Notes Towards a (Re)Definition of the 'Secular'
University of British Columbia Law Review, Vol. 33, p. 520, 2000
31 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2000
The modern definition of a “secular society” is a society that is exclusive of religion. But that has not always been the case. This paper examines the history of the concept of “secularization”. The word “secular” used to correspond to a jurisdictional separation, a separation that did not preclude cooperation and accommodation between the two organizations. The development of this concept into something that is exclusive of religion has come at a significant cost to religious freedom and liberty. This paper argues that the Canadian courts need to work towards a definition of “secular” society that is inclusive, rather than exclusive, of those holding religious beliefs. Only with such an understanding can Canada truly become the pluralistic, multicultural, and tolerant society that it purports to be. [Note: this paper was cited with approval by the Supreme Court of Canada in its decision in Chamberlain v. Surrey School Board (2002) in which the decision of Justice Gonthier on this point was endorsed by McLachlin C.J.C. making it the judgement of the court on this point.
Keywords: Canadian Constitutional Law, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2(A) Freedom of Conscience and Religion, Meaning of Secular, Secularism, Liberalism, Religious Tolerance and Accommodation, Cooperation of Church and State, Agnosticism and Atheism as Faiths, Role of Natural Faith
JEL Classification: K12, K39, Z12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation