Faith, freedom, food
Doug Saunders hits the nail on the head when he balances “freedom of religion” with “freedom from religion” ( The Problem In Public Life Isn’t Islam, But Religion Itself – Feb. 18). Our democratic system based on individual rights and freedoms guarantees that each individual has the right to adhere to and practise any set of beliefs so chosen, as long as it does not infringe on anyone else’s rights and freedoms, free from interference by the state.
Equally important, no one set of beliefs, and thus, no religion, has any place in the rule of law, the creation or administration of public policy or the education of our children. In other words, in order for all of us to be free to believe or practise what we wish, no religious beliefs should enter the public sphere. In this way, we all remain free, and tolerance is genuinely guaranteed.
John Herberman, Toronto
To equate freedom of religion with freedom from religion is as absurd as equating freedom of expression with freedom from expression. Mr. Saunders concludes that we should strive for a “neutral, secular public life.”
Why stop there? Why only prohibit the public expression of religious beliefs? Why not the public expression of any belief, or other personal preference? Why not all expression, period? No more parades, no more public protests, and no more picket lines! Why not require that we all wear the same clothes, in the same colour, and maybe even masks, and that we remain silent, while in “public life”? Why not require all restaurants open to the public to serve the same “neutral” food, whatever that may be?
Intolerance of religion is as offensive, in my opinion, as intolerance of any particular religion or group. In my opinion, intolerance is intolerance, and extremism is extremism, even in the guise of “secularism.” Intolerance and extremism are the real problem – not religion itself.
Thank God I still have the right to express that opinion.
Angelo Nikolakakis, Montreal
A gross conceit
I get a sense God is saying something through Elizabeth Renzetti’s column ( He’s A Multitasker Of The Highest Order, But Politicians Need To Give God A Break – Feb. 18): That a lack of humility in claiming knowledge of God’s will is an offence to a watching world.
Rev. John Van Sloten, New Hope Christian Reformed Church, Calgary
Thank goodness for Ms. Renzetti’s wonderful wit and the reminder that those who in apparent humility publicly thank God for their talents and successful decisions are really indulging in the gross conceit of having been “fingered” by the putative creator of the universe.
John Silk, Stratford, PEI
The Quebec Supreme Court decision regarding mandatory teaching of religion as an objective course in Quebec schools ( Court Limits Claims Of Infringement Of Religious Rights – Feb. 18) is objected to by civil libertarians on the grounds that it gives too much power to the government at the expense of parents. How is that so? The government is not inculcating an ideology in this but attempting to both foster tolerance and moderate the effects of religious brain-washing.
It seems the Canadian Civil Liberties Society has no objections to the enormous psychological power of religious institutions supported by parents set against the sensitive psyches of children. There is a logical contradiction here somewhere.
Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.
Jack Diamond ( Letters – Feb. 18) says of Ontario’s budget challenge that “A progressive tax regime is consistent with fairness.” I assume by “a progressive tax regime” he means one where high-income earners pay higher tax rates than those who earn less. So “progressive” means that somebody who went to university, got a profession, works hard, and earns $120,000 a year is taxed at a higher rate than someone who stayed at home, left school at Grade 10, works six months out of 12 and earns $30,000.
No doubt it’s expedient for governments needing revenue to implement such a scheme, but what’s fair about it?
Patrick O’Flaherty, St. John’s
One insight in Don Drummond’s report is that Ontario has relatively low provincial spending per capita. If the commission had been allowed to consider tax increases, I suspect that it would have recommended at least some action on that front. If spending is not out of control why fight the deficit entirely through budget cuts? There are some modest tax increases that would make good sense.
Take the sales tax, for example. When the federal government reduced the GST rate from 7 to 6 and then 5 per cent, economists decried those moves. The GST is one of the least distortionary taxes; it falls on everyone in proportion to spending; and low-income earners are well protected from it by tax credits. Today, of course, Ontario sales tax is harmonized with the GST under the HST and falls on a very similar tax base.
It would be sensible, and very defensible, for Ontario now to raise its sales tax by two percentage points, simply occupying the tax room created by the federal GST reductions. The extra $5-billion in annual revenue would be a very useful contribution in the fight to reduce the province’s deficit.
Jim Davies, economics department, University of Western Ontario
Farley in Focus
I am honoured that Farley Mowat made note of my archeological research in the eastern Arctic ( … We Have History On Our Side – Focus, Feb. 18). I am also pleased that he agrees that findings indicate a significant and previously unsuspected early European presence in the region. I must, however, state my view that most, if not all, of this evidence relates to travel to the area by the Norse who occupied Greenland between approximately 1000 and 1450 A.D. I would add that, although present evidence does not support it, the possibility of earlier European ventures should continue to be part of the discussion.
In using historical arguments for sovereignty, it should be noted that all of the evidence of early European use of the Arctic is associated with the remains of indigenous communities. The newcomers came to an occupied land, and like their followers in later centuries, they probably found trading more effective than hunting for the ivory and furs that they sought. It now appears that for at least the past millennium, the indigenous peoples of Arctic Canada have been on the front line of contact between Europe and North America.
Patricia Sutherland, Ottawa
Fear not the ascot
As a woman, I would like to defend the much maligned ascot ( Fashion: Ask Russell Smith – Style, Feb. 18). I’ve known a number of men in my life with a fondness for the ascot – none of them were prats. I’ve bought ascots as gifts for them for many years. Unfortunately, ascots are becoming harder to find; I fear I will soon be seeking them in Value Village.
The ascot is the ultimate marriage of design and style – the epitome of casual elegance. It is simple, it hides a man’s undershirt and it stays in place. A beautiful paisley or foulard print ascot, like a gorgeous silk necktie, provides an opportunity for a man to show his personality. I entreat you, gentlemen, be bold; do not abandon elegance and style for the whims of fashion. Continue to wear your ascots. Stylish ladies will not think you’re old fashioned, a stuffed shirt or a prat. However be warned, they might suspect you of being a playboy engaged in international espionage or a closet millionaire.
Alma Javad, Burlington, Ont.
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