Secularism or Politics, which should be considered?

by tasiags on February 19, 2014 - 9:23am

Based on several sources, more particularly articles from the NY Times, the Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, the Guardian, and the Government of Quebec, (all sources which are very in tuned with politics and society), this short essay will explore Quebec’s Bill 60 paralleling it to the very similar bans made in France. Both cases directly embody the issues pertaining to crime and law, as the implementation of such laws obviously fuel controversial reactions, which affect not only the individuals concerned, but also society as a whole.  Actually, in 2004, France introduced a ban on “conspicuous religious symbols in public schools” and another in 2011, which forbids the “covering of the face in public”  (“French Secularism on Trial”). Similarly, in Bill 60, among its many propositions, the Quebec government suggests a restraint on the wear of religious symbols for “personnel members of public bodies” and compels “personnel members of public bodies” as well as those receiving services from public institutions to have their face uncovered (Government of Quebec). Thus, a clear link can be drawn between Quebec and France.

Both the Quebec and the French governments (as well as other proponents) claim that banning the wear of overt religious symbols for those working in the public sector as well as having one’s face uncovered in public, would reflect State neutrality and State secularism. They also argue that by adopting such policies their impartiality from religion would be conveyed and that the core principle of religion and State separation would be incorporated (Chrisafis and Government of Quebec). The Quebec government also believes that Bill 60 would initiate certain guidelines in regards to accommodation requests, specifically those concerning religion, and epitomize the importance of “equality between women and men” (Government of Quebec). However, opponents (religious minorities, IGOs, NGOs, etc.) proclaim that such policies infringe on human rights, as well as personal and religious freedoms (Banerjee and Chrisafis). Foes also maintain that these policies lead, or will lead, to a form of racism and exclusion towards visible minorities and that they are very discriminatory (Chrisafis and Macfarlane). In fact, in regards to Bill 60, the president of the Human Rights Commission says that the bill foreshows a net reduction in “individual rights and freedoms” and would probably “create the perfect climate for more conflict and litigation in Quebec society” (Banerjee).

Although the summary above is very abridged, it definitely shows how controversial, complex, and convoluted the implementation of laws can be. In fact, the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion issues a variety of in depth articles from sundry areas of the fields of law and religion (social, legal and political issues), including “considerations of the relationship between religious and secular legal system” as well as “other areas where law and religion interact” (Oxford Journal of Law and Religion). Reading such articles could surely broaden one’s understanding and knowledge on law and religion in order to better understand the complexity of the ongoing debate between the governments (Quebec and France) and the oppositions, since the governments claim that the policies simply reflect State secularism.

In conclusion, as can be seen by the examples of Quebec and France, implementing laws regarding religion are extremely delicate and multifaceted. However, regardless of the complexity and controversy of such laws, it is important to stay informed as they affect society as a whole. In fact, the issue my essay covers is related to the broader academic discipline of law and society, which is defined as the “interdisciplinary study of the interaction of law, legal institutions and contemporary society that is designed to provide an appreciation and recognition of the impact of law and legal institutions on society and the ways law is shaped by the values, behavior, and organization of social, economic, and political systems” (Florida State University). That academic discipline relates to the news I summarized because Bill 60 in Quebec is currently going through the process of “law, legal institutions, and contemporary society interactions” with public hearings that started January 14, 2014. Although Bill 60 is a specific example, it is easy to see how other issues similar to same are related to the academic discipline of law and society.


Works Cited:

Banerjee, Sidhartha. “Quebec Values Charter: Human Rights Commission Says It Can’t Survive Legal Fight”. Huffington Post Canada 17 January 2014. Web. 16 February 2014.

Chrisafis, Angelique. “France’s headscarf war: ‘It’s an attack on freedom’. The Guardian 22 July 2013. Web. 16 February 2014.

“French Secularism on Trial”. New York Times 2 December 2013. Web. February 16 2014.

Government of Quebec (Parti Québécois). Bill 60: Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests. Quebec: Government of Quebec, 2013. Web. 16 February 2014. <>.

Macfarlane, Emmett. “Quebec’s secular charter is clearly unconstitutional, but could still become law”. The Globe and Mail 11 September 2013. Web. 16 February 2014.

N.p. Oxford Journal of Law and Religion. Oxford Journals, n.d. Web. 16 February 2014.

N.p. “Florida State University 2013-2014 General Bulletin – Undergraduate Edition Program in Law and Society”. Florida State University, n.d. Web. 16 February 2014.  

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