Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Charter Affirming State Secularism Introduced Into Quebec Legislature

As previously reported, in August the ruling Parti Quebecois government in the Canadian province of Quebec announced its intention to introduce a secularist Charter of Quebec Values into the National Assembly.  Last Thursday it did so by introducing Bill 60, (full text) titled Charter Affirming the Values of State Secularism and Religious Neutrality and of Equality Between Women and Men, and Providing a Framework for Accommodation Requests.  Here is an excerpt from the Explanatory Notes summarizing the most important provisions of the bill:
Public bodies must, in the pursuit of their mission, remain neutral in religious matters and reflect the secular nature of the State. Accordingly, obligations are set out for personnel members of public bodies in the exercise of their functions, including a duty to remain neutral and exercise reserve in religious matters by, among other things, complying with the restriction on wearing religious objects that overtly indicate a religious affiliation. As well, personnel members of a public body must exercise their functions with their face uncovered, and persons to whom they provide services must also have their face uncovered when receiving such services.  The same rules apply to other persons, in particular to persons who exercise judicial functions, or adjudicative functions within the administrative branch, and to personnel members of the National Assembly.
Canadian Jewish Press reports on the concerns that various Jewish organizations have about the bill, including Section 38 that would allow the National Assembly to bar its members from wearing religious symbols.