Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 29, 1999
Prayer in Penetanguishine
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Ontario's Court of Appeal has ordered the Town of Penetanguishine to stop opening council meetings with the Lord's Prayer.
According to ChristianWeek, Judge Kathryn Feldman ruled that "Just as children are entitled to attend public school and be free from coercion or pressure to conform to the religious practices of the majority, so everyone is entitled to attend public local council meetings and enjoy the same freedom."
Penetanguishine's century-old tradition was challenged by Henry Freitag, a local Jewish resident, who claimed he felt "intimidated and uncomfortable with the practice." The council has received $8,500 in public donations toward mounting a Supreme Court appeal.
In December 1998, the B.C. Supreme Court determined that the Surrey school board could not ban homosexual-advocacy books from kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms. In her ruling, Justice Mary Saunders stated: "Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion."
Where did this "freedom from religion" notion come from? It's not in the Charter, nor anywhere else in Canadian law. One must surmise that it derives from the American concept of a "wall of separation" between Church and state.
In 1962 a gross misinterpretation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment struck down school prayer on a basis fabricated out of thin air by a liberal-dominated Supreme Court. The famous "wall of separation" phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, or indeed in any other official American document.
The phrase actually comes from an 1802 letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association. Two days after Jefferson wrote the "wall of separation" letter, he attended a Church service in the halls of the House of Representatives, and he continued to attend similar services throughout his presidency.
Radical secularists have no legitimate appeal to any of the U.S. founders. The "wall of separation" Jefferson referred to in his letter to the Baptists had nothing to do with protecting the state from religion, but pertains to protecting the free practice of religion from meddling by the state.
Separationists love to quote the First Amendment's so-called Establishment Clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . ." but often neglect to complete the sentence: ". . . or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
A month before Congress approved the First Amendment, it passed the Northwest Ordinance, article III of which declares: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court observed in a 1985 dissenting opinion that "the wall of separation between Church and state is a metaphor based upon bad history." It "should be frankly and explicitly abandoned," as a "mischievous diversion of judges from the actual intention of the drafters of the Bill of Rights."
As in the U.S., Canada's radical separationists on and off the bench have no grounds for appeal to the historical principles that built this country. Their "freedom from religion" idea is a postmodern ideological construct dreamed up by radical social activists.
In his 1996 book, Three Faces of the Law: A Christian Perspective, law professor Ian Hunter argues that the subversive influence of the Charter of Rights has been invoked by the courts to render Canadian law "secular, anemic, confused, and impotent," making political and social correctness the controlling factor in our courts and law schools.
Let there be no mistake, Hunter warns, "at the end of this road is not tolerance, but tyranny. When we shrug off the burden of judging we shall not find utopia - a tolerant city set upon a hill. We shall find a concentration camp."
"We must not make the mistake of thinking that 'secular' means 'neutral,'" observes Christian Heritage Party leader Ron Gray. "Secularism is a religious world view - the most bigoted faith on earth. Its goal is to extirpate every other faith."
To affirm atheism or agnosticism is to take a religious position. Secular humanism is a religious stance, as explicitly acknowledged by advocates of the Humanist Religion.
Listening to the rhetoric of activist judges and Canada's secularist chattering classes, one might infer that vast numbers of Canadians are offended by practices like the Lord's Prayer being said in schools and council meetings.
However, in the comprehensive survey of religion in Canada conducted for MacLean's magazine by the Angus Reid organization in 1993, 78 per cent of respondents described themselves as "Christian" in their own understanding.
By contrast, all non-Christian religions combined - including Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, New Age, Sikh, Spiritualist, Soika Gakki, native spirituality, Theosophical, pagan, Baha'i, Humanist agnostic, Wiccan, Lemurian, and New Thought - comprised a whopping three per cent of Canada's population.
Seems like the tail is wagging the dog, and a mighty short tail at that.
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