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This site is the successor to Cobourg Atheist (more here) but now the focus is on news with opinion and not on blog essays.  About 150 of the articles from Cobourg Atheist have been moved here. Coverage is world wide although it’s from a Canadian perspective.  Comments are open but registration is recommended.

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Pauline Marois is convinced that the public approves of her bill to ban religious symbols from Government workers. She has a minority Government so governs only because she heads the party with the most seats but when she tabled the bill today, she threatened to count any failure to table the bill as a vote of no-confidence and an election would be called on the issue. The bill was tabled without any problem. (CBC News). That appears to signal her tactics – threaten an election if she faces any serious problem getting it passed. The bill was first proposed Sept 10 (more here) and since then there has been some criticism but also support so it was expected that the bill tabled would be modified. So what does it include?

You can read the whole bill here: download from Cobourg Atheist News but let me summarize what the bill says.

Bill 60 Title: Pauline MaroisPauline Marois - Premier of QuebecCharter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests.

  • In the pursuit of its mission, a public body must remain neutral in religious matters and reflect the secular nature of the State, while making allowance, if applicable, for the emblematic and toponymic (study of place names) elements of Québec's cultural heritage that testify to its history.
  • In the exercise of their functions, personnel members of public bodies must maintain religious neutrality. In the exercise of their functions, personnel members of public bodies must exercise reserve with regard to expressing their religious beliefs.
  • In the exercise of their functions, personnel members of public bodies must not wear objects such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation.
  • Personnel members of public bodies must exercise their functions with their face uncovered, unless they have to cover their face in particular because of their working conditions or because of occupational or task-related requirements.
  • Persons must ordinarily have their face uncovered when receiving services from personnel members of public bodies.

These Rules apply to:

  • government departments;
  • budget-funded bodies, (some exceptions)
  • government agencies
  • municipalities, metropolitan communities, intermunicipal boards, public transit authorities, local development centres, regional conferences of elected officers and municipal housing bureaus, with the exception of some native municipalities
  • public school boards and university-level educational
  • health and social services agencies and public institutions (some exceptions)
  • judges of the Court of Québec, (and members of tribunals, commissioners and Justices of the Peace).
  • Those duties and obligations also apply to personnel members of the National Assembly in the exercise of their functions.

Handling of Accommodation Requests on Religious Grounds

  • Specific emphasis on child-care organizations which must be religion neutral
  • Treatment of children at school must be religion neutral
  • Allowing absence from work must be equitable to all employees.

Effective Date

  • Provisions come into force one year after the law is passed but municipalities may get an exemption for up to 4 years plus apply for an extension after that.
  • Not later than four years after the date of assent to this Act, the Minister must report to the Government on the administration of the Charter established by this Act. The Minister may make recommendations to the Government as to the advisability of maintaining in force or amending certain of its provisions.

It seems perfectly reasonable and is strictly a bill to ensure separation of Church and State in public employees. It does mean that Sikhs cannot wear turbans but they are allowed their kirpan (because it's concealed); it means Muslims cannot wear burkas or hijabs while on the job as a Government employee and Jewish men cannot wear a skullcap. However, nowhere is there any language specifying symbols of particular religions and it does not talk about displaying a crucifix on a wall.

You would have to read between the lines to object to any of this unless of course someone sees their job as a place where they proselytise. Or perhaps if a person cannot see why they should comply, then maybe they don't accept the need to keep Church and State separate and they should not be working in a Government job.

I think this should be adopted across Canada but I'm not holding my breath!