Must Feminists Identify as Secular Citizens? Lessons from Ontario

GENDER EQUALITY: DIMENSIONS OF WOMEN'S EQUAL CITIZENSHIP, Linda C. McClain, Joanna L. Grossman, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2009

APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper

Queen's University Legal Research Paper No. 2015-038

43 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2008 Last revised: 29 Apr 2015

Beverley Baines

Queen's University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

Must feminists identify as secular citizens? Jurgen Habermas would undoubtedly respond affirmatively. Habermas conceptualizes liberal states as post-secular, peopled by citizens who are either religious or secular. When his theory of the post-secular state is applied to the Canadian controversy about religious arbitration of family matters, it provides a framework for identifying feminists as secular citizens. Although this controversy was resolved in favour of feminist secular citizens, it is not over. Religious citizens now threaten to bring a constitutional challenge. The contest would involve a confrontation between two rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: religious freedom and sex equality. However, this contest might be complicated by the emergence of a new group of feminists claiming to value both religious freedom and sex equality. Since they refuse to choose between these values, their claim resembles those of intersectional feminists who refuse to choose between their race and/or sexuality and their feminism. Just as the Charter is unlikely to recognize and protect intersectional claims, so too is Habermas unable to conceptualize the post-secularism of citizens who identify as both religious and feminist. Thus, we will have to wait for law and theory to catch up to life.

Keywords: feminism, equality, religion, Canada

Suggested Citation

Baines, Beverley, Must Feminists Identify as Secular Citizens? Lessons from Ontario (2009). GENDER EQUALITY: DIMENSIONS OF WOMEN'S EQUAL CITIZENSHIP, Linda C. McClain, Joanna L. Grossman, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2009 ; APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper; Queen's University Legal Research Paper No. 2015-038. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1303563

Beverley Baines (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6 K7L3N6
Canada

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