Proposed religious symbol ban not well received by west end Montrealers

“When you take away a person’s freedom of choice no matter what the context is, you’re asking for big trouble.”

By Abby E. Schachter

Quebec is one of the most secular provinces in Canada. According to the 2012 census, it also has the lowest rate of marriages in the whole country, teetering under a mere 30%. Whereas more pious provinces and territories like Newfoundland, Manitoba and Nunavut range between 50-70 per cent.

Only last year, Quebec’s court of appeal ruled in support of the provincial government’s Ethics and Religious Culture course and disallowed a private Catholic High School from teaching its regular Catholic course. The Judge insisted that an education is meant to provide a neutral stance, one that does not require anyone to ‘adhere’ to it. Although religious parents were unhappy, the majority of Quebecers and Montrealers did agree with the decision.

“An unbiased view on religious culture allows Quebec’s younger generation something we never had, a choice!” Doreen Korsingstone says when she was a kid religion was mandatory in schools. “I’m Jewish and yet every single morning before class began I had to sing hymns and do the cross…I was used to it and to this day still know all of the Jesus songs but it was weird. You can imagine how confusing it all was.” Korsington says that she is a ‘practicing’ Jew. She observes the high holidays with her family and attends synagogue when necessary. “It’s a choice I made. As I grew older I realized I liked the Jewish faith and wanted to continue the tradition.”

Now, only one year after the school ruling we are faced with the PQ’s intention to ban all religious symbols from public service sector. Korzingstone says that she disagrees with this proposed law because it takes away peoples’ choice.

“Education is one thing. I love that students have the opportunity to explore difference cultures. But, this whole no more religious symbols business in public places bothers me. I don’t think it is right to pretend that religion does not exist at all. I may be Jewish but I love how beautiful the (Mount Royal) cross looks at night. Don’t erase our history! And If somebody wants to wear their religious clothing, let them. I didn’t think fashion police really existed!”

Adam De Rossi a high school teacher agrees.

“If somebody is an observant Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jew then that is his own divine right. Why can’t he wear what he wants if it does not hurt anybody? I always prided myself on being a Montrealer because we have so many different cultures living together in harmony (mostly) in our city. I don’t’ want everyone to look the same, it’s too ‘robotic’ and strange.”

Rachelle Moranez has lived in Montreal her whole life and says she is a practicing atheist but feels that ruling out religious symbols is a bad decision.

“I don’t practice any religion, but I wouldn’t take that right away from those who do. Some people need something bigger than themselves to cling to, and if that is taken away, what will happen to society at large?”

Milli Sesa also a Montreal resident says that the PQ Government is going too far.

“…People should be able to express their beliefs so long as they aren’t causing any harm to themselves or to others or imposing those beliefs by force which is kind of what the Quebec government is doing through law, no?”

“Have they learnt nothing from history?” Andrew Tabri a Concordia history major says that the PQ government is only repeating past mistakes. “They are pretty much doing the same thing every single religious society has ever done in regards to monopolizing cities and countries! By taking away religion they are creating an Atheistic culture that screams I’m better than you are and we are in the right and you are in the wrong. When you take away a person’s freedom of choice no matter what the context is, you’re asking for big trouble.”

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