While talking to some friends, I recently made the observation how it was ironic that some atheists and self-described secularists had voiced their opposition to Québec’s new secularism law that bans religious symbols for state workers while on duty.
This is something we all could get behind. Think about it for a second: when a public servant goes to work, (s)he is the face of the government to everyone that comes across them. And the government should not promote or display any opinions regarding religious beliefs or lack thereof.
Wearing a cross around your neck or a head-scarf may seem harmless, but that is hardly the point. This is not a matter of how much harm can something do, but a matter of principle: are we now in the business of allowing jobs paid for by taxpayers to be used to showcase and make overt displays of religious belief? Because if we are, then there’s nothing we can say about Kim Davis using her religion to deny a marriage license to a same-sex couple. We are either for state workers just doing their public serving jobs without using them as platforms to advocate for their beliefs, or we allow their beliefs to supersede the job description whenever they see fit, but we can’t have it both ways.
And I wouldn’t be so sure that teachers wearing religious symbols are harmless. I, for one, wouldn’t trust that a teacher wearing a cross will teach evolution correctly… just like I wouldn’t trust a lesson about climate change being taught by someone with an ExxonMobile lapel pin on their suit.
People are entitled to their beliefs, religious or otherwise. But some jobs require people to keep their beliefs to themselves while on the job. And by its very nature of being a public serving job, that should apply to any state worker in a functional democracy.
I fail to see why people with religious deeply held beliefs would get a pass on behaviors that are definitely not allowed for people with non-religious deeply held beliefs. We don’t want teachers who teach that evolution is just a theory, we don’t want plane pilots that leave the cockpit to pray mid-flight, we don’t want judges wearing MAGA hats in court, and we certainly don’t want anti-vaxxer nurses in hospitals.
All the opposition to this new law is based on one simple premise: that religious beliefs should be afforded special treatment over any other opinion. And such a premise is wrong — religious ideas should be treated like any other idea: not worse, and not better. How is that unreasonable?
But, apparently, we now have atheists supporting religious privilege while claiming to be for state-church separation. I don’t know, Rick…