Quebecers shouldn't have to hide their religious beliefs: Montreal archbishop
Published Monday, September 9, 2013 12:44PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 10, 2013 8:11AM EDT
MONTREAL -- On the eve of the Quebec government's unveiling of its proposed Charter of Quebec Values, the head of Montreal’s Roman Catholic Church has added himself to the growing number of voices to come out against it.
Calling it a matter of principle, Archbishop Christian Lepine was outspoken on the issue Monday, saying Quebecers shouldn't have to hide their religious beliefs.
Lepine said law can't separate humans from their beliefs in private or public and that by banning symbols of those beliefs publicly, the state is forcing them to deny a basic human right.
“It's okay to have a value system but I'm not sure… I'm not at ease that it's being used with the power of a charter that would impose itself on other belief systems, on other value systems,” he said.
Archbishop Lepine leads Montreal's Roman Catholics, and said he believes in a democracy such as Quebec, creating a Charter of Quebec Values would go too far in limiting the rights of everyone to express their religious beliefs.
The Parti Quebecois has confirmed it will reveal full details about its proposed Charter of Quebec Values on Tuesday morning, proposing to ban government workers from openly wearing religious symbols on the job.
Bernard Drainville, the Minister for Democratic Institutions, will present the draft version of the bill at 10:45 a.m. in Quebec City.
So far it appears the PQ wants to ban many public employees from wearing hijabs, kippas, or crucifixes, but the list of proposed exceptions is very long, and would include certain hospitals, provincial politicians, and even entire cities and towns.
Drainville has said repeatedly that no matter what, the crucifix that hangs in the Blue Room of the National Assembly, overseeing all laws passed in Quebec, would remain as a "cultural icon."
The government's goal, it has said, is to make public institutions such as daycare centres, schools and eventually hospitals and universities religiously neutral, just as it did by creating a secular school system two decades ago.
The archbishop, however, said an open secular system is better than a closed one.
“For me, secular society is where you can meet any points of view. If a judge is a Sikh and has a turban, for me, it's okay, because for me religion will always be something important in someone's life,” he said. “I'd rather know who he is that having him hide who he is.”
Many also say the government's proposed charter would contravene the country's charter of rights and freedoms. The archbishop agrees.
“It might have the risk of not respecting rights,” he said.
Besides, he said, as Quebec society evolves, enacting a charter based on our values today may only prove to be an even bigger problem down the road.
“If you put a set of values in a charter, you are just freezing in time. Ten years from now, they may want to change, but cannot anymore because it's in a charter,” he said.