Stop praying! orders human rights commission
By Canadian Catholic News
Western Catholic Reporter
May 23, 2008
The Quebec human rights commission has asked members of the Saguenay city council to stop praying before its meetings.
In a May 15 release, the commission said the city contravened its obligation to be neutral by starting its public meetings with the recitation of a prayer.
The members of a municipal council are the representatives of the state, said M. Gaetan Cousineau, commission president.
They have the right to their personal beliefs, but, during the exercise of their public functions, they do not have the right to favour or give the impression of favouring one religion more than any other.
But Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay said he had no intention of stopping the practice.
For me, God is much more important than the commission. When I arrive on the other side, maybe in 10 years, 20 years, they won t ask me if I follow the commission, they will ask me if I follow God, Tremblay told CBC News May 15.
Jason Kenney, federal secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, found the order surprising.
Freedom of religion is a foundational principle in Canada and communities, in my view, have every right to exercise it as they see fit, Kenney said May 15.
Elected local politicians are accountable to their voters, not to some unaccountable commission with quasi-judicial powers that doesn t even have due process.