Society for Secular Humanists in Calgary


For those of you who are new to this bit of nonsense, I'll try to briefly introduce this issue.

In the December 18-24 2003 issue of the Calgary FFwd, Society member Jack Locke had an article printed called "City's nativity scene questioned". In it, Jeff Perkins, our beloved president, made several quotes to the effect that the city was breaching the boundary between church and state and should probably rethink it's position over owning and displaying a nativity scene.

For those of you who are unaware, a nativity scene is like a still stage reproduction of the Christian myth of the birth of their God, "Jesus Christ".

Kerry Williamson, a Calgary Herald reporter who, in my opinion, has a very dubious claim to the quality of journalistic integrity, wrote an article called "Away with the Manger". Mr. Williamson's article went out of its way to paint Jeff Perkins as a horseman of the Apocalypse (another Christian myth). In his opening paragraph he actually stated, "... a group wants it [the nativity scene] gone, taken out of the City Hall atrium, banished from the public space, discarded like used wrapping paper on Boxing Day". Mr. Williamson obviously is using a definition of "truth" that I am unaware of.

The fact of the matter is that humanists in general and Jeff Perkins in particular, are in full favour of religious freedom and expression. The concern being raised was over a government endorsing one religion over all others. Of course, Mr. Williamson probably thought that those sentiments would make for a short, unsensational article, so he decided not to let a little thing like reality get in the way of his article.

Mr. Williamson's article had the desired effect. Sensationalism sells papers and outrage generates letters. In the weeks that followed, many letters to the editor were penned concerning that article. It was implied that Jeff Perkins was lobbying for everything from euthanasia to incest. A few letters decrying Mr. Williamson's mangling of reality got through, but very few. Mine did not.

Ffwd, meanwhile, printed one letter from a certain Lloyd Ash in the January 8-14, 2004 issue. Mr. Ash apparently thought that we were being terribly unfair for not respecting his particular superstition above all others. The fine folks at Ffwd (greatly to their credit), asked the Society if anyone wished to write a response to Mr. Ash's letter. I rose to the occasion. My letter is reprinted here or can be viewed at Ffwd.


Concerning Lloyd Ash’s letter to the editor "Secular Showdown" (Letters, Jan. 8 - Jan. 14, 2004)

Secular humanism affirms the right of the individual to maximum possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. One of those rights is the freedom of conscience and religion (Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2). Another right is that "every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on ... religion" (Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 15, (1)).

It is up to our governments on all levels to see to it that religious freedom flourishes in our country. The only way to accomplish this is to erect a wall of separation between church and state. When church and state mix, both institutions are compromised. Curtailing of civil liberties for the citizenry and the corruption of religious leaders has been the result every single time any religion has wielded political power or the state became a theocracy.

Another reason is that the state must not be allowed to either discourage or encourage its citizens with regards to any religion. To do so is to violate our right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law based on religion. By owning, storing and displaying a nativity scene the city is not observing the rights of non-Christians in this city.

The secular humanists of this city don’t want to see the nativity scene destroyed, defiled or hidden in any way. They would all applaud the freedom of religious expression that it symbolizes. But it is the Christian organizations that should own, store and display it, not our city.