularism and for the questionnaire, which you can request by email: secular@mudflye.org.

Correction: I originally posted that these were current council members. In reality these are candidates for an upcoming Mississauga city by-election for Ward 4.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Live Taping: Conrad Black & Christopher DiCarlo Talk About 'Decline of Christianity'


Last week, Canadian Atheist announced that Christopher DiCarlo would be appearing on a television program over at Vision TV co-hosted by Conrad Black! If you're in Toronto, you can be in the studio audience -- all whilst living in your shabbyshallow militant atheist world!

It's on Wednesday, April 15th. You can find space-time coordinates for the taping over at Canadian Atheist or at the program's website.

Dr. DiCarlo has some serious creds and I'm thrilled to see he'll be representing the Centre for Inquiry:
Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is a fellow, advisor, and board member of the Society of Ontario Free Thinkers and the Centre for Inquiry Canada. He has been invited to speak at numerous national and international conferences and written many scholarly papers ranging from bioethics to cognitive evolution. His book entitled How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions was released world-wide by Prometheus Books in July 2011.
I first heard him interviewed on the David Pakman Show and I'd go just to hear him -- but you'll get to hear Conrad Black, defender of tired old proofs for God and spinner of fifty dollar words, talking about The Decline of Christianity! This ought to warm every shallow atheist's heart!
THE DECLINE OF CHRISTIANITY? Hosts Conrad Black and Faith Goldy explore the fate of Christianity in the wake of diminishing congregations and persecution in the Middle East.
Okay, I'm not a supporter of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. That's a legitimate problem -- unlike the fake persecution Christians are getting here in Canada.

So, I've been holding back on the name of the show until now. It's called The Zoomer. Unaware of what a zoomer was I checked out the definition for zoomers over at Urban Dictionary. Here are some of the many usages of the word. I left out some of the more obscene ones.
1 - zoomers (195↑: 36↓)A Slang term for Shrooms/Mushhrooms.

2 - zoomers (92↑: 15↓)word for magic mushrooms. -- last night i got all ripped on zoomers.

4 - zoomers (39↑: 45↓)In parts of southeast Michigan, Person who is tells tall tails and shows off..flashy person. Originally a person who drives around alot. -- Ever since he got his car hes become such a zoomer.

5 - zoomers (29↑: 38↓)A person who sells fake drugs and then takes off before being found out. -- Damn! that zoomer just sold me cat nip!
8 - zoomer (84↑: 96↓)A person who goes to Churchy and shags animals especially dogs up the butt. Zoomers are known to have a lot of money and shag eachother when there isnt a hairy animal in sight.

9 - zoomer (13↑: 27↓)Instance in which one accidentally inhales a small piece of Marijuana whilst smoking a cigarette of said substance.

10 - zoomer (15↑: 30↓)Similar in nature to a flaming hard core nerd, but spacier, and typically cross eyed.

12 - zoomer (6↑: 35↓)Exceedingly long pointed breasts.
Given his last two columns on atheists, I suppose it's plausible that one or more of the above could possibly apply to a program hosted by Conrad Black -- except for the really vile ones, of course -- but I'm more inclined to think that nobody under forty five actually knows what a zoomer is.

Wikipedia informs me it's a person born between 1946 and 1964 -- otherwise known as a baby boomer -- many of which probably took zoomers sometime in their far flung hippy pasts!

At any rate, it should be a very interesting conversation -- or potential showdown -- viewed with or without zoomers.

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