Freedom of Religion vs. Neutrality

by claudiabastien on September 15, 2013 - 4:00pm


When I first heard about Pauline Marois’ values charter, I was shocked and could not believe my ears what I was hearing. I had to inform myself about this new charter to make sure it was not just a “joke”. To my misfortune, I found out that there was actually a serious debate over this charter.

Hence, for this blog post, I had to choose the article entitled “Quebec values charter protest hits Montreal streets” (linked below) because it shows different views regarding the charter, which made me realize that the charter itself goes against humans’ basic rights. This issue drew my interest because it touches the society that I live in, and I thought that we were tolerant of everyone’s differences as we are a multicultural country. However, according to the general significance of this article, the charter does not permit people who wear religious symbols to work for the government. Hence, I have to reconsider the “real values” of our society, and an ethical question bumps into my head when I think about this charter.

Should we allow Quebec values charter to pass?

Personally, I believe we should not let the Quebec values charter pass as it goes against the right of freedom of religion. Everyone has the right to practice his or her religion freely without being discriminated in any way. However, the Quebec values charter does not permit people to wear religious symbols when working for the government. For instance, someone wearing a hijab cannot work in the public field even though this symbol is part of her religion’s code. It is not right to impose such laws, so we should let people wear religious symbols in their work place. Furthermore, it creates separation within society. This new charter might revive islamophobia and divide our society when we have been fighting for years for tolerance of other cultures by way of our reasonable accommodations. Additionally, this new charter will affect career choices and opportunities. If someone has to wear a religious symbol, as his religion obliges him/her, his/her possibility of careers will be diminished, which goes against humans’ right to do what they wish for a living. Hence, the Quebec values charter is discriminatory against some religious communities.

On the other hand, the supporters of this charter believe that the charter should pass to ensure neutrality inside the government. According to them, because the state is neutral, people working for the government should be neutral and show no sign of religious beliefs. Therefore, neutrality inside a state is essential to ensure that the decisions made are not opinion based. Moreover, the charter states that someone receiving or offering services from the state should be identifiable for security purposes. Therefore, people cannot wear such apparel as a burka or chador in order to be identified properly. Thus, this charter avoids situations where the security of citizens can be at risk as a result of  the improper identification of someone. In short, the Quebec values charter should be adopted according to some because it ensures protection and neutrality of the state.

I find it ironic that the charter demands the neutrality of its civil servants, but does not believe in removing the crucifix from the Quebec legislature… This ethical issue makes me wonder if we are focusing on the most important problem present in our society. Does adopting restrictive laws regarding religious symbols, such as the Quebec values charter, really improve the society we live in?



I chose to comment on your article because, like you, I am very interested about the equality of everyone. I agree with you when you say that Pauline Marois’ values charter is going against some people’s rights. I think that everyone should be accepted and have the same rights. I believe that it is totally ridiculous that someone may not have the job he wants just because of his religion. Everyone has the right to believe on what they want. However, we live in Quebec and we have some values too. The kyrpan, for example, which is also a religious symbol, should not be allowed in the Quebec because it goes against our values. Although, there are many religious symbols that are totally inoffensive like the hijab. In my opinion, these religious symbols should be allowed. I find that the ethical principle beneficence is very important in this ethical issue. It means that we should take the decision that would bring the more benefits. In other words, I think that we should do some compromise for everyone to be happy. Could we reach a compromise that might suit to everyone?

Hi! I am not sure of what you mean by the principle of beneficence. How is the decision of adopting the hijab, for example, based on benefits? The problem here is that the Quebec government does not want to make "compromises" except by tolerating "discrete" religious signs. But where is the limit? What determines what is discrete and what it is not? It depends on interpretations and personal judgements.
You also bring a point about the kirpan, which I must disagree with. Unfortunately, there is a huge misconception and false idea about the kirpan. As soon as we hear that communities (i.e. Sikhs) wear a knife, we jump to conclusions, and immediately imagine the worse. I invite you to read a debate that occured in Canada about the kirpan in schools. (link: You'll be surprised to know that the Supreme court judged it acceptable to wear a kirpan under certain conditions in school. You may ask yourself why... Well, kirpan are not meant for harming others. Sikh wears the kirpan because it is required by the religion and it symbolizes compassion and kindness! They are not allowed to use it against others since it goes against the principle of the religion itself!
Even then, some feel insecure having the kirpan legalized because it is still a "weapon". Nonetheless, if you think about it, many things in our society can be transformed into a "weapons" such as a simple pair of scissors. Anyways, I just thought it was something to think about before assuming things. Thank you for your comment :)

Note to Mr. Hawkins: This is not my Comment 2

Really well written post and the article was interesting as well. It is currently a really debated issue especially in Montreal as we have a lot more cultural diversity than other places in Quebec. I agree with your stance on it as in Canada we preach multiculturalism and diversity. Even encouraging communities of similar people to congregate and come to our country where they can be accepted and free of judgment. However, Quebec once again has to disturb the flow of society with rebel charters that don't seem to have any validity and are completely biased. They exclude their personal link to the issue ,as with the crucifix in the Quebec Legislature, yet hound the other faiths to remove all symbols from public places. This seems really hypocritical and is a very aggressive and direct attack on other belief systems. It should also be noted that a similar charter is in effect in France and French-speakers support the charter much more heavily than English speaking people(49% vs. 15% respectively). Maybe this has a tie in with stronger connections to France? Also, do you think there are any positive outcomes that could come out of the charter? Or that the charter can actually protect these minorities from the open judgment of others by not identifying themselves with their symbols?