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  

Iain T. Benson

University of Notre Dame Australia; University of the Free State - Faculty of Law, Department of Public Law

Date Written: 2000

Abstract

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

Benson, Iain T., Notes Towards a (Re)Definition of the 'Secular' (2000). University of British Columbia Law Review, Vol. 33, p. 520, 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1654455

Iain Tyrrell Benson (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame Australia ( email )

29 Shepard Street
Chippendale, Sydney 2008
Australia

University of the Free State - Faculty of Law, Department of Public Law ( email )

Bloemfontein
South Africa

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