Should we limit the display of religious symbols in the public sphere?

by rachel hebert on September 9, 2013 - 10:23pm

Should we limit the display of religious symbols in the public sphere? This question has brought many debates as the Quebec Party tries to implement the Charter of Quebec Values that would ban the right for workers in the public sector to wear religious symbols such as turbans, hijabs, crucifixes, etc. The Quebec Party believes that this charter will favor equality and secularism. It is, according to them, a continuation of the changes that occurred during the Quiet Revolution allowing Quebec citizens the right to live in a society not governed by the Catholic Church. This charter is part of a modernization process in moving forward for a more unified Quebec that is not influenced by any religion. However, the ones that are against claim that it would not respect the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Canadian citizens. Also, Canada is a multiculturalism society; therefore, immigrants should be welcomed in the country by acquiring the same rights and freedoms as the rest of the population. They should not have to get rid of a part of their heritage, their religion, if it does not harm the rest of the population.

Fundamentally, this issue brings up many ethical principles as well as values. In fact, it has to take into consideration the Golden Rule since the people against the charter acknowledge the fact that they would not want people to limit their freedom, so they do not limit the freedom of others. Also, the principle of fidelity has to be applied because some people show fidelity towards their religion and heritage. Furthermore, the principle of conservatism states that society is working fine just the way it is and it does not need to change. In addition, the values that support this view are faith, fairness, fidelity, freedom of belief, individual freedom, tolerance, and tradition. However, the ones in favor of this charter founded their judgement on the values of fairness, equality of opportunity, non-interference, and order, as well as on the principle of equality since everyone should be treated the same, without any particular “permissions” to wear different religious symbols.

In my opinion, the strongest side is the one against the charter because it takes into consideration the fundamental freedoms, the fact that everyone has different opinions, and that conformity is not always possible. Also, as Canada is a multicultural society, it does not make sense to limit the population’s freedom since the country is supposed to accept, to a certain degree, cultural differences if it does not interfere with the rest of the population’s safety. It is all part of reasonable accommodations. Furthermore, banning the display of religious symbols in the public sector also includes Christianity symbols which is a big part of the cultural background and history of the society. Additionally, wanting to ban religious symbols will mostly affect immigrants since they practice more their religion. Not allowing them to display their belief is in a way promoting the fact that the society does not want them to be part of the community.

Gallant, Jacques. "Quebec Charter Suggests Canada has Work to do." Toronto StarSep 07 2013. ProQuest. Web. 9 Sep. 2013.


I strongly agree with your opinion. I believe that as long as it does not harm anyone why restrain it? We all believe in different things and let’s face it, religion is one of the most controversial topics nowadays. There will always be people disagreeing but as long as a government shows respect for the different religions of his country, peace can be maintained. Let the Muslims wear the veil, let the Sikhs wear the Kirpan and let the Catholics wear the crucifix. As long as it does not physically hurt anyone, why create useless problems? A couple of months ago, the question concerning the removal of the crucifix at the Quebec’s National Assembly was an important topic. Many people who did not practice Catholicism did not agree with this symbol in such an important place. However, I still maintain my point, since it does not physically hurt anyone, why remove it? Why make such a deal of an unimportant object. This crucifix is only there because it is part of Quebec’s history. It is maybe in the National Assembly, but in the end, does it affect the decision making?

Like both of these posts, I agree with all of you. Montreal is considered as a very multicultural city, so I don’t see why suddenly, the government has to impose a Charter of Values for Quebecers that would certainly receive a negative impression by most of the population. As we know, in the province of Quebec, Montreal is the second largest metropolis in Canada because it has been for decades, the destination for immigrants. According to the official site of the Government of Quebec, immigrants currently represent 28% of the region.
Now this is a lot of people from different cultures who have been welcomed here and the Parti Quebecois is forcing a Charter of Values that would basically strip everyone their freedom to wear religious symbols. In one of the points established by the PQ for any religious accommodation, it is written ‘’3) Ask whether it impedes the rights of others, would cost too much, would obstruct the organization's work, or effect safety’’. I find it quite ironic since this point is like asking if the Charter is preventing people from having their rights…
All in all, if the PQ wants to ensure religious neutrality, then the crucifix at the Quebec’s National Assembly and even the cross at Mont-Royal must go as well. There can’t be any excuses; it’s either everything or nothing.

"Metropolises: Montreal." Metropolises: Montreal. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2013. .

Montgomery, Angelica. "PQ Unveils Charter of Values." CJAD 800. CJAD, 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Sept. 2013.

I agree with your idea that everyone must have equal rights to their religion. This is a very interesting post as it talks about the current debates in our province, debates that are very recent. I think we should ban display of religion, but not like Mrs. Pauline Marois wants to do it. In fact, if you want to ban religious symbols in public institutions, all religions should be treated equally. No religion or faith is superior to others, so all display of religious symbols should be banned in public institutions. The way the PQ sees it, however, is that Christianity is good, and all others religions should be banned. According to the Charter, you are not allowed to wear a kipa or a turban, but you are allowed to wear a cross. And not any kind of cross, only a catholic one as orthodox crosses are also prohibited. This approach to secularism is racism and should not pass as a law. However, I believe that religion is a private matter, and should not be displayed in public institutions. If you want to practice your religion, you should do it at home, with your family and with people who share your beliefs. In France, for example, secularism is done right: all religious symbols are banned, be it crosses, turbans, etc.
In conclusion, I believe that religion should be a private matter, and should not be displayed in public. However, the PQ's charter is discriminatory, as it clearly places Catholicism higher than any other religion, as its symbols are the only ones allowed. If secularism is to be installed in Quebec, it must be done right.
Would you still be against the charter if all religions are dealt with equally or do you think it would obstruct freedom of expression?

I have chosen to comment on this post because this issue has been spoken about for a little while and has interested me because it is a very controversial topic that offends many while others agree that there is a law that might finally be introduced.

It was very hard for me to decide whether I agree with the government banding religious symbols, but after lots of thinking and research I agree with the government and believe religious symbols should be band for the sake of equality amongst everyone. For example, Muslim women who wear the hijab and the Burga offend many women because women have fought for many years to be seen as equal to a man and the sight of the hijab is offensive because it is taken as a representation that men are still more powerful than women. Another example can be the boys who carry the Kirpan’s in schools. It is very dangerous because he can use it to harm someone and no one else is allowed to carry it in school because it is not part of their religion. This is a topic that is very controversial. I am for the law being changed because for one we are all supposed to be seen as equal and not one is supposed to be seen differently.

Although everyone has the rights to their religious beliefs and wear what represents their faith, there is no place for this in the public sector. Everyone should be seen as equal. If people want to wear what they want, they should wear it in the privacy of their own homes or in their place of worship. Is the freedom or religious expression worth more than the perception of being an equal?

You definitely made a point and perfectly supported your argument! I couldn't agree more with you on this topic. Canada and specially Montreal, are known for their welcoming community and their passive and tolerant way of accepting each others differences. However, with this chart, they are completely changing their image. By putting such rules and limitations, they are not taking into consideration the freedom that each and every citizen of this country deserves. Here in Quebec, not only religion has been put aside, but also faith and beliefs. For many Quebecers, of course not all of them, this chart does not really mean anything because for them, religion is part of the past. Although, for many immigrants, not being able to fully practice their faith, it is something that they could not even think about it. I totally agree with equality among each other, but if that implies keeping people from being completely happy, fulfilled and secure, there is something wrong. Personally, I do believe in God and I wear a crucifix and I know that if somebody, no matter for what reason, tries to stop me from showing my faith to everybody, I will fight until I get the freedom I deserve.