Religion and Politics in Canada
Date: Friday, June 11 2004
Religion and Politics in Canada
By Catherine Whelan Costen
The recent discussion on vive has provoked me to really think about this issue of religion and politics. Many of our current laws come from Biblical teaching, many of man’s laws have evolved from God’s laws.
Most of our critical laws in fact come from the Ten Commandments, ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ for example. Some of the laws have been reduced, changed in their original meaning and some have been revised beyond recognition. As we evolved as a society, we learned that some people do not share the same Christian beliefs as once the majority of the populous followed. What to do? Well we decided to separate ‘Church and State’. We allowed religions to be free to teach their followers according to their laws and to create a separate law, called Civil Law, which as the name implies was an attempt to create a civilized society. As this election develops we are faced with issues that sometimes cross the line between our religious teachings and our civil responsibilities and that causes conflict.
We must ask ourselves what kind of society do we want, is it fair to expect our government to be an elected arm of our religions or should government be an elected body to govern over civil matters? When you observe various other countries and their ability to govern the people according to their religious beliefs you find examples of extremes. When the current U.S. government began to associate their mission as a ‘divine mission’ and invoked the name of God to assist in the destruction of the Iraqi dictator, was God really on their side? What about the innocent people of Iraq who were also praying for relief from the bombings and destruction of their country, was God listening to Mr. Bush or as has been reported, God was telling Mr. Bush to inflict this war upon the people?? Many regions in the Middle East have different religions and the majority ruler imposes their religion upon all of the people, not just their faithful; is that correct?
As I look at the current leadership in Canada, Mr. Martin is said to be a practicing Roman Catholic, Mr. Harper an Evangelical Christian and Mr. Layton is from the United Church, if each one was expected to impose their beliefs upon the people of Canada who would represent the Muslims, the Jews and all other religions or those with no religion? Also if they in fact impressed their personal beliefs upon the rest of Canada, that would imply that their respective Church was governing the people of Canada and not the elected body in the House of Commons and there would be no need for civil law as we know it!
I expect my politician to represent me and my country in matters of International Law, Federal Law and in matters of monetary concerns for me and my country. I expect them to govern my country with the utmost respect for the environment, to look after the people no matter what religion, gender, race, disability, age or physical condition they live with. I expect my government to make all decisions based on what is best for this country today and in the future. To maintain it’s facilities, it’s infrastructure, healthcare and schools to the best of their ability with the proper management of the funds I provide.
It is our responsibility as citizens of this country to consider the political party, the candidate and the leader by their abilities to lead and govern this country. We should not expect or want them to guide us in moral or spiritual matters which belong in the dominion of our respective religions. Just because something is legal does not make it morally right, neither does something that is illegal necessarily mean it is immoral. We must make personal choices for our own deeds and accept the consequences for doing so. We may be comforted to know that our Prime Minister has a faith, and that he knows he is not supreme ruler, that he must answer for his actions to a higher power; but that should not be the reason to elect him or her. We must learn to separate ’Church and State’ in our own minds as well as in law in order to elect the best government for all people of all faiths. Although he or she may know that they answer to a higher power, that does not absolve him or her from answering to those that elect them to that public office, nor should it ever be our blind faith that keeps him in office or elects him to it in the first place.