Humanist Perspectives: issue 185: Editorial: Eternal vigilance, the price of liberty

Editorial: Eternal vigilance, the price of liberty
by Richard Young

Stand up

t’s no exaggeration to say that every day in the news we are provided with ample fresh reminders of why the separation of church and state is such a profoundly good idea. It seems like such a simple, such an obvious, such a hard-earned bit of wisdom, but in much of the world it is still stranger than a talking snake.

In Pakistan’s Swat Valley, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai is shot in the head for encouraging girls to go to school. Turkish pianist Fazil Say is convicted of blasphemy for a series of Tweets. Indonesian Islamist hard-liners destroy homes and a mosque in an Ahmadiyah community. A court in Saudi Arabia sentences two men to hundreds of lashes on top of jail time for converting a woman to Christianity. In Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, those who openly discuss atheism face the death penalty. A Salvadoran court denies a potentially life-saving abortion to an ailing woman.

In every case, the offense against human dignity is committed by a sitting government or by an outfit within a stone’s throw of governing.

We don’t have to look to distant shores for examples of unsavoury church-state conjoinings. Some tentacles still reach out from the Dark Ages and emerge in our very own backyards. Ontario, for example, has a multi-billion dollar, fully publicly funded institution that openly and legally discriminates against gays and those with the “wrong” religion. Making matters worse, not one politician will even dare to acknowledge the situation for the shameful anachronism that it is. It’s a script worthy of Rod Serling.

The institution, of course, is Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic school system. It has earned Canada a pair of UN Human Rights condemnations and, moreover, all citizens foot the bill for an extra billion dollars each year just for duplication costs. (See HP #173’s Canada’s Dirty Little Secret.)

I’ve been told many times, by people who ought to know better, that “time” and “the inexorable march of progress” will ride in like the cavalry and save the day, one day, many years from now. All we have to do is sit back, wait and watch, bag of popcorn in hand.

That just won’t do.

— Richard Young

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