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March 11, 2012

Question: What role should government play in regards to religion?

 Canada’s motto, “A Mari usque ad Mare,” Latin for “From sea to sea,” is taken from Psalm 72:8, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth”. The founders of our country were God-conscious individuals, whether they were Canada’s political leaders or the vast multitudes that settled this favoured land. The preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) refers to “God,” and Queen Elizabeth II, our official monarch, still carries the ancient title of “Defender of the Faith.”

While we can safely assume that Canada’s founders, and the subsequent generations leading into the post Second World War years, were religiously disposed, we are today facing a different situation. While the numbers are disputed, an Ipsos Reid poll released on Sept. 12, 2011, reported that only 57 per cent of Canadians say they believe in God. This number may be contrasted with the 2001 census that reported that 77 per cent of Canadians claimed adherence to Christianity (adherence does not necessarily mean practice). While the secular effect is the current trend, interest in religion and spirituality nonetheless persists, and it is likely to increase as the world order continues to disintegrate rapidly. Stay tuned for a spiritual revival.

Canada has no state religion. Over the past, say, 50 years, waves of immigration from non-Christian countries have altered the face of our religious landscape. Pluralism (respect for religious differences and freedom of religion) has become part of the political and religious culture of Canada and a virtual norm.

In light of this situation, t The Canadian government must continue to preserve its theistic tradition against a gnawing, materialistic secularism, and defend freedom of conscience and worship — in any land — including the right to change one’s religion. For these values should not be viewed as Canadian values only, but universal ones.

The government should, while honouring and maintaining its Judeo-Christians origins, ensure that a religiously pluralistic society has a large place in Canadian society.

This respect for religious diversity, with its underlying common belief in God, and moral and spiritual values, will serve as antidote to religious bigotry and fanaticism, which are a blight on any society.
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen March 11, 2012
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