Religious freedom is a shield against anti-religious bigotry



April 14, 2015

The following op-ed by Legal Counsel, André Schutten, was published in the Ottawa Citizen on April 13, 2015:

There’s a fundamental misunderstanding, or perhaps, a deliberate mischaracterization, of what constitutes religious freedom in a pluralistic society. So began an op-ed published in this paper last week. As a religion freedom lawyer I thought, “Finally! Someone writing to set the record straight on freedom of religion.” Unfortunately, writer Alheli Picazo simply perpetuated what I see as myths and mischaracterizations about religious freedom in Canada.

As one of the three white Christians Picazo calls out in her oped (easy targets, these days), I feel compelled to respond.

Noticeably absent from her list of Christians who spoke about the erosion of religious freedom last month is an articulate young woman, Lia Milousis, and an Egyptian born Arab, Majed El Shafie, a convert from Islam to Christianity who was imprisoned and tortured for his faith. Both expressed alarm at Canada’s current trend toward intolerance of the Christian faith.

Picazo avoids meaningful mention of Canadian realities, opting instead to refer to the controversy in Indiana over a religious freedom law alleged to grant “license to discriminate.” The Indiana amendment was intended to bring Indiana’s law into line with some 30 other States and the current Ontario human rights law. While no one in Ontario (or Indiana) may refuse to serve patrons simply because they dislike or disagree with them, they may refuse to participate in activity (expressive, religious, or otherwise) that violates their conscience.

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