Religion and politics
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper rails against the chief electoral officer of Canada for allowing Muslim women wearing face veils to vote in federal elections as long as they show proper identification. It appears the Prime Minister feels the potential for a couple of hundred Muslim women to hoodwink election officers is a greater scandal to democracy than the 80,000 who mail in their votes without showing their faces to any officialdom at all.
In Quebec, a new provincial commission begins its work examining the relationship between minorities - ethnic and religious - and mainstream society. Its very first session features a noisy denunciation of all religions in a province once dominated at the highest levels by the Roman Catholic Church. Quebeckers appear so allergic to any manifestation of religion that some are even criticizing one of the commission's co-chairs - left-leaning Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor - for accepting the Templeton Prize because it has something to do with religion. They've come a long way, baby.
Meanwhile, in Ontario tempers are flaring in a feverish election campaign debate over government funding for religious education. Conservative Leader John Tory's proposal to treat non-Catholic religious parents just like Catholic parents has provoked some people to demand that Catholic schools be shut down too - all for the sake of fairness.
What do these examples say about faith and politics? That never the twain shall meet, that church and state must be forever strangers? Not really, as they will meet whether we like it or not. To force religion down some rabbit hole, where people can light their candles and say their prayers in the dark, would be fatal to the health of pluralistic society. Our task is to find ways to allow religion to play the truly positive role in public life of which it is capable, while creating common ground for all and respecting differences. It may seem an impossible job, but it is the mission of our times.
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