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September 2, 2013

The Quebec government, should it proceed with enshrining the secular character of the province into law with its Charter of Quebec Values, will be undermining the very nature of the society it wants to protect. Justice, peace, human rights and the rule of law all have their foundation in humanity's faithfulness to God and his divine will.

To deliberately exclude the visible expression of religious commitment in the public sector will be another step in Quebec's long march to a completely secularized society in which any mention of humanity's intrinsic dependence on God is eradicated. Quebec society will soon be left with a one-dimensional understanding of the human person as a material being lacking any orientation to the Source of all value.

This is no way to build a good society. It is, in fact, the path that leads to the destruction of human rights and the enshrinement of the state as a replacement for God. When the state seeks to eliminate God, then the exercise of rights and law become contingent upon the whims of the state. The state becomes a law unto itself with the protection of its own power the only imperative.

For this reason, the right to religious freedom is the most basic of all rights. If rights are not based in the acceptance of a divine power transcending all secular authority then there are no rights at all.

One may argue - as the Quebec government is likely to do - that one may hold one's religious convictions in their heart as long as those convictions are not displayed in public.

However, that argument ignores the fact that religious convictions by their very nature form every aspect of the believer's life, including how one presents oneself in public. Belief in God is not a sideline, something to be shoved into a private corner of one's life.

In a secular society, any religious believer with gumption will be a non-conformist. A Catholic, for example, will make the sign of the cross in public, perhaps wear some item that indicates their faith, pray in times of need and always be ready to give glory to God. His or her decisions will be determined, not necessarily by what the government wants, but rather by how he or she has discerned the will of God.

The Second Vatican Council declared, "Government ought to take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favour." Such words are not the Church defending its own turf, but rather a defence of the dignity of the person.

When that dignity is violated - as the Quebec government proposes to do - then the good order of society is undermined. The irony, however, is that the human desire for God can never be extinguished. Try to repress it and it will rise up stronger than ever.