Monday, April 26, 2004

Parental Freedom to Teach?

According to Press Reports (Vancouver Sun, Thursday April 22, 2004) the British Columbia Ministry of Education has decided that parents who enroll in its program of distance learning for home-schoolers must not use “other” materials or, in fact, religious materials with their own children.

This is a rather stunning but not inconsistent development. Secularism, as we have noted many times in various writings from the Centre, is an ideology started officially in the mid-nineteenth century. Its goal was to drive religions out of the public and, eventually, the world. Though it hid its most radical edges under a pink fog of rhetoric, careful perusal of such works as George Jacob Holyoake’s “English Secularism”: A confession of Belief" of secularism It is Holyoake who is credited with coining the term “secularism” in the mid-nineteenth century.

The BC Ministry of Education’s recent rules are just a more current application of the anti-religious ideology. Parents, as the Supreme Court of Canada said in its decision R. v. Audet (see our Lex View site at ) are the primary educators of their children. They delegate this limited authority to the State. The State has no prior right at all to determine the moral and religious content that parents wish to teach their children.

On this basis the education system must not usurp the proper function of parents and the beliefs of the communities of which diverse parents are members.

What this shows, rather clearly in fact, is that having dominated public education, the Conditioners (as C.S. Lewis once called them in The Abolition of Man, 1943 - - a book that everyone concerned with these issues needs to read) wish to go further. They wish to control and condition and this attempt to get inside the homes of citizens to consolidate their program of conditioning in morality (while professing that they do not) is a good example of their intent.

A free and democratic society must be wary of attempts by the State to over-reach and go beyond its proper jurisdiction.

Questions must be asked about the anti-religious bias that is behind this kind of attack and the people who formulated this kind of rule brought to book for it. Perhaps some of them should begin looking for work elsewhere.

Iain T. Benson©

Monday, April 12, 2004

Consensus With a Vengeance

We at the Centre have many times over the years commented upon the danger of hiding coercion under the honeyed words of the day. Recently, a speech by Chief Justice Roy McMurtry of Ontario to the Saskatchewan Bar Association gave further helpful evidence to those of us who believe that many judges have been led astray and that the language some of them now use give insights into the wrong theories.

According to an article in the Regina Leader Post (February 6th, 2004, page B2) The Chief Justice stated that the Courts must be “crusaders for a new consensus” when people don’t support “fundamental values” represented by the Constitution.

Somehow it seems that judges have been allowed and even encouraged to use old words with new meanings. Now we need to add “consensus” to the list of terms that have been recrafted to mean other than what most people would mean by the term.

The term “consensus”, as most good dictionaries tell us, means “agreement” and is related to the Latin root for the word “consent.”

When the court is, as the Ontario Chief Justice tells us that court is, a “crusader” for a “new consensus” it does not mean, as the term suggests, that it is finding what people will agree with. Oh no. It is telling them what they must agree with. That is rather different.

It is as if, when two people, one a vegetarian and another a carnivore, disagree about what they should eat for dinner, a judge tells them both that they must eat meat and that, moreover, this result is a consensus and not, as it seems to most, a coercion.

Some of the judges are now saying what amounts to this: “the fundamental values that under gird our common life together require the law (meaning the judges) to advance the eating of meat over those who do not agree with meat eating” and that, “in future, those who continue to wish they were not eating meat must just realize that in the crusade to further carnivorous behaviour a new consensus must govern.”

This is what is happening with law. Rather than seeking genuine consensus, a particular outcome is being forced by law. With real consensus there is an opportunity for two contending sides (who will not usually not agree given their different starting points) to decide, for the sake of cooperative living etc., to concede aspects of their position so as to compromise (where such is possible) so that a consensus can be hammered out. This is the kind of “give and take” that used to occur in democracies all the time and would be crafted by legislation and amended legislation as the representative bodies sought to see what would work in society.

One example of this was the “consensus” that religious dogma was not appropriate in public education.

But that was before the concept of judicial crusaders for a “new consensus” began seeing the law as a blank cheque for the judicial will. Now we unenlightened people must just wait to determine how the judges are going to enlighten us and what they decide is good for society will be our new “consensus.” Comforting isn’t it?

However, where neither side concedes but one side is deemed the winner of a legal claim and the other is forced by law to “accept” what they do not believe, we do not, whatever the judges and their supporters may claim, have a consensus, we have just used law coercively to determine what view prevails whether or not people are in agreement with it. But should not the law be more attentive to the valid scope for divergent viewpoints in society? Perhaps that would be insufficiently “crusader” like for the new crusaders?

Forced “consensus” is no consensus and the sooner the judges realize this the better. As we have said elsewhere, some liberal theorists at the moment are beginning to realize that a “convergence model” that anticipates we will all move to agreement on certain matters, is actually not liberal at all (see Centrepoints #10 and the discussion of the work of English philosopher John Gray).

There are matters about which we will not agree and on those we had better figure out how people with divergent viewpoints can co-exist in a free and democratic society, not give the hammer hand to one group over another with the court claiming that a “consensus” is what has been arrived at.

Chief Justice McMurtry, and those judges and academics who support his idea of the rule by law need a better dictionary and a better theory of law than the false concept of “consensus” they are using now.

Iain T. Benson©

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Abolish "Hate Crimes" Section

Hatred, as any dictionary will tell you, is a "feeling" or "emotion". Crimes, on the other hand, are actions. Hatred should not be a crime anymore than, say, "jealousy" or "greed" should be crimes. Acted on, they can become crimes; until then they are not.

Jealousy, like any of the seven deadly feelings, (surely no one speaks of "sins" any longer in a post-religious age?) can lead to crimes to be sure. Think of "crimes of passion". The distinction between thoughts and actions is essential and, as George Orwell showed in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the creation of "thought crime" is from another kind of regime than a free and democratic one. That is where "hate-crimes" is taking us - - in the direction of a closed or less open society.

It is the actions consequent upon the feeling or emotion not the feeling itself that is, or should be, criminalized. All crimes require two things to be present, the mens rea (guilty mind) and the actus reus (surrounding circumstances including the alleged criminal acts). Nobody yet suggests that passion should be an offence, that having the negative thoughts is the same as committing the crime. Yet this is what we are in danger of doing with so-called "hate crimes".

The creation of a "hate crimes" section in the Criminal Code was formed out of good intentions back when the idea was first created. The purpose originally was to protect Jews and who could be against that noble purpose.

Even at the time however there were those who expressed concern about the creation of such a crime and, note well, its extension into other areas. Civil libertarians and others originally expressed concerns and put them on the record. Years later it appears that their concerns about extension were well founded.

Now the attempt, Bill C-250 which has been heroically resisted by various people including Senator Anne Cools, is close to receiving what might be its third and final reading before the Senate. It would extend the category to those who wish protection under the banner of "sexual orientation". The justification for this is that such people are not covered under the law. They claim that since various gays and lesbians and others have been the subject of crimes they need the protection of the Section. This assumes both that the Section as it stands is valid and that the extension is required. Neither is true.

The crimes that certain people have suffered are crimes and punishable as such. They do not need the creation of a new offence for feelings or emotions that is wide-open to abuse and that is present in a Section of this sort. There has been no more active a group in Canada over the past decade or so in challenging other Canadians than the "gay-rights lobby" and their current spokespeople in Canada make it abundantly clear that they want this Section changed to include them so that they can use it.

In such an atmosphere where many religious groups have expressed fears that they will be targeted under this legislation for their affirmation of traditional sexuality - - which is, note well, stigmatize as "homophobic" "heterosexist" and, yes, "hateful" by the other side, it would be folly for Canadian lawmakers to give one already very powerful group a club with which to beat others.

Is this paranoid? Not at all. Given the history of litigation, the nature of the rhetoric in which, as the editorial page of the Globe and Mail recently noted, "tolerance" is not sufficient but "welcome" (for gays and lesbians) is essential, it doesn't take much in the way of insight to see that what is being set up brick by brick is the platform from which to attack religions and religious adherents. Such attacks have been seen throughout history and it would be ignorance of the first order for us to assume it cannot happen in Canada.

To fail to see this in the current climate is blindness to refuse to examine it is cowardice. The Section should not be added to, it should be removed entirely from the Criminal Code and sooner rather than later.

Iain T. Benson©