This Week in Religion 2017-11-19

by | November 19, 2017


By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

“Canadians are divided over whether religious diversity is healthy for the country, but they consider Islam in particular to be a negative force, a new poll has found.

In the survey, conducted the same week Quebec adopted a law prohibiting niqab-wearing women from receiving government services, 26 per cent of respondents said increasing religious diversity is a good thing while 23 per cent said it is bad. Nearly half — 44 per cent — said diversity brings a mix of good and bad; the remaining seven per cent were unsure.

When the pollsters sought respondents’ views on particular religious groups, anti-Islam sentiment stood out. Forty-six per cent of the people polled said Islam is damaging Canada compared with 13 per cent who said it is beneficial. The others either did not know (20 per cent) or said it has no real impact (21 per cent.)”


“Throughout autumn, the soup of our multicultural society has almost boiled over with questions about secularism and religion – of what is and isn’t allowed in contemporary public and common Canadian life. Efforts to relegate religious expression and thought to the margins have been ramped up. Those efforts, however, are out of step with broader Canadian society.

So, what evidence is there of the secularist push? In September, some openly questioned whether a turban-wearing Sikh who heads a major political party is an acceptable national leader. In the same month, niqab and burka-wearing Muslims felt targeted by a Quebec law that seeks to expunge public spaces of their particular religious expression. Just a couple of weeks ago, Governor General Julie Payette mocked those who believe life is a divine creation. And at the end of November, Trinity Western University will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada as law societies challenge the private Christian school’s right to set religious standards for its faculty and student community.

But the push for secular supremacy – often done in the name of inclusion or neutrality – doesn’t mesh well with Canadian society. In fact, the latest Angus Reid Institute (ARI) poll conducted in partnership with the think-tank Cardus suggests those who are anti-religious are the outliers.”


“A new poll reinforces a bleak truth that many of us have probably known for a long time—almost half of Canadians have a negative opinion about Islam.

It’s not hard to see this sentiment having a real world impact, whether it be the rise of a far-right looking to “counter terrorism,” the many anti-Islam rallies across the country, or recent laws specifically targeting Muslims being passed.”


The Supreme Court recently ruled against the Ktunaxa Nation’s efforts to block construction of a ski resort in Jumbo Valley, B.C., on land the Ktunaxa consider the sacred home of the Grizzly Bear Spirit.

The court concluded that building the resort would not violate the Ktunaxa’s freedom of religion, because “neither the Ktunaxa’s freedom to hold their beliefs nor the freedom to manifest those beliefs is infringed by the Minister’s decision to approve the project … The state’s duty is not to protect the object of beliefs or the spiritual focal point of worship.”

Freedom of religion is supposed to provide equal protection for all religions. The Supreme Court’s judgment disadvantages Indigenous spiritual traditions, whose objects of reverence are connected to pieces of land vulnerable to physical destruction.

The judgment shows how Eurocentric ideas about religion enable the continuing appropriation of Indigenous lands.”


“My inner nerd is delighted that Queen Elizabeth II chose a spacewoman as her new governor general of Canada on Oct. 2. Julie Payette was previously an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency, flying two space shuttle missions and working at mission control in Houston. After her space career, among other things she worked as the chief operational officer of the Montréal Science Centre. In her new job as governor general, she is responsible for many of the functions of the head of state.

Unfortunately, some of her recent comments about science have caused controversy. Addressing the recent Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa, Ms. Payette said that science literacy has a long way to go. Everyone is expected to know who Beethoven is, she pointed out, but not what neutrinos are. She expressed dismay that some people still distrust vaccines, question whether global warming is caused by human activity, think that “taking a sugar pill will cure cancer” and believe in astrology. But her most controversial comment was “that we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process, let alone—oh my goodness, lo and behold—[a] random process.”


“When Kristy Cuevas decided to leave the Jehovah’s Witness faith as a teenager, she had no idea that choice would one day save her life.

The mother of four required 10 blood transfusions when she hemorrhaged after the birth of her son. She woke up after being unconscious for two days, and a single thought crossed her mind.

“If this was not me, if this wasn’t my husband who’s a non-believer making the calls for me, if this had been my parents or if I had stayed, I would be dead right now,” she said. “And it made that choice too worth it.”

“I chose to leave, and that day it saved my life.””


“Ktunaxa elder Chris Luke Sr. lives in B.C.’s Purcell Mountains, about 600 kilometres east of Vancouver. He uses a translator to communicate in English and he knows how to keep his silence.

Still, Luke is a powerful man.

For eight years, the elder’s religious vision has seized the attention of Canada’s top courts, demanding the focus of hundreds of lawyers, judges, civil servants and politicians.

Their work became necessary because Luke said he had an epiphany in 2004 — which he did not reveal to his people until 2009 ­— that the grizzly bears that inhabit a large chunk of public land in the Purcells are sacred, divine protectors.

As a result, Luke’s small tribal group entered into years of hard political negotiations with the B.C. government, which turned into a precedent-setting court case against developers of a ski resort called Jumbo Glacier.”


Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.