Quebec’s proposed secular charter is a source of great controversy:
If passed, Bill 60 would see all public sector employees banned from wearing overtly religious symbols.
Once the bill was tabled, debate quickly grew heated in the national assembly, started by a back-and-forth between Premier Pauline Marois and Liberal Opposition leader Jean-Marc Fournier.
Fournier accused the Parti Québécois government of creating division in Quebec’s society for no reason.
Marois responded by asserting that the bill was founded on the values of democracy, including the neutrality of the state. But banning conspicuous manifestations of religion from so much of public life hardly seems neutral:
As drafted, Bill 60 is even harsher than advertised. It prohibits judges, police, bureaucrats, teachers, doctors, nurses and others on the public payroll from wearing “conspicuous” religious gear such as Muslim head scarves, Sikh turbans, large crosses and Jewish kippas while on the job. But it also extends to private sector workers on contract to government. It takes aim at Muslim, Jewish and other dietary practices, even in daycare centres. And it offers fewer opt-out provisions than expected.
Sometimes there are genuine tensions between the freedom to practice one’s religion and other rights and freedoms we value. But there is no good reason for the state to limit people’s choices in this draconian way. The Parti Québécois is not even consistent in its approach; it defends the National Assembly crucifix on the grounds of ‘heritage and culture’, and does not propose to abolish Quebec’s three Christian public holidays. Jacobinism rightly highlighted the dangers of multiculturalism as political process in his own recent post, but secularism shouldn’t mean that religion has no place in the public sphere.
Update: I have been informed that the PQ might support the cross being removed if that was the consensus.