TORONTO, December 15, 2006 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca)
today criticized a provincial court judge’s decision to banish the Christmas tree standing in a Toronto court house lobby because it might offend non-Christians.
“This decision is particularly puzzling in a city where Christmas symbols are usually welcome in public places,” said League President Phil Horgan of the decision by Justice Marion Cohen. “On the grounds of the provincial courthouse of Old City Hall, for example, there is a nativity scene (traditionally sponsored by the Thomas More Lawyers Guild), perhaps 50 feet away from a Menorah.
“In Ontario, and especially in multicultural Toronto, we celebrate diversity by including everyone, not by attempting to exclude the historical majority. We commend Premier McGuinty and the many non-Christian faith leaders who have criticized this misguided decision as being out of keeping with our principle of inclusion.”
The judge’s decision highlights problems in understanding what is meant by notions such as “secular”, and “pluralism”. Her decision ignores higher court authority that has found that secular society, properly understood, includes religious observances. The notion of exclusion of religious symbols from public space is a deviation from a notion of pluralism which is more accepting of religious observance, and freedom of conscience.
A judge acting alone, or on the complaint of one person, who makes a decision in the absence of any competing submission from others, would likely be the subject of an appeal. It will be interesting to assess whether she will submit her reasoning to further scrutiny in the court of public opinion. Will we be advised of the offended party or parties? Or as in other recent attacks on traditional institutions, will such complaints be cloaked in anonymity?
The League encourages a respectful dialogue on issues of religion in the public square. Dictation should not be tolerated by people of good will.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org