Bill 21 is liberating, not oppressive
Bill 21-- Quebec’s efforts to “secularize” its public service – includes minor ramifications, some rarely-heard, some with deep implications. Bill 21 implies that religious belief, what we hold in our hearts as well as in public, should first be a private and personal thing.
Eventually our private spiritual experiences become codified into the moulds that institutional religions represent. Magnificent superstructures of human spirituality – from Rome to Mecca to a Zen rock garden – cannot exist without the individual spiritual flame in each of our hearts.
We need structure, say the masters; but these structures need us just as much, and that means our personal views have an inestimable value which must not be suppressed. Many institutional religions do, clearly and outright, suppress behaviours and even beliefs about the universe. In the Conquest, priests and preachers admittedly set out to “suppress” the wild and native. Suppression of heretical views has a long Church history.
This subject should be included when we discuss whether Bill 21 bans religions, certain ones especially, or even legislates “what we must think”... or not think. Nonsense, but more the historical behaviour of our great churches!
Secularization – taking religion out of the public sphere and insisting it do its magic in the private, personal and family realms – is a help to the personal exercise of our religious impulse, not an attack on it. Our belief in a Creative Power should be based on our own experience of creation, from childbirth to carpentry, music to poetry – beliefs founded on our own experience -- not structured as a catechism, one specific answer to every question, uttered by an unquestionable authority ... those are chains on the spirit, not its wings.
Secularization is based on the principle to keep the secular secular, and allow the spiritual and personal to create itself and flower – without any pushing and pulling in either direction. That’s one principle in creating a free society, and Bill 21 is merely a tiny step. So why all this uproar?
Frankly, what happens when a woman behind a veil must be asked a service which, perhaps, is quite personal, or when a teacher stands before her class wearing a large golden cross? When any symbol of enforced uniformity is carried with authority in serving the public, what happens? Isn’t it, simply, a re-statement, an insistence on conformity?
Good Catholics will agree, since conformity is a vein running to the very top. A pope speaking with the Word of God -- there’s conformity-pressure! Doesn’t this extreme example carry a convincing psychological message?
So why, on the spiritual level, must one’s own transcendental experiences be re-shaped in the name of conformity? Conformity is the not-so-subtle message in every public display of religious loyalty. Bill 21 levels the field, allows us to own our most profound spiritual experiences, without imposition. Isn’t that undeniably good?