Religious symbols law overbearing

Quebec has introduced a bill to prohibit many public employees from wearing religious symbols while at work. The government is asking people to check their religion at the door and join them in creating a secularist state.

For most people of faith, their faith shapes their moral code, their worldview and it informs their attitude to public service and what makes them unique individuals. In our multicultural country, our shared values may hide behind different colours of skin and styles of clothing, but they are there. We just have to look past appearances.

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I have an auntie who works at her local school as a librarian. Her headscarf identifies her as a conservative Mennonite to all around her. It doesn't show her ability, or inability, to serve her community. It shows her as a distinct part of her community. She is very aware that her behavior will reflect on her religious community, so there is a sense of pride, and the opportunity to showcase that not all Mennonites are ignorant, contrary to the stereotypical view among the local public. So, it has been a good thing for everyone, Mennonite and non-Mennonite alike, to broaden their respective horizons, and everyone has learned much about "the other." A richness would be lost if this right to look distinctive would be taken away, and she dressed just like every other school employee.

Former French President Nicholas Sarkozy has argued that faces are a part of our identity and too important to full participation in society to be hidden behind a full face-hiding veil or burka. If this is the concern the Quebec government is trying to address, they need to take their legislation to the chopping block and make it say that, rather than so much more.

The fact that this legislation is wide-ranging tells me that there is more to it. It appears they wish government agents to appear merely as government agents and not as a member of any other identifiable group. This is ignorant and overbearing. It seems as if government needs defending or support as its own entity, rather than as an agent acting on behalf of the people. We don't need an all-powerful, personified, (bland) state in order to have good government; for that we need shared values and a common trust in our forms of government.

If cultural or societal unity is the goal, surely people can rally around something higher than clothing in order to be unified. At the very least, bland clothing is a poor societal value to rally around.

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