Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.
With an understanding of what a permissive exemption is, it's worth discussing some of the issues that are raised by municipalities granting these exemptions to religious organizations.
Provincial and municipal governments grant exemptions from property taxes as a way to recognize and promote the public benefit of certain institutions. As far back as the Magna Carta, the advancement of religion has been seen as a good in and of itself. This has led to religious properties being granted the statutory exemptions discussed above.
However, as British Columbia becomes increasingly secular, it’s worth questioning this basic assumption. As of 2016, only 27% of British Columbians said they practice a religion or faith and only 11% attend religious services weekly. Despite the emptier pews, churches across BC are still granted automatic exemptions from property taxes.Read more
This has been a busy week.
On Tuesday, we learned that Trinity Western University is making its controversial Community Covenant voluntary for students this fall. This follows the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that law societies in BC and Ontario were justified in refusing to recognizing a proposed law school at TWU due to the discriminatory nature of this Covenant. The school plans to maintain the restrictions for staff and faculty and they are also required to sign a Statement of Faith that offends any notion of academic freedom at the school.
On Wednesday, the federal government seemed to talk out both sides of their mouth as they announced plans to repeal restrictions on the so-called political activities of charities, while at the same time announcing that they intended to defend the rules in court. The repeal of these rules is long overdue and will hopefully be accompanied by a legal definition of charity that ends the automatic assumption that religious groups are inherently beneficial to the public.
In addition to that, at last Monday's board meeting (minutes are available online for current members) the Board approved a thorough issues summary that brings together the many positions the BCHA has taken and made it easier for you to become a member through a monthly donation.Read more
The Senate is considering a bill that will finally repeal Canada's blasphemy law but we still need one last push to make sure that bill becomes law.
We've just launched a new push to send a message to Senators on the committee that's studying the bill with a simple message: It's time to repeal Canada's blasphemy laws.Read more
I want to give a huge thank-you to everyone who came out and joined our group in Vancouver Pride this year.
We had 15 people marching with us and another four volunteers helped tell people about our work at our table at the Sunset Beach Festival. This meant we were able to be seen by the hundreds of thousands of people who came to watch the Parade and thousands who walked through the festival throughout the day.
We've posted a video and pictures on Instagram and Facebook below. If you took your own photos, be sure to tag us @bchumanist on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.Read more
Most religious people think their morality comes from their religion. And deeply religious people often wonder how atheists can have any morality at all.
I’m going to use Christianity as my example, not because it’s representative of religion in general, but because there’s a lot of research on Christians, and because many readers will likely be familiar with it.
Christians will often tell you that their morality comes from their religion (or from their parents’ version of it). And if you ask them about what their religion tells them about what’s right and wrong, it will likely line up with their own ideas of right and wrong.
But the causal link is not as clear as it first appears.Read more
There is a pressing need to consolidate Ontario’s separate and public school systems.
Long ignored by most politicians, this controversial idea deserves a fresh and serious policy discussion — especially now, with the new Ontario government contemplating cuts to the education system. School consolidation will result in significant and recurring cost savings, and will do so in an equitable manner that does not threaten existing services or facilities.
Consolidation of school systems will save money by eliminating service duplication, and it will eradicate enrolment competition between the two systems.Read more
Paul Schachter is a retired lawyer (Juris Doctor 1974) with extensive training and practice in the areas of human rights, civil rights and civil liberties. The analysis and views in this commentary are individual and not meant to be attributed to any organization.
On June 15, 2018, in a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the decision of the Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) to deny approval to Trinity Western University (TWU) for its proposed law school. In a companion case, the Supreme Court also upheld the decision to deny accreditation by the Law Society of Upper Canada. These decisions support Canada’s opposition to religious intolerance wherever it surfaces, even under the banner of “freedom of religion”.Read more
Yesterday, Samir Gandesha talked to our Vancouver Sunday meeting about the historical importance of free speech for dissenting from authority. He also talked about some of the nuances and limits that form the debates that dominate today's discussions of the topic.
If you didn't get a chance to see his talk and you'll be in Vancouver on Wednesday evening, he will be covering much of the same ground in his presentation at SFU Harbour Centre. LGBTQ2+ rights activist Morgane Oger and BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson will follow up with their own comments.
These debates are likely to continue as longtime anti-gay Christian activist Bill Whatcott has been arrested and charged with distributing hate literature at Toronto Pride and a "LGBT: Let God Be True" event featuring another anti-gay activist Kari Simpson was cancelled by New Westminster's Anvil Centre.
Meanwhile, in what's been described as a "concerning" precedent, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) paid out over $3 million to Maajid Nawaz following his threat of a libel lawsuit. The SPLC had controversially (and for bizarre reasoning) labelled Nawaz an "anti-Muslim extremist." Here in Canada, Jordan Peterson is suing Wilfred Laurier University following comments said in a disciplinary hearing with a TA last year. Peterson has said he wants his lawsuit to convince university professors and administrators "to be much more circumspect in their actions and their words."
Among our membership are many strong and differing opinions on each of these issues. While we don't have positions on any of these specific controversies, I think The Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression, adopted at the 2014 World Humanist Conference, can be informative for us all. It's worth reading the entire Declaration but the main principles are:
The right to freedom of thought and belief is one and the same right for all.
No one anywhere should ever be forced into or out of a belief.
The right to freedom of expression is global in its scope.
There is no right not to be offended, or not to hear contrary opinions.
States must not restrict thought and expression merely to protect the government from criticism.
Freedom of belief is absolute but the freedom to act on a belief is not.