On Tuesday, February 22, 2011 Calgary Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz published a stunning piece of bigotry and ignorance deftly entitled Oh, Lord, please help Tremblay win against bigots, which allows Ms. Lakritz to promote bigotry, while accusing anyone with a differing opinion of the same offense.
The Tremblay referred to is Mayor Jean Tremblay of Saguenay, Quebec. Mayor Tremblay has announced he will “thumb his nose at a ruling from the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal which has ordered that a Christian prayer must no longer be recited before council meetings and the council chamber’s crucifix removed.” Instead, Mr. Tremblay is: “going to fight the ruling at the highest court in Quebec.” Ms. Lakritz says she hopes Mr. Tremblay wins his case and then uses the Tribunal ruling as a launch pad for a rant against human rights.
To make their argument, Ms. Lakritz and Mayor Tremblay first lie about the issue because otherwise they would have no argument. The issue is obvious. Prayers and religious symbols have no place in government proceedings or facilities because they violate the principle of a wall of separation between church and state. No one should ever be expected to appear, or make representation, before one’s own government or any agency thereof, without having confidence they will be treated fairly and without prejudice. But Ms. Lakritz never mentions the obvious in her column – not once. Instead, she argues that this is an issue of free expression: “It doesn’t harm anyone when a prayer is recited in public. It doesn’t cause anyone from practicing his or her own religion. It doesn’t cause postraumatic stress syndrome among those of different faith, including atheism, who chance to hear it.” All quite true and none of it to the point. No one has asked the Mayor or anyone else to stop praying in public. They have ordered the Mayor to stop infusing a City Council meeting with religious practices and symbolism.
Having confused the issue, Ms. Lakritz then sets about joining Mr. Tremblay in the typical xenophobic rants of the religious head case. When Tremblay says: “Why is it us Christians that always have to bend? Our values have no importance. You try and stopping a Jew or Muslim from praying where he wants.”, Ms. Lakritz follows up with: “If you don’t believe in God and profess to have no faith, it will not hurt you to hear others professing theirs.”
Christians are having to bend because it’s Christians demanding to have their religious views and practices thrust down the throat of everyone else, just like the Mayor is doing in Saguenay. Removing prayers from council meetings doesn’t prevent the Mayor from praying at home, in a public park, a city street, in church, on the sidewalk or anywhere else. He knows that of course. His demand for a public display of his religious beliefs at council meetings is a blatant appeal to the religious intolerance and bigotry of his constituency, resentful of its declining influence in Quebec society. Selling religious bigotry is good politics.
Ms. Lakrtiz’s claim that it will not hurt you to hear others professing their faith, conducting prayers or having a crucifix on the wall seems true enough, but again misses the point. I would be interested in knowing how Ms. Lakrtiz would feel if the cross on the wall was a burning one. It wouldn’t hurt her so I guess she would be supportive. For the record, I’m against it.
Ms. Lakritz closes her piece noting, The open expression of religion is no threat to society. Perhaps, but once again, free expression isn’t the issue – separation of church and state is. So, once again I close with a statement from Thomas Jefferson:
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
According to Ms. Lakritz, anyone disagreeing with her views on this issue is a bigot. It strikes me the bigots are sitting in the Mayor’s chair in Sagueney and at Ms. Lakrtiz’s desk at the Calgary Herald.