Questions about the new Office of Religious Freedom

Let’s put aside for a moment that IMHO, this is an enormous waste of money in an effort by the Harperites to appease religious groups of all stripes, I have a few direct questions.

  1. What about atheists? Will the Office monitors rights violations of non-believers? Atheists live in fear in many Islamic countries. Will they be given the same attention as the persecuted Christians in those parts of the world?

  2. Will this increased scrutiny on religious freedom take away attention from other rights abuses around the world and here in Canada? Will religious freedom trump women’s rights? How about the rights of children and the enlistment of young kids into militias – are these violations OK if the militia is religion-based?
  3. Will the religious right set the agenda of this Office? Judging by the lineup of support by prominent members of these groups, this may indeed be the case.

A key part of the ambassador’s job should be to help formulate immigration policy, argued Don Hutchinson, vice-president and legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

“It’s very important for us as a nation to have an understanding of religion and the communities where we are establishing relationships [in order] to accept refugees and other immigrants,” explained Mr. Hutchinson, who advised the government on the creation of an office of religious freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

4.   Finally, is protection of religious freedom the new cornerstone of Canada’s foreign policy? Not democracy-building? What happened to that?

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Trashy,
Ottawa, Ontario


12 Comments to “Questions about the new Office of Religious Freedom”

  1. Allan says:

    Here again at about the 50 sec mark the Ambassador himself states such…
    http://bit.ly/Zx0tfe

  2. Stig says:

    It will eventually be used against Canadians who dont toe the same political line as the religiously devout.

    Mark my words, it will be used to proselytise, here and abroad and indeed, I have no doubt, it will be tied to foreign aid, and domestic policy, as a way to deny and interfer, particularly with those from the secular world, who do not believe that our government, should be so tempted.

    • trashee says:

      Thanks for visiting and for your comment.
      That, my friend, is a fear that I, to a degree, share.
      I’m not normally a “black helicopter” kinda guy, but I do believe that the CPC, given their roots, does view some (not all, as monetary policy and some others cannot be religiously driven) policy-making through a non-secular lens. I may be proven wrong, but if Harper et al are given another majority in 2015, we’ll know for sure.
      Some will say that policy-making has always been viewed through such lenses, and they are correct – but that doesn’t make it right. Policies should be crafted based on solid data and science-based reasoning – not on personal beliefs.

  3. Allan says:

    First John atheists have a belief. That belief is there is no God or all powerful deity. So technically atheists aren’t non-believers.
    Second I view this attempt as a method of extending, extraterritorialy, Canadian Law and values. The countries this is aimed at, although they have the trappings of modern societies, are barely out of the stone age when it comes to the law and values.
    Thirdly protecting religious freedom has always been a a part of our foreign policy. Even during the Liberal years. Also, when promoting democracy in some countries one cannot separate religion from the equation. It is so ingrained in their societal thinking one has to work with it in order to bring their thinking into the twenty-first century.

    • trashee says:

      Hi Allan!
      From a non-secular point of view, atheists are often considered non-believers since one can not hold a belief in the non-existence of something. This has been a debate among humanists and atheists for a long time.
      I don’t know if we should be in the biz of extending our laws and values. They work for us, but may not apply to other cultures and societies. Why should we presume that our way is the only way? It is pretty jingoistic – but that is consistent with the CC approach to foreign policy.
      Yes, protecting religious freedom has long been an implicit part of our foreign policy; but this Office makes it in-your-face-world explicit. I’m not convinced that we should be setting ourselves up as the world’s cop for religious freedom.

      • Allan says:

        Read a little more on this office. Its going to be within Foreign Affairs with a budget of $5m. You probably know better than I do how far $5m will go. So I’m not looking for anything earth shattering in its first year.
        One can have a belief in the non-existence of something where no proof exists. Without proof all that is left is a belief of non-existence which is the opposing force of the belief in existence. Neither can exist without the other.
        On a more positive note I reviewed a video interview of Minister Kenney and he clearly stated the Office of Religious Freedom would also be encouraging the acceptance of those who have no religious beliefs.

    • No Allan, atheists do not have a belief that there is no god. Nobody “believes” there is no “whatever”. The belief is on the positive side – one believes in a tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the indivisible oneness of the Trinity, etc. One does not “believe” there is no tooth fairy, Santa Clause, Trinity… A person concludes that those things don’t exist based on reasoning. Belief requires faith. Atheists don’t have faith.

      Best of all, the opinion could change! If a god showed up tomorrow, atheists would convert in droves – A god that demonstrably exists is something many atheists could line up behind… right up until the Christians or Muslims destroyed the god for the crime of not being THEIR god.

      But until there’s evidence for gods, atheists draw the conclusion that gods don’t exist. It’s not a belief, it’s a deduction based on available facts. If the available facts change, so will the deduction. People of faith can’t make that shift because doing so violates faith.

      Religious people often try to equate atheism to some kind of faith-based belief (or even a religion) because that’s what religious people understand. When all you have is a hammer, every problem kind of looks like a nail, you might say. Unfortunately, their position is simply, demonstrably wrong.

      • Allan says:

        The obvious counter argument is people believe in the existence of a God based upon their reasoning.
        Now I am neither for or against people believing in the existence or non-existence of a God. I count friends amongst both camps and their beliefs don’t bother me in the least.
        Both camps will present well reasoned arguments for the existence and the non-existence. Regardless it is still a belief. In the absence of concrete proof one way or another to state categorically something does or does not exist requires a firm belief and faith their position is correct.
        Your own posting “atheists draw the conclusion that gods don’t exist” contradicts your argument. Atheists believe God does not exist.

        • Yes, I would agree that some people think they believe in the existence of a God based on reason.

          The problem with that is their “reason” is always something unfounded. It is not possible to reason that the Christian god exists: there is simply no evidence. If you look at a nothing and conclude that it is something, you aren’t reasoning.

          My position is not contradictory either. I conclude, due to a complete lack of evidence in their favour that no gods exist. I don’t *believe* no gods exist, I take the position that no gods exist. My belief, if I can be said to have belief, is that gods don’t have a property that makes them deliberately obscure all evidence of their existence. In fact, I have to *believe* that gods might exist to even conclude that they very probably don’t.

          I’m also prepared to change my mind – that’s the difference between me and someone with faith-based belief. Nothing will shake that faith, but it’s easy to counter my opinion: just show up with your god and I’ll convert on the spot. I’m willing to wager that if Vishnu manifested on Earth tomorrow and said that that the whole Jesus story is complete bunk made up as a joke by Ganesha, atheists would start converting to Hinduism in droves, but Christians would be up in arms about dissing the “one, true God”. That’s the difference between reason and belief.

          Reason is mutable. Faith and belief are not.

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