In an article for Canada’s National Post at the end of February, I warned of a growing intolerance north of the border to people of faith. The prevailing mindset, I suggested, goes something like this: “If you must be religious, then for heaven’s sake do it in the privacy of your own home, where no one else has to see or hear you; religion has no place in the public sphere.” In so far as the religious “fail to conform to a set of approved public positions,” I argued, they are now “expected to be silent.”
As if to prove my point, a group of protesters prevented pro-life MP Stephen Woodworth from giving a public lecture at the University of Waterloo this past Wednesday. Woodworth, a Christian, recently brought forward a private member’s motion in Parliament calling for a study to determine at what point a child becomes a human being. Canada is the only Western country in the world where no legal restrictions on abortion exist; our Criminal Code states a child gains rights as a human being only after it has fully emerged from its mother’s womb. While Woodworth’s motion failed, it has nevertheless reignited public discussion of life issues in Canada.
Woodworth was scheduled to speak on the topic at the University of Waterloo this past week, but protesters interrupted him partway through his lecture. What about freedom of speech? Well, according to at least one of the protesters, Woodworth doesn’t get any: “That kind of speech, that kind of facts, are not acceptable,” the protester is quoted as saying in the National Post. He also shouted, “Who do you think you are, trying to impose your bigotry, your views on society through your Christian monotheistic faith?”
The implication is clear: Religious views are not welcome in the public realm. Be silent or we will silence you.
The University of Waterloo has condemned the protest, but the fact that it happened at all is evidence of a society which is growing increasingly intolerant of public expressions of faith.
[You can see raw footage of the protest here.]