01.03.2012 01:37 PM

Why I think “The Office of Religious Freedom” is a bad idea (updated)

John Baird, who I don’t regard as a SoCon, is gamely promoting his government’s decision to create an Office of Religious Freedom.  You can read his rationale, such as it is, here.

I’m going to be debating Brian Lilley about this Orwellian kookiness tomorrow on Sun News.  Given how our last get-together turned out, it might be worth a gander.

Here’s a brief summary of why I think this is a bad idea.  More to come.

1.  It involves government in matters of religion.  Government should leave religion alone, and vice-versa.  Church, state, wall, etc.

2.  It’ll cost $20 million, minimum.  In times like these, we don’t need yet more layers of bureaucracy.

3.  The Americans did something similar, and it was found to show bias against Muslims, and a bias for Christians.

4.  In that regard, it’s clear this thing is ripe for political abuse: an October invitation-only meeting with Baird didn’t even invite Sunni or Shia Muslims – two groups, coincidentally, who don’t vote Conservative much.

5.  I’m concerned that the office will focus only promoting Judeo-Christian traditions, and nobody else’s.  Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus were also excluded from Baird’s secretive little meeting.

6.  $500,000 is going to operate the office for this thing; where will the other $4.5 million go every year?  The Reformatories won’t say.

7.  The new office won’t report to Parliament.  Unlike the U.S. religious-freedom office, it isn’t multi-partisan, either.  Baird runs it.

8.  The Pew Forum found that Christians are persecuted in 130 countries, and Muslims in 117.  Is the Harper regime saying the former matter more than the latter?

9.  This entire thing, as Amnesty International and human rights experts have noted, is being done behind closed doors.  None of them have been consulted.

10.  Even my friends at Sun Media have editorialized against this thing.  They, like me, feel it’s a bad idea on many, many levels.

It’ll be an interesting debate.

UPDATE:  After reading the list above, a youngster named Faith Goldy-Bazos – who describes herself as “Christian and Conservative” – has been whipped into a veritable fury against Yours Truly on Twitter.  After viewing this, sent along by an interested party, I now know why she was invited to the closed-door meeting: she’s a SoCon kook.  Takes one to know one, etc.


  1. William says:

    This is a waste of taxpayer money.

    The state has no business promoting religious freedom even if it’s for all religions.

    It is not a metric of good government.

    p.s. Bring a megaphone if your mike gets cut off again.

  2. Michael Bussiere says:

    He may not be a SoCon but plenty of his colleagues are. Why not an Office of Gender Equality, Sexual Orientation Freedom, and so forth? The US may have such an office, but they also have a much more intertwined political/faith-based culture. We do not, period. This is just another example of the Republican-ization of our politics, which begs another question: When do we extend this transformation of Canada into a US-style political culture and ditch the Monarchy? The inconsistencies are glaring.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      Scratch a Refoormer and you will find a republican every time……Mr. Harper has become a “born again” Monarchist because he finds it politically expedient to do so…..but make no mistake these guys would ditch the parliamentary system and the Monarchy faster than you can say 51st state…..

    • Michael Bussiere: Could the left exist without the “U.S. Style” phrase I wonder?

  3. Philippe says:

    Smaller government, care for taxpayers’ money… it all fits perfectly well with the Conservative rhetoric. Goddamned ideological hypocrites.

  4. Dan says:

    It won’t be an interesting debate.

    It will be a lot of political doublespeak, with zero transparency.

    It all adds up to a huge waste of money to justify whatever Islamophobic foreign policy the Conservatives were going to do anyway. (See #8)

  5. Harith says:

    The funny thing is that the average Tory supporting WASP won’t complain about it being bigger government/taxpayer money waste because it is something to protect their Christian persecution complex and anything to get a one-up on those Muslims they’re so afraid of.

    • Ted B says:

      The average Tory supporting WASP doesn’t feel persecuted or have a persecution complex or hate Muslims. Let’s just be clear about that.

      Our average Tory political betters, the power elite running the show in Ottawa, however, think differently. Let’s just be clear about that too.

  6. Ted B says:

    This fits the pattern for Harper.

    Other than his dumb-on-crime laws, he’s really starved out the SoCons within Canada. Every so often he throws them a bone, at taxpayer expense, in the international space where the spotlight doesn’t really shine.

    – Planned Parenthood cuts
    – G20 Maternal Health
    – Rights and Democracy debacle
    – CIDA cuts


    This one has the potential of being seen by non-partisan Canadians as just kinda “weird”.

    From a government that:
    – is a-ok with Canadians abroad being killed if they broke foreign laws (regardless of how fair their justice system is and regardless of what kind of laws are passed)
    – would not do a thing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights
    – has systematically cut funding to rights groups in Canada
    – does nothing for the violation of other rights (speech, press, association, organization, etc.)
    we do however get an Office for Religious Freedom.

    It’s just going to look weird.

    And then when more people know that it’s really pretty much a Christian thing, it’s going to look weirder.

    And even hardcore SoCons are going to start asking Harper, the ones who claim that Christianity is under attack in Canada, why he will do all of that, spend millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars on protecting Canada abroad, won’t do anything to “protect” them here. And they’ll get more vociferous.

    And then he’ll either have to give them something domestic or slap them in the face again (as he did by declaring the Conservative Party to be a radically pro-choice party).

    Something to watch with great interest.

  7. Chris says:

    She’s hot, and seems to be angling to take over Anne Coulter’s role as the sexy nutbar of the right.

  8. Scott Ross says:

    Judging others by our values and mposing them on other societies and civilizations didn’t make the list?

  9. Robert says:

    I was sure, when I saw the title of this entry, that this was a joke. I mistakenly thought it was an oblique reference to the Ministry of Silly Walks. Then I read the first paragraph and vomited a little.

    I’m a Christian who is socially progressive by comparison to the rest of my religious community, but I don’t think this is a good idea. I agree that the less government interferes in citizens’ right to hold whatever religious belief they choose, the better.

  10. MP says:

    Perhaps the dumbest part about this new boondoggle is that once the ORF is established, future governments won’t be able to take it away without suffering accusations of heresy, intolerance, and general ungodliness from the various religious groups who want free money (which, last I checked, was all of them).

    So sure, I’m against the ORF as an instrument of judeo-christian evangelism, but I’m also against it more generally to the extent my government is in any way engaged in the promotion or protection of imaginary friends anywhere.

    Related question: How will the ORF equally serve the interests of atheists and agnostics?

    • Ted B says:

      If I was the next, more sane government, after bringing back the census, ending the dumb-on-crime-increase-crime-rates laws, and a couple of other things (so far), I would start by creating a broader Rights Agency into which the ORF would be subsumed to avoid any such accusations. Then you turn it into a funding arm since there are tons of good rights agencies out there (we used to have one in fact called Rights and Democracy until it was sabotaged by Harper).

  11. frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    The office of religious freedom is just another prime example of the Fundamentalist Christian Right (who control the Conservative Party of Canada from top to bottom), in


    I suppose Mr. Baird is trying to win brownie points with the fundies when his time to run for the leadership of the ReformaTories roles around……perhaps he thinks maybe, just maybe, theyll look past the gay thingy(doubtful)……

    • The Doctor says:

      So if the fundamentalist Christian right control the CPC from top to bottom, how come the Harper government hasn’t banned/criminalized abortion? Why did they have it as an explicit campaign plank that they would not bring in any law restricting abortion? Surely if they were controlled by the fundamentalist Christian right, they wouldn’t have had that in their platform, don’t you think?

      • Jan says:

        I assume they have calculated the vote loss if they make a real move against abortion and it’s substantial enough that they won’t touch it. But in order to keep the base happy, they have to keep throwing red neat scraps at them. This silly offfice is another of them. I expect Christian organizatimns to be the receipients of most of this five million which should keep them happy – for a while. This is how George Bush kept his base onside.

        • Philip says:

          Yup. This Office of Silly SoCon Symbols is the Harper equivalent of the cheesy bowling trophy. The SoCons aren’t going to get what they want on abortion but they will get every other meaningless crumb in the Conservative Party’s pantry.

          Make no mistake the Office of Religious Freedom will be all about rescuing Evangelical Christians from themselves as they fuck up bringing the light to the heathen. That and ignoring attacks on Hindus, Budhists and Muslims in the West.

      • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

        Weve beaten this topic to death……if they felt they could maintain govt they would have done this yesterday, as the overwhelming majority of Refoorm MP’s are pro-life…..they cant, so theyll do it through the back door, as Mr. Kinsella, myself, and many others have mentioned before…..through private members bills…
        In this regard they are being “silent as snakes”, just as Mr. Manning directed in order to enact the Refoorm agenda…

        But keep drinking that blue kool-aid, Doc….

  12. Alex Cameron says:

    Warren I suggest you wear a djellaba during the broadcast and that you bring some props with you.

    Perhaps you could get mad and throw a shoe or two in protest.

    (Bring spares in case they’re kept for evidence…)

    • Windsurfer says:


      Warren, in your Sun Media appearance contract, do they specify the garb which you must wear?

      I dare you to show up in:

      –an Amish outfit
      –a Gambian peasant suit
      –punk, complete with nose piercing + fuschia hair

      Hey, this is getting to be more fun all the time.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      LOL…..but I think a large pentagram medallion and a horned goat headress would get more of response from the Goldy-Bazos types……throw in a few oak branches for good measure……

      • Philip says:

        Full on Aztec priest Warren. Big feathered head dress, collared incense bearing slaves and the obsidian sacrificial knife. I personally find Warren’s reckless worship of the Sun disturbing but I am prepared to file paper with the ORF in his support.

  13. dave says:

    Warren, please keep shining a light on this cockroach.

  14. KC says:

    Those who say we don’t have a ‘separation of church and state’ need to read R. v. Big M Drug Mart and Zylberberg v. Sudbury. It may not be as thick a wall as in they have in the U.S. on some subjects but it is there.

  15. Bill Templeman says:

    The Tories are like a hockey team stepping on to the ice at the beginning of the 2nd period with a 5 goal lead. They played a flawless 1st period and their opponents are a bunch of disorganized bunglers. The game is theirs to lose. The only way they are going to lose this game is if they start getting cocky and start making mistakes.

    This is mistake #3. Now if the bunglers would only get their act together…..Back to Sweden vs. Finland.

  16. patrick deberg says:

    Right Gwynn,

    That let’s pray for salvation together like one finds with Fred Phelps and his little flock. Big difference somehow? Where does Fred want gays to live?

    • patrick deberg says:


      I’d be happy to explain myself in context to your statements. I have followed this thread and read what you have written.

      ” Islam is a complete social order somewhat like communism but with the addition of a Deity who endorses the system …. while Christianity is just a “religion”. ” This is a real shallow reading that begs the question, “How many Muslim people do you actually know and have shared life and time with and how can you make such an absurd statement and think you can get away with such nonsense? ” Seriously you really think that you know over a billion people can be lumped together like this? My comparison to phelps was to show you that every religion has it’s tribal factions that run off the rails. That they can be as dangerous to their loved ones as any other faction. Phelps is certifiable and you might say he’s never killed anyone but he knows he could never get away with it otherwise…..well Mark Stein didn’t mind converting Brevek to his little flock now did he?

      On to the next point….

    • patrick deberg says:

      Gwynn now this,

      “the Office of Religious Freedom will expose Islam for what it is… an oppressive social order that hides behind a “religion of peace” banner.” ”

      What is this supposed to mean? That this Office is being created to drag Islam into the light kicking and screaming? Islam has had a history paralleled to the Christian churches in the sense they both have blood on their hands. You have me truly intrigued here. Can you share something we don’t know about this Office that only you are privy to? Or at least tell me what this office is supposed to do? Will it be chasing down the bountiful folks as well ?
      More to come….

    • patrick deberg says:

      Again Gwynn about these big bold statements….

      “Big difference because you can choose your religion, but you can’t reject Islam on threat of Death”

      I don’t follow the Islamic faith, A few of these readers don’t follow the Islamic faith, As a matter of fact about a couple billion people don’t follow the Islamic faith and were not all dead.
      Think about what you say. If one billion Islamic followers declared war today wouldn’t it be a huge war encompassing every country in the world? It’s not, so you and the Office are somewhat mistaken.
      As far as killing other people remember this from one fervent believer in the christian faith? I quote ” God told me to invade Iraq. ” Care to count the dead from that little directive from God?
      I am an Irish Catholic so have profound respect for this institution in spite of itself ” How about that Crazy Bishop guy Lahey? ” What I detest is grade school clerics that think their profound thinking gives them license to speak with some sort of authority on my behalf. Thank you but you will never need to help me interpret the words of Christ. Go to school for a few more decades and go to a monastary to be with yourself for a few years. At least the monks don’t love the sound of their own voice. Although the singing is something to behold.

      A bit more…..

  17. Nicole says:

    I would support an Office of Freedom from Religion.

    • Philip says:

      Why? Also why should my tax dollars support Harper’s attempts to keep his social conservative/evangelical wing happy?

  18. Sean says:

    Is there anything more perfectly Conservative than wasting tax dollars on religion?

  19. CQ says:

    I could watch it. Except Sun News’ over-the-air is long gone and Rogers analog cable is displaying a second, 4/3 format crop, repeated carriage of WNED (17.1) at its channel 15 spot (not even the so-called Rogers/City News channel).

  20. patrick deberg says:


    I have read your posts and you love to bait folks here. You unfortunately are too clever by half. This is what we know. There is a large amount of hate in the world. People that dislike hate fight it in any way possible and you might feel we are wrong. Mr K fights by trying to win elections and barring people that love to spout off on this site. Benedictines pray quietly in silence to end hate. Others travel to different parts of the world and give their lives to end these wars. Still others bring people into our homes here to try to understand these differences. but be very clear on a few things. There are Catholics that hate. There are Hindus that hate. There are baptists that hate. There are Islamists that hate. There are Atheists that hate. Our job is to find out why they hate and how to turn that around. That is the most important commandment after you must love god with all your heart and mind and soul. It’s in that great big book if you look. Stop baiting people with the if you like Islam you must hate women trope, it works for fools and I think you are not a fool. don’t prove me wrong………………..

    Good night

  21. Seems to me you forgot the largest and fastest growing demographic – us atheists. We’re REAL pissed off with the Harper Cons on this one – and they didn’t invite us either. Don’t you think atheists have human rights issues in a great many countries around the world? You bet we do – and you can bet the Harper Cons don’t give a damn. And considering we have zero political representation in this country at the federal level by any political party perhaps even in Canada too…

  22. patrick deberg says:

    Well Smelter I have to conclude you were right !!

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