Saturday, December 3, 2011

Harper's "Office for Relgious Freedom": Another Newspeak front?

Dubya got into a lot of hot water in many circles with his so-called "faith based initiative" (which President Obama has actually continued and broadened to include people of faith who are LGBT) and now Harper appears to want to go down the same path with something called the "Office for Religious Freedom."    Internal memos obtained by the CBC through a FOIA request indicate that Team Harper wants to sidestep the obvious question, whether "promoting religious freedom around the world" is just a way to masquerade a true intent to let Con-friendly denominations dictate the national agenda.    Just like the Department of War became the Department of Defence and "Welfare" became Human Resources Development, this is potentially a new front in the game of Newspeak.

I absolutely agree that you can't have religious freedom without free speech and vice versa.    But I also happen to believe that when one is elected to government he or she has a duty to the community at large and not just specific interests, to work for the liberty of all and not just for some.    Specifically, to understand that the "Great Commission" does not mean refusing to take no for an answer.

I note that two lines were blacked out in the disclosure, regarding how the government chose who to consult with on how the Office should be set up.    All that was left was a smarmy line about picking people dedicated to freedom of religion.    Naturally, what was censored should leave one asking who they chose -- was it those who favour their own freedom of religion at the expense of others who don't have the same religion?    You can't avoid the televangelists in late night or the weekends.    The way most rail against Muslims is a concern.    Most televangelists shamelessly support the Jewish cause when their own grandparents most likely supported the Holocaust (without explaining the change of heart), but some through weasel words show their contempt for the Chosen People.    And yes, many also rail against Catholicism, in a country where a plurality, 42% or thereabout, are Catholics.

I have said before and I'll say again that while I accept the fact faith based groups are part of the delivery end of social services, that is because I and others who accept that fact do so because such groups make a clear distinction between service and proselytizing.   Blurring that line violates the accepted separation of church and state.    Harper is playing a dangerous game if he thinks he can start a war of words between religious groups based on religion.    Wars have started over such fighting words.   Just look at Yugoslavia.

Besides which, the Office isn't needed.    We already have the "Rights and Democracy" bureau which while somewhat tainted over the years is serving this purpose among many others.    Why waste money with duplication?   I thought Harper was a provincial rights advocate; this seems to go against that kind of thinking.  He was supposed to have been for openness but the censorship even at this level makes me ask what needs to be hid.

The Salvation Army, World Vision, the Kairos partnership -- those are great examples of faith based groups who serve the community at home and around the world, and who promote freedom of religion at the same time without rubbing our faces in it.   The government should certainly promote that freedom as well, but they should follow the lead of the groups who have figured out where the line is drawn.

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