Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to , a double-sized Update due to missing last week.
I had to take a break last week, for personal reasons. Rest assured, I’m fine—mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy within my nominal operating parameters. It’s just that there’s so much to get done in the holidays, and I had a visit from my little niece who absolutely destroyed me—where does something that small get that much energy?—I just needed a day to catch my breath before doubling down for the remainder of the holidays. In the coming week or so I’m going to do all my holiday baking—I bake lots of wildly unhealthy goodies to give out to people, especially those in need, just to brighten things up a little for them this time of year. Starting tomorrow I’m going to be baking a few hundred (possibly a thousand or so?) butter tarts and other stuff, but I had my break, so I’m ready for it!
But anyway, enough about me. Here’s your Update!
This week’s items
 Canadians are losing patience with the unvaccinated — and the Catholic Church is sending mixed signals
America magazine is a Jesuit magazine… and not just that, it is an American Jesuit magazine (as if that weren’t obvious from the title). Despite that, this article is one of the most excellent reviews of the current state of vaccine denial and vaccine-denial tolerance (or intolerance) in Canada that I’ve read recently.
Seriously, this article is fairly short, so of course they can only give very brief coverage of the topics, but it nevertheless manages to sweep through:
- the very troubling threats by the employment minister to deny EI to people fired for refusing to vaccinate
- the many failures of mostly conservative provincial governments to take the pandemic seriously, in particular their propensity to lift public health measures prematurely
- the politics of vaccine passports
- the dangerous and threatening behaviour of anti-vax protestors, and the fact that they’re being allowed to get away with it
- the fact that the anti-vax movement is really not a Canadian thing, but rather a global phenomenon that certain unsavoury characters—and politicians—are trying to cash in on
- the Catholic response, including the sleazy practice of handing out “vaccine exemptions” that probably aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on; and
- the growing exasperation among the general Canadian public with anti-vaxxers.
I definitely recommend you give the article a read.
Bruxy Cavey may not be a household name, but he’s a legit superstar in Canadian Christianity. He’s responsible for the massive growth of The Meeting House, which is one of the largest of the small number of megachurches in Canada. The only ones larger that I can think of would be Springs Church in Winnipeg and Centre Street Church in Calgary; The Meeting House is certainly the largest in Ontario, at least.
Cavey himself is one of those painfully “cool” pastors. You know the type: tattoos just for their transgressive cred, appropriation of contemporary pop culture—particularly the more “edgy” flavours of pop culture, without being too edgy. Cavey apparently even used to break-dance while preaching. He’s the incarnation of the stereotypical “takes a chair, turns it around to sit on it backwards, and then says ‘let’s rap about Jesus’” pastor. He’s created an image of “hip” openness for The Meeting Place that traditional, stodgy churches lack.
Of course, it’s all just a veneer of open-mindedness and tolerance. Under the hood, insiders reveal that Cavey’s sermons are routinely anti-LGBTQ2S+, and even buy into the usual conservative or far-right bugaboos, like “cancel culture”.
And, now, Cavey has been put on some kind of suspension following allegations of “sexual misconduct”. I haven’t been able to get details from sources I can put on the record, but I can say that the gossip—which you can find if you dig around—suggests this was not “misconduct”, but may well be straight-up assault.
This isn’t the first time The Meeting Place has been involved with sexual scandals. A few years back, one of their youth pastors was accused of sexual assault of a 17 year-old. At least the church seems to be taking the allegations seriously, for now.
When I report on articles like this, I usually have to caution that the title isn’t technically correct, because the bill may have passed the Lower House but not the Senate, or it hasn’t received Royal Assent yet. In this case, I have to caution that the law technically won’t go into effect until the 30th day after … so, by my seat-of-the-pants reckoning.
But despite that technical nitpick… woohoo! The Xtra article is (mostly) correct! Conversion therapy is now banned across Canada.
Previously, conversion therapy was banned in a patchwork way, in a number of cities and other jurisdictions, to the extent that it was in their jurisdiction to do so. But this law is what we’ve been waiting for. This is Canada-wide, and this is Criminal Code stuff; conversion therapy is not just illegal in the sense of being against the law… it’s now a literal crime. The parts about advertisements for conversion therapy are actually in the same section as child pornography, voyeurism, and other obscene material. And I believe the parts about the actual practice of conversion therapy are going between the bits about hate propaganda and drunk driving.
There was an earlier frustration when the previous conversion therapy ban died in the house due to the election being called (unnecessarily, and, ultimately, pointlessly). But it actually worked out for the best. The revived conversion therapy ban is much stronger; in particular, there is no loophole for consent, under the logic that no-one can consent to torture. (You can consent to play-acting torture, of course—there are entire sexual subcultures dedicated to that. But being “tortured” by a sexy dungeon master/mistress is not actually real torture, any more than the “beating” one takes in a boxing match is real assault.)
There is a lot of noise in the media about how the ban passed so quickly thanks to the one Conservative MP who called for a unanimous assent, and how politicians crossed the aisle to hug when it was given. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Don’t forget who fought to prevent this ban from happening.
So, the bigoted faux “secularism” law continues to destroy lives. And this case is especially disheartening because it wasn’t even the victim’s fault (not like it ever is, but, yanno).
One of the ways that Bill 21 was made palatable was by including a grandfather clause. Basically, if you wear a religious accessory, you could continue in your current job… you just couldn’t be promoted, transferred, or anything else. (And of course, there would be no new hires of anyone wearing religious accessories.) This was partly a sop by the CAQ to make their terrible law seem less draconian, and partly about avoiding the massive, acute labour shortages that would inevitably result from the immediate firing of hundreds or thousands of teachers. (Mind you, they still very predictably ended up with massive shortages. It just became a slower burning crisis, thanks to the grandfather clause.)
What happened here, though, was profoundly unfair; none of it was the teacher’s fault. The teacher in question had been a substitute teacher for several months without a problem, but was so good, the school wanted to hire her for a permanent position. The teacher didn’t really have a choice in the matter—not that I imagine she would have wanted to object—but shortly after she was reassigned… she was told she could no longer be a teacher because of her hijab.
If you’re wondering why the school would have reassigned her knowing that it would invalidate the grandfather clause, it appears the school was counting on the Québec Court of Appeals ruling in favour of English-language schools being exempt from Bill 21. That ruling, quite bizarrely, went the other way.
And thus, we end up in a completely unexpected situation, where excellent teachers are being booted out of the profession, because bigots can’t even stand the sight of Muslims.
This story is weird in so many ways.
So, apparently, there is a literal fake mosque—with dome, minaret, and even a crescent symbol—on CFB Suffield, which is roughly 250 km southeast of Calgary. It’s purpose is to provide “high-fidelity environment” training for soldiers. The Canadian Forces strongly emphasizes that no live ammunition is used at this site… which is an odd thing to feel the need to stress… but that this kind of site is absolutely necessary for training their soldiers.
Oh, but also, this wasn’t actually used to train our soldiers; this was set up by the British armed forces. 🤷🏼
This all might seem innocent, if a little weird, if one ignores the rampant islamophobia in our armed forces.
I was following this story closely for several weeks, but stopped because it just became too stupid. Now that I peek in on it again to get caught up… it really hasn’t gotten any less stupid.
So, in case you forgot, His Tabernacle Family Church in New Brunswick is one of those COVID-denying churches that is putting on a show of “resisting” common-sense public health measures to generate a typical persecution narrative they can cash in on. After being warned several times for non-compliance with masking and distancing bylaws, health inspectors tried to contact the pastor, tried to enter the church to inspect it, and tried to serve them papers, and in all cases were blocked, lied to, and even threatened—they ultimately had to get police as bodyguards, force their way into the church, and just drop the papers on the floor, all of which was captured on video. Church leaders were repeatedly called before a Judge, repeatedly lied to that Judge, and repeatedly castigated for it before being allowed to walk out because the Judge didn’t want to make martyrs of them by imprisoning them. Eventually, they were just straight-up locked out of the church building.
So what’s happened since? Have they learned their lesson?
Ha, fuck no. They were locked out of the church building… so they simply continued to hold services in a tent outside.
And then they argued to the Judge that, hey, they weren’t violating bylaws about masking and distancing in indoor services, because it’s a tent… it’s not an indoor service!
Health officials were not amused by this tactic, and told him that a tent still counted as an enclosed space. So, mature as ever, the church leaders said, well, we’ll just keep taking walls off the tent until it no longer counts as “enclosed”! And they continued holding services in defiance of public health orders.
Apparently the Judge on the case has had just about fucking enough, because he stepped down and passed the case over to another Judge. I can’t imagine this will be in any way to the church’s benefit, because they’ve been doing everything possible to make it clear that they do not give a single fuck about public health orders, or the justice system. They’ve even been selling T-shirts mocking the fact that the pastor was jailed for a week after one of the many, many contempt rulings they’ve racked up.
I wrote before that I understand the reticence of judges to crack down on religious leaders who are trying to make martyrs of themselves by defying public health orders. But at this point, I have to say it probably doesn’t even matter anymore. They’re going to spin their defiance to their benefit anyway, regardless of whether the courts react or not. So… fuck ’em. Give ’em the jail time they want, but especially fine the shit out of them. They’re going to claim persecution either way; at least let’s get some funds we can put to good public use out of it.
Wow, the Christian fetish for persecution narratives gets truly bonkers sometimes.
So, wacko Christians who have got it in their heads that Canada—a country that is ~2⁄3 Christian, and a very liberal democracy—is planning to round them up and feed them to the lions as in Ancient Rome (a mythology which is also mostly bullshit) are LARPing their persecution fantasies out by holding “underground” services.
And just to put the ribbon on just how laughably ridiculous their persecution fantasies are… everyone totally knows about these “secret”, “underground” services, but authorities mostly just don’t give a shit.
Indeed, this is happening in Manitoba, one of the last places in Canada a Christian church could expect to be harassed or shut down by public health authorities for defying COVID prevention measures.
But, whatever. If these churchgoers are getting off on the awesome thrill of sneaking around under the noses of the authorities (who, nonetheless, know exactly what they’re doing, and don’t care), then fine. It’s not that they’re not hurting anyone by doing this—they are—but they would be doing exactly the same amount of hurt by openly attending services as they normally would… and which their provincial health authorities would also do nothing about, of course.
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