Peter Baklinski

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Ban on all religious symbols will ‘recognize secularism as a Quebec value’: Quebec Premier

Peter Baklinski

QUEBEC, August 26, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Parti Quebecois (PQ) is defending its proposed legislation, leaked to media last week, that would ban religious all symbols worn by public employees at work.

According to a leaked document published by Journal de Montreal, the long-awaited “Charter of Quebec Values” set to be released this fall, will forbid employees in courts, law-enforcement, schools, hospitals, and daycares from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols.

Banned religious symbols will reportedly include turbans, hijabs, kippas, and crucifixes.

“What divides Quebeckers is not diversity, it is the absence of clear rules so that we can move onward in harmony,” said Premier Pauline Marois on Sunday to young PQ supporters who met in Quebec City.

“To recognize secularism as a Quebec value is to take cognizance of the evolution of a people which, for the past half century, has become increasingly secular and has taken the confessional character out of its institutions,” she said.

While an overwhelming majority of the province’s population identifies itself as Catholic, the 1960’s so-called “Quiet Revolution” has resulted in secular values trumping religious practice. Meanwhile, in the wake of a plummeting birth rate and population levels, held partially in check by immigration, political leaders have attempted to keep French culture alive through the imposition of language laws and mandatory courses taught in schools.

Marois defended the proposed charter saying that it will be a force for unity among Quebecers in the same way the province’s language laws have been.

The proposed charter was central to PQ’s 2012 general election campaign in which it won a minority government. Marois promised a “secular” charter at that time which would rid public institutions of religious symbols. Since the spring, however, PQ has referred to the legislation as a “Values” charter in hope that the more positive term would resonate better with Quebeckers.

The Charter is the latest move against the public expression of religious belief by a province that has become increasingly hostile to religious believers.

In recent years private Catholic schools have been forbidden from teaching Catholic courses on religion and morality. Instead, they have been forced to teach the “secular” and “neutral” world religions course designed by the government. Parents and schools seeking exemption from the course based on religious freedom have consistently failed in their bid.

At the same time, priests, rabbis, and other religious leaders have been barred from visiting any government-funded daycare centers. The 2010 ban of any form of religious activity in the centers makes it illegal to pray, do religious crafts, or sing religious songs, including Christmas carols.

Even private citizens have been fined for holding religious ceremonies in public buildings rented for that purpose.

While parts of the proposed charter are reported to apply to the private sector, it is not yet clear what parts do apply and to what extent. 

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