Canadian Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings

Apr 17, 2015

Image via Wikimedia Commons

By Ron Csillag

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that a small town in Quebec may not open its council meetings with prayer.

In a unanimous ruling Wednesday (April 15), Canada’s highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The case dates back to 2007, when a resident of Saguenay complained about public prayer at City Hall.

Just last year, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that legislative bodies such as city councils could begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.


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11 comments on “Canadian Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings

  • @OP In a unanimous ruling Wednesday (April 15), Canada’s highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

    Prayer in public business meetings, is a sure indication that representatives have been chosen who have no constructive ideas to contribute, and are seeking ways to fill in time, looking as if they are being important doing something, while actually wasting everyone else’s time and keeping useful business off the agenda.



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  • Religious Freedom vs Religious Equality

    One of the biggest misconceptions that we need to blow out the water is that religious freedom gives you legal exemption to do anything your church, preacher or holy book tells you to, in particular, harm or harass non-believers.

    Religious freedom is about restraining others from interfering with you, when you want to do nutty but harmless superstitions motivated by your religion. This constraint on others allows you to behave freely.

    Religious equality means the government will not treat you any better or worse, just because of which religion (if any) you subscribe to. It must act as if it were blind to your religion, giving you no special favour or discrimination.

    Given that people with religions suffer from delusions, they are impaired citizens. They cannot think clearly. Eventually their right to vote will be withdrawn. Eventually treatment will be all but mandatory.



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  • 4
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    …. while actually wasting everyone else’s time and keeping useful business off the agenda.

    And getting paid with taxpayer money to do it.

    I think it’s pretty ironic that the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favor of keeping religion out of public institutions where there is nothing in our constitution that garantees this while the US Supreme Court came with the opposite ruling where the constitution is supposed to garantee separation of church and state.

    But I’m glad about the ruling. I’ve been following that story for a while since this is local news here. Saguenay was not the only town in which this was going on in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Now all the “prayer mayors” will have to stand down and stop this anachronistic nonsense.

    The other good new is that the ruling creates a legal precedent that could help bring about more secular legislation in the future: better laws concerning religious education in public schools, elimination of government grants for private schools that teach religion, religious symbols and attire in the public space, etc.



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  • @NearlyNakedApe:

    “…nothing in our constitution that guarantees this…”

    I think that’s incorrect. The whole case is premised upon subsection 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (part of our constitution), which states:

    Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;…

    One of the many wonderful things about this unanimous decision from our Supreme Court is that despite the fact that the preamble to the Charter says: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”, the Court explicitly found that this recognition of history does not undermine the freedom of, and from, religion. The Court specifically says that non-belief is given protection equal to that afforded believers.



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  • This was an excellent move by the Supreme Court of Canada. Quebec historically had been a strong Catholic province, and that had been the excuse for the Provincial City Councils to continue with the prayer before meetings. Quebec today is populated by many different religious and non religious beliefs, with a growing belief in the separation of state and religion. This move has prompted the other government bodies from the Federal level to all Provincial levels to question their prayer systems before meetings. It is about time my province and country decided to join the 21st century. My hope is that this court decision will eventually lead all the government members to governing Canada rationally and without religious influence.



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  • 8
    System Marked Down says:

    I think the point is that the consitution doesn’t say anything about separation of church and state, while the charter does. Two different things.

    Regardless, i long for the days when the catholic-public school system is defunded.



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  • 9
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    I think the point is that the consitution doesn’t say anything about separation of church and state, while the charter does.

    Yes that was my point but I’m not sure that the charter says something about separation of church and state. Does it? Wouldn’t this belong in a federal constitution rather that in a charter of individual rights and freedoms since separation of church and state is a responsibility/duty of the government and not a right or responsibility of individuals per se?



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  • 10
    William says:

    “Regardless, i long for the days when the catholic-public school system is defunded.”
    Why? Almost everyone I graduated a Catholic High School with is now an atheist.



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