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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Religion & Prayer in Canadian Public Spaces: Exploring Issues of Secularism, Neutrality and Equality

The Canadian Secular Alliance is hosting a talk by Lauren Forbes tomorrow evening in rm 4171 of the Medical Sciences Building at the University of Toronto. (My building, one floor below my office.) Contact me if you want to meet up before the talk.

It's important to note that Ms. Forbes is going to DEFEND things like prayer at city council meetings. Come out and hear the other side of the issue. She is a Master's student at the University of Ottawa.

Read her article: To Pray or Not to Pray, is that the Question?: How the Increasing Desire for State Neutrality Affects Prayer Before Council Meetings in Canada. Here's the abstract ...
Historically, in western liberal democratic states, Christian prayers have often been recited at the opening of various public institutions' meetings. However, the recitation of such prayers is now being questioned on the grounds of being too particular in promoting specific religious denominations; of promoting a particular religion over another; and even of promoting religion in states where no longer everyone subscribes to one. Many such disputes spring from the growing desire for equality and neutrality in increasingly diverse and secular societies. This paper focuses on the recent legal disputes in Canada, concerning the recitation of prayers before the commencement of primarily council meetings. It examines Canadian tenets of neutrality and consequently secularism, questioning what each looks like (or could look like) and whether they require public spaces to be religion-free in order to hold true, or whether they can be inclusive to both religious and worldviews of non-belief in these public spaces (i. e. council meetings in this context). In this paper the relevant legal cases are analyzed and current solutions to the disputes are discussed. Concerns are raised and finally, solutions that may be more neutral and that equally do justice to both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are considered.


  1. Анонимайзер Хамелеон

  2. I read her paper on the GO train this evening and if there is a coherent position in anywhere it is very well hidden indeed.

    Seriously, I wonder if Ms. Forbes meets her self coming around corners, such are her attempts to give equal credence to all positions in the discussion about what position a secular government should take in face of the incursion of religious ideology in the business of the state.

    And nice attempt to conflate the right of citizens to espouse any position in the marketplace of ideas with the state conducting the business of governance on behalf of it's citizens in venues such as council meetings.

  3. Aside from legal questions, I'm just wondering if theists (most of whom favour, value, and insist upon prayer in such circumstances) are flexible enough of mind to admit how preposterous it is for mature human adults (not children, mind you) of often great intelligence, skill, and education to seek favour, guidance and blessings from a powerful and magical but invisible being before each meeting. Is it only the atheist that can perceive how ridiculous this is?

    I guess the question is rhetorical, but still...what an embarrassing spectacle.