The Quebec government is making moves to ban public officials from wearing religious symbols at work. This bill is opposed by many, including a group of academics from McGill University, who say:
“Although respect for human rights is the most basic reason for rejecting the Charter of Quebec Values, we are deeply concerned about it’s negative effects on mental health, well-being and social integration. We believe the proposals are profoundly misguided for many reasons.”
They go on to make some compelling arguments that the charter amounts to bigotry thinly veiled with neutrality, which makes secularism into a religion and marginalizes minorities. They argue that this will be bad for public mental health. I don’t know much about public mental health. As an American, just thinking about the concept of public mental health makes my head hurt. That said, I still agree with their conclusions.
I know it might sound strange to some readers that I would oppose a more secular society. I’ve long made known how much I oppose religious involvement in government, and I have loudly supported my friend Ernst Pierce’s outrageous protests on my facebook wall over the years. This situation is different, though.
In Quebec what they are doing is limiting free expression in order to force secularism. Forced secularism is as bad as forced theocracy. The government needs to step back and let people think what they are going to think. It is government’s place to do the bidding of the people, not the other way around.
I’m all for less people believing in god and more heresy in the world, even offensive heresy. I’m a big supporter of heresy and blasphemy. At the same time, gagging people violates more rights than it can ever protect. If a person thinks that homosexuality is an abomination does it really matter if the bigot is wearing a veil or a cross or holding some Hindu prayer beads when they say that? I don’t think so. The government dictating what beliefs we are allowed to express through our clothing is wrong, for all the reasons laid out in the McGill University statement.