COLUMN: Kinsella – Religion should stay a private matter for politicians

- August 7th, 2012

The God days of summer

by Warren Kinsella

Where knowledge ends,” British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once opined, “religion begins.”

So what do we know about the religions of prime ministers?

Pierre Trudeau was a devout Roman Catholic, and remained so to his dying day. John Turner was (and is) deeply committed to Catholicism, and considered the priesthood in his youth. Paul Martin and Jean Chretien are both Catholics, and both observe the sacraments — although those of us who worked for him recall Chretien occasionally delighting in tweaking the bishops.

The Conservative PMs were religious, too, but not by much. Joe Clark was a faithful Catholic, whilst comparatively progressive on social issues like abortion and gay rights. Similarly, Brian Mulroney — who was a Roman Catholic and educated at Catholic schools — didn’t pay much heed to the clergy on issues as diverse as abortion or free trade, and didn’t pay a price for it.

Lately, much has been written about Stephen Harper’s faith, although it’s difficult to know why. Much of what has been written about Harper’s religious conviction strikes me as uninformed, unfair or both.

It is unfair, in the main, because everyone’s personal religious views are just that — personal. Until a politician states that religion will guide his or her decision-making — as Stockwell Day foolishly did in 2000, and as his error-prone B.C. friend Christy Clark did just last week on a Christian television program — it is nobody else’s business.

There is no evidence, none, that Harper favours a commingling of church and state. In fact, the reverse is true: He recently and mercilessly put down a legislative attempt by one of his own backbenchers to re-open the abortion debate. And, apart from periodically requesting in speeches that God bless Canada, he doesn’t seem like much of a religious fanatic.

For example: I have it on very good authority that Harper and his charming wife were not even married in a church. Nor do the Harpers in any way share the religious fervour of many of their fellow Conservatives, even though Harper himself ostensibly belongs to a Calgary evangelical church. He is infrequently seen there.

So why, then, did The Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin recently devote an entire column to Harper’s evangelical faith and its connection to Conservative government policy? The answer remains elusive. On the one hand, Martin describes the prime minister as a “clear-headed rationalist.” Then, on the other hand, he “wonders” about Harper’s “impulses.”

An offended National Post’s Charles Lewis then got in on the act and expressed chagrin that Martin would write about such a subject, and then proceeded to write about it himself. Never missing an opportunity to exaggerate a non-existent threat, the Post likened Martin’s single column to — wait for it — “an inquisition.” Just, wow.

Then, back at the Globe, a religious broadcaster weighed in, claiming that Harper’s religion was being “probed” (by, er, just Lawrence Martin) and “denominational insiders” (that’s a quote) are “tight-lipped” on the prime ministerial faith. Could that be because they, you know, don’t know?

If so, that’s as it should be. If Stephen Harper regards his religion as his own business, the rest of us should mind our own.

Categories: Politics

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2 comments

  1. Joe Manchester says:

    Lawrence is one of the major reasons why newspaper readers are deserting the Globe and Mail. The paper has become rudderless and addicted to sensationalism.

  2. Issa Kirarira says:

    Let us all be just and true to our religions and avoid fouling other people’s religions. Fethullah Gulen,a Muslim scholar tells us that a good citizen of the world is one who respect peoples religions and remains committed to his faith.
    Issa Kirarira

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