Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.

TWU, charities, secular recovery and more - Aug 20, 2018 Newsletter

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.

And today we submitted our response to the provincial government's draft mental health and addictions strategy. There is still time to add your own voice, so please do so before tomorrow at 4pm.

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.

All of this work is made possible through the support of individual donors. If you haven't, please consider becoming a member or making a donation today.

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Final push to repeal Canada's blasphemy law

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.

Send your message now

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Humanists in Pride 2018

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.

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Religion does not determine your morality

By Jim Davies, Carleton University

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.

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It's time to merge Ontario's two school systems

By Samuel E. Trosow, Western University and Bill Irwin, Western University

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.

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TWU commentary: A win for equality and against religious intolerance

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”.

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The limits of free speech? Jun 25, 2018 Newsletter

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.

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Axial tilt is the reason for the season

By Stephen Schneider, University of Massachusetts Amherst

The summer solstice marks the official start of summer. It brings the longest day and shortest night of the year for the 88 percent of Earth’s people who live in the Northern Hemisphere. People around the world observe the change of seasons with bonfires and festivals and Fête de la Musique celebrations.

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More on TWU - June 18, 2018 Newsletter

As I mentioned in my special update on Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the decision by law societies to reject Trinity Western University's proposed law school was reasonable.

The religious right in Canada has, as one might expect, decried the decision as a "big loss" for religious freedom and even arguing that "faith is now banned from Canada's public spaces."

While the full ramifications of this ruling will take years to sort out through subsequent rulings, such a reaction seems disconnected from the decisions as they're written. In each decision the justices express a recognition for the rights of individual Canadians to practice (or not) their faith. Where there is some disagreement is when that practice comes into contact with the rights of others.

In other words, religious freedom in Canada is a bit like the freedom to swing your arms about in public: it's all fine until your hand connects with someone else's face.

Aside from the reaction of religious activists, there has been ample coverage of the result in the media. I'll share just a few that I found interesting: 

Let me know if you find other illuminating or unique analyses.

On top of that, I spoke with one of our lawyers for the case earlier this afternoon and will hopefully have that conversation out as a special podcast later this week.

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Days from the TWU decision - Jun 11, 2018 newsletter

Many of you will recall that back in December we flew to Ottawa to argue before the Supreme Court of Canada on whether law societies should have to approve a law school from Trinity Western University while it maintains a discriminatory admissions policy.

We've been told that the Court will render its decision on Friday morning.

While there are realistically only two ways the court could go - siding with BC and Ontario's law societies or with TWU - it's the details that will matter.

Our submissions challenged TWU's claim that its religious rights were being infringed upon. We said organizations don't have religious rights under Canadian law and that if the court were to recognize such rights they should do so under a strict test.

I'll be sure to update you on Friday once we know the result and have had a chance to review it.

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