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‘Pastafarian’ fights to wear colander in B.C. driver’s licence photo

colander

‘Pastafarian’ fights to wear colander in B.C. driver’s licence photo

An unusual religious headwear battle has hit a boiling point in Surrey, B.C., where a “Pastafarian” is fighting for his right to wear a colander in his driver’s licence photo.

Obi Canuel, who is an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, says the Insurance Corporation of B.C. is denying him the right to be able to wear the spaghetti strainer on his head.

The 36-year-old says he believed he would be able to wear the kitchen accessory when he renewed his licence last fall because ICBC affirms the right to religious expression.

But, the insurer disagreed. In a letter, they told him “there is no religious requirement that prohibits you from removing the colander for the purpose of taking the photo to appear on your driver’s license.”

ICBC said its religious head covering policy strive to strike a balance between respect for the driver’s religious beliefs and a need to preserve the integrity of the licensing system.

The company said it would not issue a new driver’s licence with the colander photo, but encouraged him to go into any office and have a free colander-free photo taken – and a new licence would be issued.

“The truth is sometimes I have the spiritual inkling to wear the colander and I don’t think ICBC should be making decisions about what kind of religious headgear is appropriate or not,” Canuel told CTV Vancouver.

Strangely, a photo of Canuel wearing the exact same strainer on his head was approved for his new B.C. Services card.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created nine years ago by a U.S. man to satirize certain aspects of creationism. It follows a belief that an undetectable flying pasta creature created the universe after “drinking heavily.”

As it gained popularity in the media, the Flying Spaghetti Monster became a symbol against intelligent design used in the public education system.
At least four countries, including the U.S., allow Pastafarians to wear colanders in their driver’s licence photos.

Canuel documented his struggles with ICBC in a YouTube video titled “Dear ICBC: Where is my license?”

Half of Canadians think religion more harmful than good, poll finds

Half of Canadians think religion more harmful than good, poll finds

It’s no secret fewer Canadians attend church today than 20 years ago, but what may be surprising is almost half of Canadians believe religion does more harm than good, according to the results of a survey conducted by Ipsos Reid.

Explanations from experts vary – from fear of extremists and anger toward individuals who abuse positions of power, to a national ‘forgetting’ of Canadian history.

“In the past few years, there have been several highprofile international situations involving perceived religious conflicts, as well as the anniversary of 9/11, and I think when people see those, it causes them to fear religion and to see it as a source of conflict,” said Janet Epp Buckingham, associate professor at Trinity Western University.

Canadians who don’t participate in religion themselves experience it in the news, which can sensationalize the negatives aspects of religion, said Dr. Pamela Dickey Young, the principal of the School of Religion at Queen’s University.

The survey, which was conducted ahead of the launch of a new Global TV show – Context – about religion in Canada, also found that 89 per cent of Canadians are comfortable being around people of different faiths.

But, on the question of whether religion does more harm than good, Rev. Canon Dr. Bill Prentice, director of Community Ministry for the Anglican diocese of Ottawa, said: “We forget our history.”

He pointed out that the first hospitals, schools, and universities in Canada were founded by religious institutions.

Quebec shows the way

Quebec shows the way

In May 2005, the province of Quebec showed leadership when its legislature voted unanimously to pass a motion against permitting shariah law to be used in the province’s legal system.

Moving the historic motion in the Quebec National Assembly, Muslim member Fatima Houda-Pepin said, “The application of shariah in Canada is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam … These demands are being pushed by groups in the minority that are using the Charter of Rights to attack the foundation of our democratic institutions.” Four months later, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty would ban the use of all religion-based tribunals in the province, thus ending all hopes Islamists had of creating a beachhead for shariah law in North America.

Now, Quebec has taken another bold and courageous step to stall the inroads being made by Islamists in Quebec society: In a bill that could soon become law, Quebec will refuse all government services, including education and non-emergency health care, to Muslim women wearing face masks (known as the niqab or burka). Jean Charest, the Liberal Premier, said the bill is aimed at “drawing a line” to demonstrate that gender equality is a paramount Quebec value.

As a Muslim Canadian, I am thrilled at this development, and welcome the rescue of all Muslim-Canadian women who were being blackmailed, bullied and brainwashed into wearing attire that has no place in either Islam or the 21st century.

Muslim women — my wife, mother, sisters, daughters and friends — were deeply angered that cowardly Islamists were using their faces and heads as the flag of Islamism. Their faces were never the property of hateful, joyless men who wish to consign women into dark, mobile prisons. If faces of Muslim women are a source of sexual tension to these men, it is these men who must shut their eyes and lock themselves in permanent prisons.

The burka is not just a piece of clothing: It is a symbol of Islamofascism and a rejection of the West and its cherished value of gender equality. The cruel reality is that the burka implicitly castigates women as a source of evil ( a’wra), condemning them to a life of isolation away from the gaze of men.

Beyond that, it is important to understand the more practical reasons as to why Quebec is right in listening to the call of liberal and progressive Muslims who asked for a ban on the burka:

– Security: As news from around the world shows, thieves and terrorists are using burka disguises to evade checkpoints, hide explosives and commit crimes.

– Safety: Anyone who has tried on a burka knows that it provides minimal peripheral vision. Walking is hard enough. Would you want to be on the highway with drivers whose perspective is constrained by such a human tent?

– Health: Doctors have provided evidence that vitamin D deficiency, which is associated with serious health problems, can result when a face-covering blocks all incoming sunlight.

To the Islamists and their apologists who argue that Canada’s position on the niqab should be based on Canadian values of equal citizenship, rather than assimilative French values, I simply say: Canadian values are themselves based on French and British values. They did not fall from the sky. Furthermore, if importing ideas from France is so suspect, then smuggling the values of tribal monarchies and theocracies into Canada is far worse. We would rather embrace France’s equality than the institutionalized misogyny and polygamy of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

– Tarek Fatah is the author of The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism, which will be published by McClelland & Stewart in October 2010.

Religion ban in Quebec’s public daycares welcomed

Religion ban in Quebec’s public daycares welcomed

Publicly funded daycare operators in Quebec are welcoming the province’s announcement it will ban religious instruction in government-subsidized daycares.

Quebec Family Minister Tony Tomassi made the announcement Wednesday, one day after saying he would not prevent daycare centres from teaching religious beliefs.

“The mission of [early-childhood education centres] is really to help families integrate into Quebec culture,” said Annie Turcot, spokesperson for a coalition of publicly funded daycares on the island of Montreal.

On Tuesday, Tomassi had said that Quebec’s public daycares reflect family values and religious instruction was normal in the province.

But on Wednesday, he said the practice will be prohibited.

He said an internal audit has revealed about 20 daycares, which receive public funding, include religious instruction in their educational programs.

“So we have to verify it,” said Tomassi. Once that’s done, he said he will meet with the daycare administrators, and work with them to eliminate religion from their program.

Tomassi refused to commit to withdrawing the permits of centres that do not comply.

A few years ago, Tomassi’s department, which was then run by current Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, granted a permit to an Islamic association so it could open an 80-spot daycare centre in Laval, north of Montreal.

The organization’s objective is to “spread Islamic education among Muslims and non-Muslims.”

Another example is that of the Beth Rivkah centre in Montreal, which is run by Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz. Its website states that all “daily activities are driven by the spirit of Torah and the Jewish tradition.”

Go further: PQ

The opposition Parti-Québécois is demanding the government go even further and declare all daycares secular.

“A lot of people in Quebec [think] this should change,” said party critic Nicolas Girard.

Girard accused the Liberals of being so out of step with public opinion that they have resorted to insulting him as a tactic. During question period, he said one minister called him a racist.

The Quebec government has gone too far, said officials with the Quebec Jewish Congress.

“I don’t see these secularists taking down the cross on Mount Royal, I don’t see them asking for the cross to be removed from the National Assembly, and I don’t see them going to work on December 25th,” said the group’s president Adam Atlas.

Atlas said he is hoping to meet with ministry officials to discuss the ban.

The daycare brouhaha has unfolded amid the controversy surrounding a Muslim woman in Quebec who was kicked out of a government-sponsored French class because she refused to remove her niqab — a traditional face covering.

Religious rehab sparks alcoholic’s complaint

Religious rehab sparks alcoholic’s complaint

A Winnipeg man who has struggled with alcoholism for decades says he has filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over the lack of a treatment program that’s free of religious or spiritual elements.Rob Johnstone said he has battled alcoholism for 40 years and can’t find a treatment program that doesn’t rely on religion or spirituality as part of the recovery process.

Judge refuses to let pupils drop religion

Judge refuses to let pupils drop religion

Christian parents who objected to their children being taught about other religions in a mandatory new Quebec school course have suffered a serious setback with a ruling this week that the teachings do not infringe their religious freedoms.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Guy Dubois dismissed a bid by parents in Drummondville, Que., who said the course on ethics and religious culture introduced across the province last year was undermining their efforts to instill Christian faith in their children. “In light of all the evidence presented, the court does not see how the … course limits the plaintiff’s freedom of conscience and of religion for the children when it provides an overall presentation of various religions without obliging the children to adhere to them,” Judge Dubois wrote.

The course was controversial even before instruction began last September. During the year there were protest marches in some cities, and about 1,700 parents asked that their children be exempted from attending the class. All such requests were refused.

The course’s introduction was the final step in the secularization of Quebec schooling that began with a 1997 constitutional amendment replacing denominational school boards with linguistic ones.

As of last year, parents no longer had the right to choose between courses in Catholic, Protestant or moral instruction. The new curriculum covers a broad range of world religions, with particular emphasis on Quebec’s religious heritage — Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and aboriginal spirituality. It is taught from Grade 1 through Grade 11.

The course’s scope was too broad for the parents in the Drummondville case, who cannot be named because their two minor children are involved. During the trial, the children’s mother testified that she did not see why her seven-year-old son needs to learn about Islam when he is still forming his own Catholic spirituality. “It’s very confusing,” she said.

In his ruling, Judge Dubois cited a Catholic theologian who testified that religious instruction is primarily the responsibility of parents, not schools. He added that there is a commitment on the part of the Catholic church to understand other religions.

The Quebec government, which intervened in the case in support of the Des Chenes school board, argued that the course was objective and in no way limited parents’ ability to pass their religious beliefs on to their children. Teaching children about other religions is a way to promote “equality, respect and tolerance in the Quebec school system,” it said.

Sebastien Lebel-Grenier, a law professor at Universite de Sherbrooke, said he is not surprised that the new course survived a challenge under the Charter of Rights.

“What parents were demanding was the right to ignorance, the right to protect their children from being exposed to the existence of other religions,” he said. “This right to ignorance is certainly not protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Freedom of religion does not protect the right not to know what is going on in our universe.” He said the course is aimed not at instilling religious values but at trying “to explain to these children the diversity in which we now live in Quebec.”

Richard Decarie, spokesman for a coalition opposed to the course, said the decision is a disappointment. He believes there are grounds for an appeal, but is not sure the parents involved can afford more legal expenses. He said they have already spent close to $100,000 fighting the case.

“The course shouldn’t be compulsory, because it changes completely how parents keep their moral authority over the education of their children,” said Mr. Decarie, of the Coalition for Freedom in Education.

Atheist ads on OC Transpo in limbo

“When statements are said that God probably does not exist, this is an implied statement of hatred towards all those who do believe that God exists.”

Someone needs to tell this moron that her belief in god(s) implicitly shows hatred towards all those who do not believe in god(s).

Atheist ads on OC Transpo in limbo

An Atheist advertising campaign will spend a few weeks in limbo after the transit committee deadlocked on a vote on whether to allow ads to run on city buses.

The ads by the Humanist Association of Ottawa, stating “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life,” were rejected last week.

Transit committee chairman Alex Cullen had attempted to overturn the decision and pledged to bring it to city council in early March as a separate motion.

Humanist Julie Breeze said she was disappointed that the decision was not overturned, but said she intended to keep fighting.

“The ads that we are proposing are not intended to offend,” she said. “We’re hoping that these ads will let other non-believers know that they are not alone. It’s not an easy thing to be an atheist surrounded by a sea of believers.”

However, Theresa Milligan argued against the ads, saying that it goes beyond freedom of speech.

“When statements are said that God probably does not exist, this is an implied statement of hatred towards all those who do believe that God exists.”

Mercier said OC Transpo permits run advertisements informing people of the date, time and place of religious gatherings or events. Ads promoting a specific dogma that might be prejudicial or offensive to other groups using the transit system are not permitted.

Mercier said they felt the language of the ads were specific enough to attract religious debate and likely polarize members of the community.

Canadians are leery about mixing politics and religion

Canadians are leery about mixing politics and religion

What do Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin, have in common?

All four candidates for U.S. president and vice-president have made it clear, exceedingly clear, they’re proud Christians.

None is willing to follow the wishes of many annoyed Canadians and refrain from ending speeches with “God bless America.”

Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a much bigger role in American politics than it does north of the border. God talk just can’t be avoided down there — thanks to the overwhelming Protestant presence.

And even though it’s not unethical by definition to invoke a Supreme Being from a political stage, the practice can be manipulated. It can even be abused for demogoguery, through suggesting, for instance, questionable wars and policies reflect “God’s will.”

That doesn’t mean the word God doesn’t ever sneak into Canadian politics. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is quiet about his loyalty to the evangelical Alliance Church, will sometimes talk of his faith, carefully. Harper has also been known to declare “God bless Canada.”

Former Liberal PM Jean Chretien, a Catholic, occasionally mentioned God, including in this novel way: “God gave me a physical defect [a facial tic] . . . but I accepted that because God gave me other qualities and I’m grateful.”

Still, there are many fascinating reasons Canadian politicians are much less inclined than their American counterparts to, as typically skeptical Canadians might put it, “play the God card.”

I’ll cite a few of them.

The most obvious is the rising strength of white evangelical Protestants. They make up one out of four Americans.

They feel divinely motivated to convert others to their Jesus, and some are ready to use politics as part of that. Seventy-eight per cent of conservative white evangelicals voted for George W. Bush in the past two presidential campaigns. It made all the difference.

Conservative politicians north of the border don’t have this huge religious voting advantage because fewer than one out of 10 Canadians belong to evangelical churches.

And while many evangelicals quietly support Canada’s Conservatives — half of Harper’s caucus of MPs are evangelical — most don’t have any illusions they can openly bring most Canadians onside with their beliefs.

Canadians are like secularized Europeans that way. Of the world’s industrialized countries, the U.S. is the most religious and most Christian.

It wasn’t always this way.

In the early 20th century, Canada had a much higher percentage of the population attending churches than in the U.S., as North America’s leading historian of religion, Mark Noll (an evangelical), writes in A History of Christianity in Canada and the U.S.

Beginning in the 1950s, however, Canadian church attendance dropped off dramatically, as it did in Europe. At the same time, however, U.S. evangelical churches began to become more appealing, particularly to the middle classes.

The trend has caused many U.S. evangelical leaders to become carried away and aggressively declare theirs is a “Christian nation” — and always has been.

Religion out of medicine, a new message for Ontario doctors

 Religion out of medicine, a new message for Ontario doctors

Ontario physicians could be stripped of their right to exercise religious or moral conscience if a new set of guidelines is accepted by their regulating body next month, critics say.

Doctors across Canada are now allowed to opt out of such things as prescribing birth control or morning-after pills or doing abortions when it goes against their conscience. Physicians are also allowed to refuse to do referrals in such cases.

But a new draft proposal from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario could change that for doctors in the province.

“I’m really concerned with the new principle that the college is promulgating and that is that doctors do not have the right to be guided in the conduct of the practice by their conscience,” said Joseph Ben-Ami, president of the Centre for Policy Studies, an Ottawa-based think tank. “That’s a sweeping broad principle to establish — and once you’ve established it the field is wide open for further changes.”

For example, he said a doctor might refuse to help a same-sex couple to use reproductive technology to have a child.

“There are a lot of doctors who feel uncomfortable with this and think it’s detrimental to the child’s welfare down the road. The way were reading this draft document is a doctor could be hit with a misconduct” if the new rules are adopted.

Some of the provisions included in the draft document are:

• [A] physician’s responsibility is to place the needs of the patient first, [so] there will be times when it may be necessary for physicians to set aside their personal beliefs in order to ensure that patients or potential patients are provided with the medical services the require.”

• “Physicians should be aware that decisions to restrict medical services offered … or to end physician-patient relationships that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the Code and/or constitute professional misconduct.”

Church members enter Canada, aiming to picket bus victim’s funeral

Church members enter Canada, aiming to picket bus victim’s funeral

Got Hates FagsMembers of a fundamentalist American church group planning to stage a protest at the funeral for a Winnipeg man brutally killed on a Greyhound bus have managed to enter Canada, a spokeswoman told CBC News on Friday.

Canadian border guards are under orders to prevent members the Westboro Baptist Church, a controversial Kansas-based sect, from entering the country.

The group intends to picket the funeral of 22-year-old Tim McLean to tell Canadians his slaying on July 30 was God’s response to Canadian policies enabling abortion, homosexuality and divorce and remarriage.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day’s office sent an alert to border patrol to “look out” for people with signs and pamphlets consistent with the messages that the church promotes and to keep them out of the country.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, said a group of church members was turned away from a border crossing at Niagara Falls, but a small group did manage to get into Manitoba overnight.

“They were looking for picket signs and they were looking for leaflets. Well, we don’t do leaflets, and the picket signs, you know, Fed Ex ships them overnight,” she said.

However, Phelps-Roper said the reaction the group has raised from some police and public officials has her questioning whether the planned protest will go ahead.

“The question to my mind [is] whether or not we ought to get them the heck out of that country, because that’s some crazy stuff when you’ve got your officials talking like they are in a back-alley brawl and not government officials who took an oath to obey the law and so forth.”

Phelps-Roper said she would advise church members not to go ahead with the protest if there is a concern they might be arrested or harmed.

Counter-protest planned

A counter-protest against the church’s picket plans was launched on the social networking site Facebook on Thursday.

More than 700 people have since joined the group; postings indicate they plan to form a “human wall” around the family to shield them from the church protest, if it takes place.

Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin said the group should be “sent packing,” and should not try to show up in Winnipeg “for their own safety.”

“We’re not going to allow these people to compound the tragedy of the McLean family loss, and Canadians simply won’t tolerate these lunatics disrupting what should be a respectful service,” he told CBC News on Friday.

“Your freedom to swing your arm in the air ends when it touches the end of my nose,” he added. “What these people were going to do was hurtful, harmful and disruptive to the peace, order and good government that we guarantee to our citizens, so they have no place in this country.”