God protect us from radical secularists
By Stephen Fogarty • June 10, 2011
The Gazette editorial “Quebec gives new meaning to the term ‘nanny state’ ” (June 3) makes many valid points contrasting freedom against the alarming trend toward excessive state intervention in almost every aspect of our lives.
This latest example of state intervention involves the imposition by secularists of their ideology by force of law so that the ability of parents to decide on the content of their own children’s daycare programs and activities will be severely curtailed.
For example, words such as “Christmas” and “Passover” will no longer be permitted to be uttered in hearing distance of toddlers’ sensitive ears.
State-enforced secularism is much more than just removal of religion and religious expression – words, songs, modes of dress, or uses of symbols – in the public and publicly funded sphere. Secularism is itself a way of life, a type of social organization. As such, secularism should be open to the same level of scrutiny and analysis as any other ideology, whether conservatism, liberalism or socialism.
However, in Quebec certain matters are off limits, and secularism seems to be first on the list.
This lack of willingness to engage in true, open debate on many fundamental issues is an unfortunate trait of Quebec society.
Witness the rather lacklustre discussions in wake of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation, and the current musings on what is painted by intelligentsia here as the inferior Canadian brand of multiculturalism vs. a kind of morally superior Quebec-made “interculturalism.”
Part of the reason secularism has itself almost become sacred in Quebec is that it has historical roots in both Quebec nationalist federalism and in the sovereignty movement.
The modern Quebec labour movement was born out of struggle to gain influence on society independent from the powerful Duplessis government on the one hand and what was viewed as the shackles of the established Roman Catholic Church on the other.
Thus, beginning in the late 1940s (championed by the likes of Jean Marchand, Gérard Pelletier and to a lesser extent Pierre Trudeau), the anti-clerical spirit was closely entwined with the rise of the unions.
That was followed by the emergence of the Quiet Revolution of the early 1960s, led by the likes of Premier Jean Lesage and his famous slogan “Maîtres chez nous,” and by René Lévesque, both as a remarkable provincial Liberal government minister entrusted with the nationalization of hydroelectric power, and later as the spiritual father of sovereignty and founder of the Parti Québécois.
The ever-present influence of the unions in Quebec society, and their blind support for the PQ and the sovereignty movement, ensure that secularism will never be far from the forefront.
With such a deep pedigree, it is no wonder that secularism (and to a somewhat lesser extent its intellectual twin, atheism) holds such sway in Quebec.
However, like any ideology, secularism may be become prone to extremism.
In the case of Quebec daycares, the extremist rules being imposed almost remind me of the jihadists and other religious fanatics against which these secularists purport to protect Quebec society.
My family and I will be attending one of the opening concerts at the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s new hall this coming September. On the program is the incomparable 9th Symphony of Beethoven.
This work concludes with the famous Ode to Joy choral movement in which Beethoven set to music Schiller’s poem of the same name.
But when we look at Schiller’s original text, we find it includes German-language words conveying the dangerous ideas “Creator” and “God,” not to mention “brotherhood” (surely a sexist concept).
The radical Quebec secularists must find this reprehensible.
How can the largely publicly funded MSO be permitted to perform a work of such religious indoctrination at the publicly funded new concert hall?
Imagine the horrors if children happen to be in attendance.
Secularists will want all parents to help protect Quebec youth from Beethoven.
Even worse, later this year our world-famous orchestra is scheduled to perform Handel’s Messiah, a three-hour choral composition replete with Biblical texts praising “God” and, yes, “Christ.”
Perhaps the secularists will seek an injunction to stop any public funding of the MSO until such time as it bans God from all performances, or, taking inspiration from the old Soviet Union’s rules against public religious expression, demand that the work’s name be changed to Handel’s “Comrade.”
Secularists might want to consider the simplest way to protect Quebec’s secular values from any such possible religious dangers: placing a complete ban on music in the province.
Specially trained police could patrol daycares, schools, parks and shopping malls to enforce the prohibition, with wide powers to arrest and punish transgressors on the spot.
Iran has a very effective morality police brigade that could serve as the perfect model to help achieve these important goals for our modern Quebec society.
This Blog was first published on the Opinion page of the Montreal Gazette newspaper on June 8, 2011. The text is reproduced with permission.