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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

No Prayer in Municipal Council Meetings - Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada followed yesterday's rejection of automatic sentences for people who commit crimes with a gun, by disallowing prayer in council meetings. You might think these two rulings have nothing in common, but they do - both are utterly illogical.

Yesterday, they determined 6-3 that automatic sentencing for crimes with a gun is cruel and unusual punishment. In typical Supreme Court fashion, they considered the rights of the criminals and disregarded the right of their victims to live. I'm sure that makes sense to them at some level but it seems pretty bizarre to me.

Supreme Court of Canada
Today's ruling is even more bizarre and illogical. They stomped on the rights of a city council to pray before meeting saying that it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion. Have you ever in your life heard anything more absurd. They require freedom of religion and conscience by removing the very same freedom from city council.

These are the highest ranked judges in the country and they cannot add 2+2. They also seem oblivious to the fact that this challenge was most likely made for malicious reasons (anti-religious reasons) rather than genuine damage to a man's freedom. 

The Court of Appeals put it correctly that 'if the recitation (of a prayer) interfered with Simoneau's moral values, the interference was trivial'.

So for a trivial matter, and possibly a malicious matter, the Supreme Court crushed the rights of a city council to practice freedom of conscience and religion. Kind of like hitting a fly with a hammer.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer.

In a unanimous decision today, the country's top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The ruling puts an end to a eight-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.

The court ordered the City of Saguenay and the mayor to stop reciting prayer. It also ordered the city and Tremblay to pay Simoneau a total of $33,200 in compensatory damages, punitive damages and costs.

The Supreme Court did not rule out the presence of religious symbols, because it decided to limit the scope of its investigation to prayer only.

In 2011, Quebec's human rights tribunal ordered an end to the prayers, demanded that a crucifix in the city council chamber be removed and awarded damages to Simoneau.

But the outspoken mayor fought back, raising money from supporters through the city's website. Tremblay said it was a battle for Quebec's Roman Catholic heritage.

The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the tribunal's decision in 2013.

The appeals court expressed some reservations about religious symbols in the council chamber, but concluded the city imposed no religious views on its citizens.

It ruled reciting a prayer does not violate the religious neutrality of the city and if the recitation interfered with Simoneau's moral values, the interference was trivial.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the case last year.

State must be neutral, court rules

In 2008, city officials initially changed the prayer with a new one it deemed more neutral and delayed the opening of council by two minutes to allow citizens a window to return follow the reciting.

The Supreme Court said Canadian society has evolved and given rise to a "concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs."

And yet, that is exactly what the Supreme Court is doing!

"The state must instead remain neutral in this regard," the judgment said.

"This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief. 

By disallowing prayer, you are forcing the state to take an atheist position, and you are forcing that position upon every Christian or Catholic in the meeting. 

"When all is said and done, the state's duty to protect every person's freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non-believers in public life to the detriment of others."

So, a devout Christian taking their child to a council meeting would expose that child to a godless government. That's a detriment if there ever was one. A detriment that could cost that child its faith. It's not like the atheist is at risk of losing his faith. It's not like he is being forced to convert. No-one is holding a knife to his throat. 

Why are you so concerned about offending one individual's very minor grievance, that you greatly offend every Christian and Catholic in the country. Why?

Tremblay declined a request for an interview Wednesday. He is expected to hold a news conference Thursday morning at city hall.