Is Religion Fair Game in Canadian Politics?

By Royce Koop on Sep 19, 2008

We were subjected in the 2000 election campaign to constant mockery of Alliance leader Stockwell Day's evangelical faith and beliefs. We got a glimpse of this tendency in the present campaign, this time from Gilles Duceppe:

"Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe again attacked the governing Tories as social conservatives, pointing to the candidacy of a member of the Catholic group Opus Dei as evidence that the party is composed of right-wing ideologues who would take away a woman's right to choose."

Duceppe's sudden infatuation with the imaginings of Dan Brown has more to do with the electoral threat the Tories are now posing the Bloc than with any concern over Opus Dei infiltration of the Canadian government. The bigger question is of course about religious litmus tests for candidates for public office in Canada and whether candidates' religious beliefs are fair game for attack. Michael Coren points out that Duceppe's attack is not confined only to members of Opus Dei:

"Opus Dei is entirely faithful to Catholic teaching, so if anyone objects to its people standing for office they should really say what they mean — that genuine Catholics are not welcome."

It's the Catholic Church, not just Opus Dei, that opposes Duceppe's laundry list of "recent accomplishments." By attacking Opus Dei, Duceppe is by extention attacking Catholics and their right to run for public office in Canada without first jettisoning their most deeply held beliefs.

The real question is whether it is acceptable for politicians to attack the religious beliefs of their opponents.

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