Abstract Only when it is recognized that not all ‘faiths’ are religious and that all citizens operate out of some sort of faith commitments can we be properly in a position to evaluate nonreligious faiths alongside religiously informed ones. This re-adjustment of the usual way of examining matters then should lead, Professor Benson argues, to a more accurate way of viewing current education and politics (and their areas of avoidance) as well as such things as fair access to the public square by religious believers and their communities. The long dominance of atheistic and agnostic forms of social ordering (including funding for such things as education and health care) is based, in part, on a belief that stripping religious frameworks from public sector projects is ‘neutral’ when it is not.
In addition, the focus on a rights based jurisprudence has a tendency to view rights such as the freedom of religion in individualist ways that ignore the communal importance of religion. The paper will suggest that moves to put pressure on the associational dimension of religions ignore the communal nature of certain forms of belief to the detriment of a more co-operative society and far from encouraging human freedom, actually reduce it.
In the long run, the importance of religions and their communities to the public sphere – which has been recognized by the Constitutional Court of South Africa – will be encouraged by this fresh and more accurate way of viewing belief systems and the communities that form around them. The more accurate way of understanding both the reality of and the need for more articulate public beliefs, will, Benson argues, provide a richer ground for such things as public school curriculum which often drift in the face of fears of moral imperialism and metaphobia (fear of metaphysics).
Abstract This paper discusses how law is increasingly being used to attack religious associations under the guise of “equality” advancement and “non-discrimination” restrictions. I explore two important insights: first that the concept of “transformation” has been distorted, to shelter approaches to law that fail to respect properly associational diversity. When misused, “transformation” seeks to change the moral viewpoints or religious beliefs of religious associations by force of law. Second, the paper discusses the expansion of law so that it becomes a threat to associations. The “goods of religion” and the “limits of law” need to be more widely recognized and understood both by religious communities and by those involved in law, politics and the media. These insights demonstrate how “equality activists” employ a rhetoric of “equality” to produce inequality, “diversity” to produce homogeneity and “non-discrimination” to discriminate against religious communities and religious beliefs. Several solutions for identifying these errors and resisting them are outlined in brief.
Abstract The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Chamberlain,referred to above, in how it handled the definition of “secular” and pluralism as requiring the inclusion of religion and religious viewpoints, is a model for the law and the first serious consideration of a non-atheistic/agnostic (or secularistic) “secular” in Canada. It, and the TWU decision, provide the beginning outlines of an approach to both pluralism and the secular that will be superior to the preemptively non-religious and atheistic/agnostic understandings that preceded them. The decision also correctly describes the nature of pluralism as one that encourages a diversity of beliefs and that resists the co-option of “secular” society by totalistic conceptions of liberalism that exclude diversity.
These decisions ought to lead to a reconsideration of how we view law and policies in relation to all public aspects of society, including public education. Pluralism can be and needs to be re-conceptualized within existing legal norms and the Canadian historical tradition, so as to foster a richer conception of diversity and genuine tolerance with an appropriately communitarian focus. For pluralism to be pluralism, however, it is important to rescue it from a pseudo-liberalism that hides its totalistic claims.
Abstract The paper covers a wide scope in an attempt to examine, in the space available, some of the central cultural and constitutional facts that form the background to recent legal decisions that touch on “religious liberty” in Canada. Important, as well, are recent insights from political theorists, particularly those who examine the nature of liberalism. . . This Article will show that in the last decade the Canadian judicial system has heard a series of important cases in which principles were raised that give a truly Canadian perspective to the relationship between church and state, and the person and the community, in ways that are not developed elsewhere. These cases may provide useful grounding to the principles of accommodation of religion in the public sphere and inclusion of religion in the public sphere, and, further, may reduce the bifurcations that obscure issues where they should elucidate.