This article explores relationships between religion and public life in Canada and the United States. Attention is given to historical and contemporary situations in Canada, especially regarding cultural and political developments leading to the growing privatization of religion in the nation. Through an examination of the vestiges of church establishment in Upper Canada, the varieties of federal and provincial funding of religious activities, the history of the social gospel, the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec’s recently proposed Charter of Values, the article analyses the complicated nature represented by the mixing of religion and public life in Canada. The Canadian developments are compared, where appropriate, to the public expressions of religion found in North American civil religion. The article concludes with reflections about whether Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism is inconsistent with the privatization of religion and should lead to a cultural shift towards the deprivatization of religion.
See Margaret Wendt, ‘The Collapse of the Liberal Church’, The Globe and Mail, Toronto (28 July 2012), <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/the-collapse-of-the-liberal-church/article4443228/?utm_source=Shared+Article+Sent+to+User&utm_medium=E-mail:+Newsletters+/+E-Blasts+/+etc.&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links> [accessed 24 April 2014]. Wendt basically equates forays into public life with an abandonment of what religion is really about, namely the individual relationship with God: ‘As the United Church found common cause with auto workers, it became widely known as the ndp at prayer. Social justice was its gospel. Spiritual fulfilment would be achieved through boycotts and recycling. Instead of Youth for Christ, it has a group called Youth for Eco-Justice. Mardi Tindal, the current moderator, recently undertook a spiritual outreach tour across Canada to urge “the healing of soul, community and creation” by reducing our carbon footprint. Which raises the obvious question: If you really, really care about the environment, why not just join Greenpeace?’ (ibid.)
E. Brooks Holifield, God’s Ambassadors: A History of the Christian Clergy in America (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), p. 146; with regards to increasing polarization, see ibid., pp. 319–27.
Andy Blatchford, ‘Two Thirds of Quebeckers call Maple Leaf Flag Source of “Pride” ’, Globe and Mail(28 November 2012), <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/two-thirds-of-quebeckers-call-maple-leaf-flag-source-of-pride/article5750454/> [accessed 24 April 2014].
See Allen Mills, Fool for Christ: The Political Thought of J. S. Woodsworth (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991); see also Dean Eugene McHenry, The Third Force in Canada: The Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation, 1932–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950).
Joseph Dunlop, ‘The “Christian Society” of Garret FitzGerald and Pierre Elliott Trudeau’, Éire-Ireland, 44:3/4 (2009), 43–74 at 70. Dunlap here relies on Sylvain Larocque, Gay Marriage: The Story of a Canadian Social Revolution, trans. R. Chodos, L. Blair and B. Waterhouse (Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., 2006).
Egerton, ‘Trudeau, God, and the Canadian Constitution’, p. 97; Nancy Christie and Michael Gauvreau argue that ‘once sexual morality became relativistic, so too, by implication, did all other social codes and conventions’; thus, it became impossible for the United Church ‘to uphold a notion of Christian Canada when it had itself abandoned an explicit distinction between sin and salvation’ (see Nancy Christie and Michael Gauvreau, Christian Churches and Their Peoples, 1840–1965: A Social History of Religion in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), p. 197).
Ingrid Peritz, ‘Quebec Values Charter “Goes Too Far”, Says Former Parti Québécois Premier Parizeau’, The Globe and Mail(3 October 2013), <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/quebec-charter-goes-too-far-says-former-quebec-premier-parizeau/article14674313/> [accessed 1 May 2014].
Ibid., p. 169. The notion of the ‘deprivatization of religion’ depends on the argument developed by José Casanova in his Public Religions and the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). See also José Casanova, ‘Public Religions Revisited’, in Hent de Vries, ed., Religion: Beyond the Concept (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), pp. 101–19.