Musings —08.31.2013 07:31 PM—
In the fall of 1936, as the plague of Nazism continued spreading across Germany, Oldenburg issued a decree.
The northern German district had decided to order the removal of crucifixes from public buildings, and even from Catholic schools. For equivalency, Oldenberg’s fascist leaders also ordered that pictures of Martin Luther be taken down in Protestant schools.
While Adolf Hitler had been notionally a Catholic — his mother had been quite devout — his connection to the church was not strong. His interest in churches seemed to be limited to their architecture.
In his treatise, Mein Kampf, Hitler would attack the Catholic Church, denouncing it for being insufficiently concerned by what he called the “racial problem.” While his National Socialist Party charter lamely promoted freedom of religion, Hitler disbanded the Catholic Youth League in his first week as chancellor. Religious education was thereafter discouraged.
When Catholic clergy responded by offering spiritual teaching outside work hours, the Hitler regime prohibited state employees from taking part. And then, in 1936, Oldenberg happened.
A Hitler Youth anthem of the time pithily summed up Nazism’s view: “We follow not Christ, but Horst Wessel; Away with the incense and holy water; The church can go hang for all we care, the Swastika brings salvation on Earth.”
If you are an informed Canadian (generally) and a worried religious Quebecer (specifically), you know where we’re going with this modest history lesson, of course. So let’s get one thing out of the way, right away: Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois are not Adolf Hitler’s NSDAP. If you think they are, you’re an idiot.
But when you read about Oldenburg, you perhaps recalled the PQ’s Orwellian-sounding “Charter of Quebec Values.” I know I certainly did.
For the Quebec public sector, Marois wants to ban religious symbols worn by the religious. Proclaiming herself in favour of religious freedom — as the Nazi Party did in its charter — Marois last week declared: “We’re moving forward in the name of all the women, all the men, who chose Quebec for our culture, for our freedom, and for our diversity,” she told a gathering of PQ Youth in Quebec City.
Except that it’s not true. The “charter” will not move Quebec, or Canada, forward one step. It will not advance Quebec’s “culture,” it will strangle it. It will not enhance Quebec’s “freedom,” it will tarnish it. And, most of all, it will not enhance “diversity” — it will, instead, murder it.
As some of us (but not all of us) have written in these pages many times, religions should not run governments — and governments should not run religions. Past measures taken by both the federal and Quebec governments — against Muslims who choose to wear burkas — were a slippery slope, we argued. No less than the Orthodox Jewish leadership in Montreal agreed.
We now know why. Marois’ “vision,” as Quebec’s Jews and Muslims foretold, will create disunity and division. If she figures out a way to get her hateful charter through the National Assembly — where, ironically and hypocritically, a crucifix is prominently displayed — she will stir up sectarian turmoil the likes of which this country has never seen.
Here’s why: To the faithful, religious symbols are not mere ornaments. They are part of their being — literally, part of their identity. To them, Quebec’s intended Charter is the equivalent of hacking off a limb.
Marois should read about Oldenburg. Not for what the Nazis did in the fall of 1936, but for what the people did next. They rose up against the decree against religious symbols. They revolted.
The Nazi Party sent in their propagandists to defend it, but the people of Oldenburg shouted them down. Thousands rallied to end it.
And they did. In a rare defeat for Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, the Oldenburg decree was rescinded, never to be attempted again.
People power works, then and now.