Crucifix is not a religious symbol, claims Quebec’s new Premier

Crucifix is not a religious symbol, claims Quebec’s new Premier October 19, 2018

Quebec’s new Premier is pushing for fewer religious symbols and more secularism on his patch – but insists on keeping a crucifix in the National Assembly.

Much to the consternation of  Montreal’s Catholic Archbishop Andrew Bennett, François Legault, above, leader of the right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), insisted the crucifix in question “is a symbol of the province’s heritage ― and not a religious sign.”

The wee man on a cross was hung above the Speaker’s seat in 1936 to reflect Quebec’s close ties with the Catholic Church.

Bennett is outraged:

To say that the crucifix, the instrument of our salvation, is simply a symbol – that’s an insult to every faithful Catholic, every faithful Christian in this country.

Legault has offended Muslims and Jews as well, for the CAQ has promised to introduce legislation that prevents teachers, police officers, judges and certain other government employees from wearing religious items such as hijabs, kippas, crucifixes and turbans.

Secularists can’t be too pleased either.

Ihsaan Gardee, above, Executive Director of the Ottawa-based National Council of Canadian Muslims said that many Muslim public servants are “incredibly worried” about what such a law would mean for them:

If it went into effect, it would drastically change the ability of many regular Muslim Quebecers to exercise their most basic rights … and to make a living for themselves. Worse, we know this law won’t only affect Muslims; we’re similarly worried about public servants who wear the turban and kippa too — this law would be an attack on us all.

The religious symbols ban is meant to promote the separation of church and state and foster secularism in public spaces.

Bennett called the CAQ’s proposed ban an “unacceptable” violation of people’s religious freedoms.

Jewish Canadian leaders have also spoken up against the proposed ban. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a national advocacy group, said in a statement that:

Religious neutrality should be imposed on public institutions, not on individuals.

On Thursday, teachers at a high school in Westmount, Quebec, held a rally to oppose the CAQ’s plans. Some teachers at the school told the CBC they started wearing religious symbols to work in reaction to the CAQ’s election.

The Parti Québécois, another provincial political party, proposed a similar ban on public servants’ wearing religious symbols in 2013. That bill never passed.

Ihsaan Gardee said that the failure of the 2013 initiative demonstrates that:

Just because a law is popular doesn’t make it principled. While these kinds of [laws] are often pitched as a means of ensuring secularism, they actually undermine the very essence of the equality of rights that secularism seeks to affirm by discriminating against certain people because of how they may choose to dress.

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  • Legault also ignores the fact that even in highly secular modern Quebec a lot of people will assume someone with a French name is a Roman Catholic unless told otherwise.

    If the new Quebec government goes ahead with the ban sooner or later it will be challenged in court. If the Supreme Court rules against it they will all but certainly invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms section of the Canadian Constitution.

  • Chris DeVries

    I lived in Quebec for awhile, so I know about its Catholic heritage, and how a similar process to France’s secularisation has taken place in Quebec. However, to say that a crucifix has lost its religious meaning is absolutely false, and a cop-out for a person who is trying to promote a secular public life (i.e. what you do in private is your business, but what you do in public should respect certain secular norms). It insults both Christians (for whom the crucifix is THE symbol of their salvation) and secularists (who can tell when someone is making poor excuses for favouring one religion in the political sphere). When proposing these (questionable) strategies to limit public religious expression, either go all the way or don’t go at all, because the people who are being encouraged or forced to eliminate the symbols of their religious identity in public can tell if it’s not about ALL religions (including those in the majority), but instead principally about Muslims and Jews (which seems to hold true here). The only way such a strategy can be effective is if it takes no prisoners. Otherwise, the hypocrisy creates even more public tension and political division, things that secularisation is supposed to counter.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    A crescent, six-pointed star, and plain cross are explicitly sectarian symbols, and corrosive to the unifying principles of governance. But a sculpture of suffering Jesus is just ceremonial deism. Everyone knows that!

  • Broga

    The emaciated, tortured, figure of Jesus nailed to a cross that I often pass is not a pretty sight. Why torture by a father of his son should be displayed so explicitly and revered is “weird” My 6 year old granddaughter’s current adjective applied when I explained why it was there. “That is weird.” Who could rationally disagree? If she or her brother become Christians I will have to reconsider my position on miracles.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    The crucifix is not just a Christian symbol, but an explicitly Catholic symbol.

  • Atheisticus

    Good point Protestants, in general, don’t wear crucifixes, just simple crosses. Just like admirers of JFK wear tiny Mannlicher-Carcano rifles on necklaces.

  • Vanity Unfair

    [T]he crucifix in question “is a symbol of the province’s heritage ― and not a religious sign.”
    Or don’t they count?

  • Just like “Christianism is not a religion”, right?

  • It’s also debatable not only the use of a torture instrument as a symbol but also if the man would have liked people used that as a symbol -had Jesus been stoned instead, the symbol would very likely have been a rock-.

  • Vanity Unfair

    Too soon?