Petition Against Religious Symbols

by | February 4, 2016

The following RPL Petition Against Religious Symbols Worn by Canadian Cabinet Ministers is available on

Petition of the Rassemblement pour la laïcité (Alliance for Secularism) against the wearing of the turban by the Minister of National Defence of Canada, The Honourable Harjit Singh Sajjan, as well as the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, The Honourable Navdeep Bains.

In the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015 where the Mouvement laïque québécois and Alain Simoneau opposed the city of Saguenay and its mayor Jean Tremblay (Mouvement laïque québécois c. Saguenay (Ville)), article 84 states

First, because of the duty of religious neutrality with which it is required to comply, the state may not profess, adopt or favour one belief to the exclusion of all others. Obviously, the state itself cannot engage in a religious practice, so the practice would be one engaged in by one or more state officials, who would have to be acting in the performance of their functions. Where state officials, in the performance of their functions, profess, adopt or favour one belief to the exclusion of all others, the first two criteria for discrimination mentioned above, namely that there be an exclusion, distinction or preference and that it be based on religion, are met.

The Rassemblement pour la laïcité considers that the Honourable Harjit Singh Sajjan and The Honourable Navdeep Bains, each wearing a Sikh turban while performing his function as representative of the Canadian state, are, by so doing, favouring one religion in particular and, as a result, are not respecting their duty of religious neutrality as required by the Supreme Court of Canada.

We, the signatories of this petition, request that every representative of the state refrain from displaying any religious symbols whatsoever and thus respect religious neutrality as stipulated by the Supreme Court of Canada.

This petition is an initiative of Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL or Alliance for Secularism) with the support of

Atheist Freethinkers (LPA-AFT)

Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ or Quebec Secular Movement)

Laïcité capitale nationale (Secularism of the National Capital)

Association québécoise des Nord-Africains pour la laïcité (AQNAL)

PDF Québec

The petition is available in French and English.

15 thoughts on “Petition Against Religious Symbols

  1. Joe

    Sorry, as you know, I’m pro-choice, a person should have the right to control their body, and any silly hat they choose to attach to it. Vivre La chapeau Libre!!!

    1. Indi

      Well, I’m normally firmly on the pro-choice side as well, but there is a legitimate point of consideration in this particular case. This is not the usual tactic we’ve seen from some of these boneheads – ie, going after people who are merely working for a public-sector job, like nurses, bus drivers, and teachers (in particular going after these people while letting the actual state officials off the hook, as the Québec “Charter of Values” did). In this case, they’ve actually picked their targets somewhat more intelligently. They’re going after actual officials of the state in performance of their official duties.

      *THAT* is a far more legitimate conversation than the shockingly idiotic one they’ve been pushing in the past. It would seem they’ve learned from their mistakes, at least a little bit.

      Nevertheless, in my opinion they’re still way off base, and they’re still going to lose.

      The reason why I think so is because I don’t think they’re going to be able to make a convincing argument that merely wearing a dastar (for example) is professing a religious belief *in the performance of their functions*. It is professing a religious belief at the same *time* they’re performing their official function, but not professing that belief *IN* the performance of that function.

      It’s a subtle difference, but a very important one. I don’t doubt for a moment that the Prime Minister has a favourite city or sports team – likely the Habs. And it’s ridiculous to think he can magically stop favouring that team during working hours then turn the love back on after punching out, so clearly he favours his team at the same time he’s doing his official duties. Yet there’s no problem so long as he’s not actually favouring the team *in the performance* of his official duties… that is, he can’t favour the team in any official action he actually takes as PM.

      Similarly, I presume he loves his wife more than most Canadians, and I presume he doesn’t *stop* loving her more than most Canadians at any time during the working day, yet so long as he doesn’t involve his love for her in his official duties – for example, by actually favouring her over most Canadians in any official act – I can’t imagine anyone would say there’s a problem. I can’t imagine even these nutters insisting the PM take off his wedding ring while performing his official duties.

      I would imagine the argument would be that so long as a Sikh MP doesn’t actually involve Sikhism *in the performance* of their duties, there is nothing wrong with them being a Sikh at the same time they’re carrying them out. No part of an MP’s official duties stipulate what they should or shouldn’t wear on their heads, so there doesn’t seem to be any conflict involved with merely wearing one.

      So I can’t imagine they’re going to get much support for this petition, beyond the usual anti-theist bigots that sign anything that will stick it to them foreigners and their un-Canadian religions. (Cf the rather unimpressive list of supporting organizations.) But at least they’re picking on politicians now, and not just powerless civil servants who just want a job they don’t have to abandon their religious beliefs for.

      1. Veronica Abbass Post author

        Indi says

        “unimpressive list of supporting organizations”

        Which organizations would you consider impressive?

        1. Indi

          The list was unimpressive, not the organizations (it was an “unimpressive list of organizations”, not a “list of unimpressive organizations”). One can hardly expect to be impressed by a petition about a civil liberties issue that brags about the list of organizations backing it, yet doesn’t include a single civil liberties group.

          But, since you asked: I suppose we could start with the list of organizations that were asked to sign this petition and declined.

  2. Winnipeg

    First, if it’s a law, then that’s that until the law is changed.

    Besides that, I really don’t want members of the government showing religious symbols. All religions include magical thinking and I’m pretty sure we don’t need magical thinkers in positions of great responsibility. I’d be happiest if they abandoned their religions as well as the symbols.

    1. Joe

      Hmmm, so you can’t ‘profess’ one belief over others while in the ‘performance of their duties’…heheh, I’m with Indi and his interpretation, but, on the other hand, it’s not just ‘the hat’ he is wearing that is a profession of his belief:

      His beard and hair are too, so we should demand all Sikhs who hold public office shave their heads and keep clean shaven. Jains and Buddhists will need full beards and mullets.

      They shouldn’t mind so much though, since Muslim, Jewish, and most Christian males will be barred from holding any public office, at least until they can regrow foreskin in a lab…. so they won’t be professing at work. Hiding it doesn’t mean it’s not there, or not there, as the case may be, they are still professing on the job.

      Hell, even atheists like myself, who were unfairly injured as children shouldn’t be trusted, as we could be secret professing Muslims, you know, like Obama. No sins against secularism should be tolerated.

      1. Indi

        > Hmmm, so you can’t ‘profess’ one belief over others while in the ‘performance of their duties’…heheh, I’m with Indi and his interpretation, but, on the other hand, it’s not just ‘the hat’ he is wearing that is a profession of his belief….

        Well, I should add that I don’t believe merely wearing the headgear (or shaving/not-shaving, as you pointed out) is actually necessarily *professing* the religion. I just adopted that interpretation because it’s a favourite of the hijab-botherers.

        There is a qualitative difference between wearing a kippah to work (for example), and wearing a T-shirt that says “Harper for PM”, or even “make abortion illegal”. Some of these organizations have tried to claim an equivalency between the two – they have tried to claim that merely wearing a kippah is a political statement.* I think that’s patently ridiculous, but for the sake of argument I assumed there’s at least some merit in it… because it turns out that even if you assume that, their position still doesn’t hold water.

        (* It is *POSSIBLE*, of course, to wear a kippah or other religious garb as a political statement. But it’s also possible to wear *red* or green or as a political statement. In the general case, none of these fashion choices are political. They’re all quite personal. Generally what people choose to wear is intended to represent who *they* are, not who they want anyone else – or Canada as a whole – to be.)

  3. Tim Underwood

    I support the idea that government agents wear the mandated uniforms. They are, themselves, symbols of the official state.

    The fact that this requirement will eliminate some candidates from governmental employment is just fine. Being religious requires sacrifice, or so some highly influential religious leaders keep telling us.

    Also, people who feel the necessity to wear religious symbols should be provided with state funded therapy to help them deal with their delusions. This is a significant part of mental health services.

    I don’t like the idea that the state is a sleazy superstition enabler.

  4. bruce van dieten

    I’m intrigued by the notion that the state shouldn’t enable magical thinking. Globalism and neo-liberalism ideologies have been in vogue for 30+ years and are still alive and kicking and calling for the “invisible” hand of the marektplace to deliver democracy, wealth and peace. Maybe we should spend some of our angst on that bull shit too.

    1. Joe

      Some seem to use human ‘rights’ as a magical invocation, as well. Like humans have some magically ordained place in the universe, when in fact we are a scourge to life on this planet, and life itself seems an absurd endeavour, in a universe mostly not suited to it. We need some righteous nihilism in government. Hail Eris, you are the fairest!

      1. Tim Underwood

        Real human rights are created by manmade legislation. We should do whatever is in our own enlightened best interest. Human rights are there to protect the individual from other’s self interests. Or something like that.

        1. Joe

          I think there is more to it than self interest. Even chimps exhibit an understanding of basic ‘fairness’ and even altruism… towards those they consider part of their group.
          Humans are similar. Family/Tribe/State tends to be where our natural loyalties are. Most people would sacrifice their lives for their children, for instance.

    1. Indi

      What part of that is mockery? Do think I was joking with that description? Nothing there is a joke, and no-one is being mocked. It’s just calling bigoted xenophobes what they are, and there’s nothing funny about that. If they find it insulting, rather than complain about me calling them that, they should stop being bigoted xenophobes.


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