Living Together with Disagreement: Pluralism, the Secular, and the Fair Treatment of Beliefs in Canada Today
Iain T. Benson
University of the Free State - Faculty of Law, Department of Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law; Miller Thomson LLP, Canada
Ronning Centre Forums II, 2010
The Canadian approach to a pluralistic society has frequently overlooked the important role religion plays in the lives of its citizens. This paper argues that the current Canadian approach to religious pluralism too often attempts to impose a single, unitary construct of nonreligious social norms. Secularism, as a movement, cannot be neutral with respect to religion – the exclusion of religion from the public square threatens to undermine a key component of many citizens’ identities, their freedom of religion. This paper, building upon earlier work of the author, argues for a definition of “secular” that keeps religion and the state jurisdictionally separated, but that does not preclude cooperation and mutual understanding between these two spheres. Canadian society, in common with all properly liberal and open constitutional societies, must grow to accept and tolerate disagreements about differing beliefs. The ultimate goal of this new approach is to create a modus vivendi, a society in which individual and communal differences are accepted and embraced rather than one in which law and politics are viewed as building towards forced “agreement” or “convergence.” Also discussed is the idea of sexual dogma which the author suggests should be treated like religious dogma in which no one view of sexual conduct or sexual orientation should be accorded official public support in a plural society.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: Canadian Constitutional Law, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2(a) Freedom of Conscience and Religion, Religion and the Law, Definition of Secular, Secularism, Chamberlain v. Surrey, B.C. College of Teachers v. Trinity Western, Diversity, Religious Accommodation
JEL Classification: K12, K39, Z12Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 8, 2010
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