Government

Should Christians be in favor of bill 21?

By Ricardo Fortune

After many months of controversy, Quebec’s Bill 21 on the secularity of the state, has been adopted. What should Christians think about it? Should we rejoice or worry? It is legitimate for Christians to question the decisions taken by our elected officials and evaluate whether they are in line with our worldview. Bill 21 forbids anyone who works for the government to wear any type of religious symbol in the workplace. As we have discussed in a previous article, there are many issues with this bill. But in this article, we will only consider what is problematic for Christians.

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 Religious liberty is the right to live according to one’s deepest convictions and to express them publicly. By the 2nd and 4th centuries, Tertullian and Lactantius had each referenced the idea. Having been persecuted during the three first centuries after the birth of Christ, Christians were the first to appreciate and defend religious liberty. As noted by Barrett Duke, religious liberty is implicitly taught in the pages of scripture. It is presupposed as a societal condition necessary for the propagation of the Gospel. God wants worshippers who freely choose to serve Him (Joshua 24:15). He is Creator of both mankind and the institution of the state, and therefore governments have no right to interfere in the relationship between Him and His creatures. The State receives from God the authority to regulate specific things such as crime and punishment (Romans 13:1), but it is incumbent upon God to regulate spiritual things (Luke 20:25). This last principle, according to which God regulates spiritual things and man secular things, shows us that the Bible teaches a form of separation between the State and religion. Bill 21, however, goes against this foundational pillar of religious freedom in that it legislates against legitimate expressions of religion, where God alone should rule. Hence, because the government of Quebec has limited what Muslims can wear in public, Christians are no longer free to express their faith in whatever way they see fit.

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 For some Christians in Quebec, Bill 21 might seem trivial or even appropriate. Could this be due to the fact that since Christianity does not usually require of its proponents the wearing of religious symbols, some Christians might feel that it does not apply to them? The law might even be seen by some as a way to reduce the growth and influence of some foreign religions in Quebec. Is it legitimate for a Christian to support an unjust school of thought, as long as it does not have any direct impact on his own life? The golden rule of Christianity, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31), emphatically rejects this position. French-Canadians, who are largely Roman Catholic, have forgotten how indebted they are to the idea of religious liberty, without which they would have been forced to convert to protestant Christianity or accept being discriminated against when applying for government positions. The European wars between Protestants and Catholics after the Reformation should have taught everyone within Christendom the importance of religious liberty. If as Christians we have benefited from religious liberty, how could we refuse it to those of other faiths? What is good for the goose is good for the gander, and the Bible teaches that the Lord hates double standards (Proverb 20:10). Living in a society where religious liberty flourishes comes at a cost. It requires that, within reason, we grant the same liberties we enjoy to those with whom we disagree. The principles that allow us to live and express our faith are the same that allow the Muslim woman to wear her veil and the Sikh his turban. Hence, in restricting religious liberty for others, we would likewise restrict ours. God knew His people would be mingled with people of all kinds of beliefs, but He commands us to let the wheat grow with the tares (Mat. 13:24-30). God reserves to Himself the right to separate them at Christ’s return, but for now, He is asking us to all live together. This implies that the greatest benefit Christians can confer upon society is to work so that all people benefit from the same liberties, without regards to any particular beliefs.

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 Some will say that bill 21 does not prevent anyone from practicing their religion, since it only requires that one refrain from wearing religious symbols at work. This objection is based on the false assumption that religion can be strictly private and that a forced repression of public expression of religion is a useful step toward maintaining peace in a divided society. But by definition religious liberty not only guarantees that one should be allowed to adhere to one’s preferred faith, it also implies that, except for a very few necessary limitations, no one should be forced to behave in a way that violates their beliefs and their conscience, whether in public or in private.

It must be kept in mind that if Bill 21 remains in force, Christians will eventually face severe consequences. It is freedom of conscience in the public square that allows a medical doctor to refuse to practice abortion or euthanasia. When coupled with religious liberty, it gives Christians the right to evangelize and to have beliefs that are divergent from the rest of the society on sexuality and other contemporary issues. It also gives them the right to live according their convictions. If it becomes legitimate to violate anyone’s religious liberties in the name of secularism, we can anticipate the loss of such rights. Many already say that in a secular state, religious groups should have no tax privileges. What will happen to the government funds that are usually allocated to Christian private schools if we keep heading in this direction? The Christian who favours Bill 21 is painting himself into a corner. He is rejecting the very principle that can protect him if he is ever discriminated against.

In sum, Bill 21 contravenes the religious liberty that was first proclaimed by Christians. Besides, Bill 21 guarantees that its intended aim, social cohesion and a peaceful society, will fail. Only universal religious freedom provides a path to peace. To live peacefully we must let others live peacefully. Desiring religious liberty for ourselves while restricting that of others is as self-refuting as this quote attributed to Antoine de Saint-Just, “No liberty for the enemies of liberty”.

Dear Government of Alberta

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By Justin Wishart

At Faith Beyond Belief we want to model how Christians can winsomely engage the public, including government officials. This is one letter that a concerned Christian parent wrote to a public official about the issue of transgenderism.

I am a proud father of two wonderful daughters. As their father, I take seriously the duty to protect and care for them. To me, their lives and well-being are more important to me than my own. Not only is this true emotionally, but I believe God, the maker of all things, gave me these daughters specifically with the mandate that I should love and protect them. This is as great an expression of my religious convictions as there is. In short, I love and care for them at a much deeper level than you are capable of.

This is the motivation behind my open letter. You have undermined the safety and dignity of my daughters with the adoption of the "Guidelines for Best Practices" document. Before I explain why this is so, I would like to explain why I created this open letter. I sent a letter to the Education Minister, David Eggen (NDP), and my MLA, Prasad Panda (Wildrose). Mr. Eggen replied with what appeared to be a generic form letter. It had the appearance of something sent any parent who may express some concern for these guidelines. The reply did not address even one of my concerns, not one. It seems clear that the Education Minister did not read what I sent and, judging by the response, they have not officially addressed the problems I see. Mr. Panda, as an MLA for the opposition party, offered me encouragement to make my issues known. I agree with Mr. Panda (thank you for actually addressing the concerns I raised) and this is the reason for this letter. When the safety of my children are at stake and my concerns are ignored, I am left with only two options: make this a public matter or remain quiet. My love for my daughters will not allow me to remain quiet.

The Best Practices document states that "strategies should be in place to ensure all areas of the school are safe for all students, all of the time." Yet, it is the document itself that undermines this goal. The primary issue I have is how the schools identify a transgendered person: "Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression." This clearly states that there are no other criteria which override a simple claim. No test, no medical evidence, nothing to confirm a person's claim. I understand why this is, as there is nothing that can possibly verify someone being transgendered. The document uses the term "evidence-based" throughout, but at the most basic level of this discussion, there is no "evidence-based" data for a subjective claim to transgenderism. It follows that anyone can make the claim, for any reason, and the school would simply accept it.

Put aside your political correctness for just a moment and think about that. One could claim transgenderism because the person feels like a girl trapped in a boy's body. Yet, another person could claim the same thing just because they want to look at naked girls. According to the Best Practices document, there is absolutely no way to tell one from the other. My daughters become potential victims, over and over again, and the school isn't allowed to stop it. This will allow a boy with sexual issues into my girl's washroom since students "are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." This potential victimization of my daughters is not some vague theory. At the University of Toronto, they had to revise their inclusive washroom policy because of voyeurism. Two people were seen recording their victims as they used the washroom. How many more people were victimized this way without their knowledge? What would be different here?

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only should these false claimers be allowed into the washrooms, but also in change-rooms. "Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and change-room facilities that are congruent with their gender identity." How easy would it be for a boy to sneak a camera into a change-room because they falsely claim to be transgendered? Not only would you be allowing such a person to lewdly view my daughters, you set up a very real possibility of them being victimized on the Internet. This also applies to sport teams, as it states, "if sports teams are divided by gender, students are given the opportunity to participate on the team that reflects their gender identity and expression." As a former wrestler, I shudder at the thought of girls being forced to wrestle with boys who falsely claim transgenderism. This easily opens girls up to be molested by such people; all with the school's approval. Given these guidelines, how could you stop it? This does not even include the real possibility of an unfair physical disadvantage given to my daughters, and can discourage female participation in sports.

Yet, it even gets worse. This doesn't merely apply to students, but to adults as well. "Family members are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." When pedophiles are given a ready excuse to be somewhere they should not be, this will merely embolden them. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a parent who is a pedophile slipping into the girl's washroom where my daughter is. There he will have uninhibited access to her. If a teacher happens to walk in before anything happened, the pedophile would simply claim transgenderism. The teacher becomes powerless to do anything at this point. Sure, she can wait around until he leaves, but the pedophile could simply attend the next function and try again until he is successful. Even if a "legitimate" transgender physical man walks into the washroom, my daughters could feel vulnerable and more than a bit frightened. This, then, undermines her sense of security. Things like this have happened. Christopher Hambrook, self-identifying as Jessica, was granted access to a woman's shelter where he sexually assaulted at least two women in Ontario. Hambrook had previous convictions including a sexual assault of a five-year-old girl and raping a 27-year-old woman. The proposed guidelines found within this document are similar to the Ontario laws which allowed Hambrook access to the vulnerable women. What's to prevent a "family member" from doing the same thing here?

Then, the Best Guidelines policy further undermines the dignity of my daughters. If they feel threatened or insecure, whether it is due to a real or perceived threat, they are shamed if they bring it up. "A student who objects to sharing a washroom or change-room with a student who is trans or gender-diverse is offered an alternative facility." It is my daughters who get paraded around the school, thus showing everyone how "intolerant" they are. This will marginalize them and open them up to ridicule. Not only does the policy undermine the safety and security of my daughters, they are publicly exposed and shamed if they decide not to be a victim.

I know it must be difficult for a student to feel that their physical sex doesn't match their internal sex. Growing up can be confusing enough without throwing something like this into the mix. I also, on a certain level, understand the government's desire to offer help to such students in this manner. I also find no solid evidence that this would even be helpful to children who claim transgenderism. What if these children experience gender dysphoria? Could these guidelines end up harming children by affirming their dysphoria?

I also demand, yes demand, that my daughters are not sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. To be clear, I do not think that every person, or even most people, who claim to be transgendered are predators. But, to be even more clear, predators will use the ideas expressed in these guidelines to help them catch their prey. It may not happen right away, but we can see that these things are happening in other jurisdictions. Let's have an open-minded and inclusive conversation about this, not the narrow-minded, politically-correct, and totalitarian approach these guidelines propose. The lives and well-being of my daughters depend on it.

Sincerely,

My daughters' father,

Justin Wishart

A Lesson in Power

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By Jojo Ruba

When we were younger, my parents only let us watch one show on school nights, the nightly news. Back then, it was only half an hour long and it aired at the right time—just after dinner and before we had to do our homework. Though I first resented the rule, I quickly began to enjoy knowing about what was happening in the world. I particularly loved the back-and-forth of political news. I enjoyed watching the debates and following the candidates and on rare occasions, I would be allowed to stay up late to watch the election results roll in.

That is probably one of the reasons why I went to our nation's capital to study journalism and politics in university. What I found in Ottawa was a great political community. Everyone was either working for the government or was related to someone who was, and so they deeply cared about how our country runs.

CanadianFederalElection2015PollingStationI also found Christians who were passionate about making government work. Whether they were civil servants or partisans on Parliament Hill, they truly wanted to bring our values as Christians to the marketplace of ideas. They strongly believed Christians had something positive to contribute to the country. There were days where I even imagined running for office and gaining political power.

Yet as I watched the most recent election results roll in, I couldn't help but feel personally rejected, as if Christians like me would never be part of the political world again. This had nothing to do, of course, with which party won the election—Christians have been involved in all the major parties, and we at Faith Beyond Belief take no partisan stance. But it has everything to do with what was said during the election—that Christians who didn't take a pro-choice view on abortion or pro-same-sex marriage stance were not even allowed to run for office on behalf of some parties. And when Canadians chose one of these parties to govern us, they wholeheartedly said they had no problem with this view. For the first time in Canadian history, then, no practising Christian with a Christian worldview will sit on the government benches on Parliament Hill.

When I point this out, I get pushback. Some Christians argue that there are practicing believers in government, like the health minister who apparently attends a Mennonite church.[1] But the point I am making is not that there aren't people who call themselves Christian on the government side of the House. It's that there is no one who holds a Christian worldview on that side of the house. Columnist Rex Murphy said it this way:

As things now are, a truly religious person must actually stay out of politics—must forgo an active role in democratic government—because in our brazen and new age, he or she will be faced with irreconcilable moral choices. If elected, he or she will be required to betray their faith and themselves, and on those very issues that matter most: issues of life, family, autonomy and the dignity of persons.[2]

When a political leader insists that those who run for his party must be willing to put that party's beliefs ahead of their faith's teachings, then its clear their faith is compromised. Abortion particularly is a tricky issue to enforce such a rigid morality. Given that Christians, and frankly many people of many faiths and no faith, believe that abortion takes the life of a human being like us, it is impossible to be "pro-choice" on taking those lives. It would be akin to saying I personally oppose killing gay people but it's okay if others choose to kill gay people. From a Christian perspective, killing innocent people is not something you can just be "pro-choice" about and still be a faithful Christian.

It's ironic that so many Canadians argued that requiring a Muslim to temporarily uncover her face while voting was prejudiced and anti-Muslim, but requiring a Christian to compromise her faith's teaching to value all human life before she could be part of the government, was not.

Of course it isn't just practising Christians who are excluded. Muslims, Hindus and even many atheists take the same life-saving position. I met a Sikh representative at my door of one of the parties who takes the radical pro-abortion stance that abortions even at the ninth month of pregnancy should be legal and publicly funded for any or no reason at all (the current law in Canada). He was trying to get me to put up a lawn sign for them. But as I quizzed him about his faith, it was obvious he didn't agree with his party's extreme stance. I asked him, "How can you support a party that won't let you run for them unless you compromise your faith?" I was expecting an argument but instead, he glumly agreed saying I was right and walked off visibly shaken.

Unfortunately, the lack of Christian representation also gets another response: sheer happiness. Many Canadians are glad to get rid of any religious, particularly Christian, influence from the public sphere. One Canadian I debated in an on-line forum insisted that religious people could only participate in politics if they first swear allegiance to the government. I told him that's exactly what the Communists in China and North Korea insist on doing and the comparison didn't bother him.

In fact, it's an ongoing story in Canada: BC's Trinity Western University has a biblical moral code for its staff and students, and because of that code, is in courts across Canada just to ensure their law students can actually practice law. In Quebec, all schools except for a handful must teach that religious views can't be right or wrong—they are all equal. In Ontario, an African church is banned from using public property in downtown Toronto because city officials think singing "There is no God like Jehovah" is proselytizing.

When I debated a top Canadian atheist at the University of Calgary, she insisted that all religious influence be removed from political life. Christians and other religious people can practice their faith, but that faith should have no influence on public policy.

I responded by saying that religious people, particularly Christians, have positively influenced politics too. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist pastor when he fought for civil rights for African-Americans, and one of the founding fathers of the NDP was a Baptist pastor named Tommy Douglas who fought for nationalized healthcare because of his Christian views of taking care of others. Interestingly enough, she conceded this point but said only values that can benefit everyone should be allowed to influence government.

And that's why the move to exclude faith from the public sphere is so heartbreaking. These arguments come from people who don't realize that Christ did come to earth to benefit everyone. That's not an invitation to force people to become Christians through the government (as I pointed out during another debate with that atheist, Christians don't consider people who are forced to convert to our faith as actual Christians, so we have no incentive to do so), but it is a reminder of what Christians ought to do in a culture that is increasingly hostile to us.

Rather than lamenting about being excluded from political power, I realized that the power Christians have isn't found in Ottawa or in politics. It is found in what Jesus said about who is greatest in His kingdom. In Mark 9, in response to His disciples arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus said, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." Jesus' life showed that real power didn't come through the one who wielded the biggest sword or who made the most brilliant campaign ad. Instead, His message transformed the world because His power was accepting how much others hated Him and His views and then choosing to serve them anyway, even at the cost of His life.

And this is our commitment at Faith Beyond Belief too. Regardless of who is in government and how much they want to exclude us, we will continue to speak from God's word; we will continue to share how much He cares both for the preborn and the poor; we will continue to offer as an alternative to this culture's insistence that any sexual act will do, His plan for real wholeness for the sexually broken and confused; and no matter how many times we are told that we are no longer welcome in the public arena, we will continue to go those public places so we can proclaim that there is no God like Jehovah as we wash our enemies' feet. And in doing so we pray many understand that power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive today in a church that still chooses to be a servant of all.


[1] Dick Benner, "Philpott Named New Health Minister," Canadian Mennonite, November 4, 2015, accessed November 12, 2015, http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/philpott-named-new-health-minister.

[2] Rex Murphy, "In Justin Trudeau's World, Christians Need Not Apply," National Post, June 21, 2014, accessed November 12, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-in-justin-trudeaus-world-christians-need-not-apply.