Quebec makes right move to separate church and state

By Mu Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/2 21:48:40

Quebec has introduced secularism legislation that would forbid civil servants from wearing religious symbols at work. The decision would influence judges, prosecutors, police officers, teachers, and some other positions, according to the BBC. This is a correct legislative direction to ensure the separation of church and state.

The legislation, which the local government hopes to pass by summer, has sparked controversy and was criticized by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, the move is, in fact, conducive to Quebec which has diverse religious inhabitants. Preaching religion in public spaces, especially by public servants, will inevitably affect the separation of church and state and might spark dissatisfaction from other religious believers or atheists, and even lead to conflicts between religious and nonreligious people.

Keeping the church and state separate is in keeping with the long-term stability of a modern country and, in particular, it's a key factor that ensures that Western countries can achieve modernization and maintain the stability of their societies. 

It has also been a trend in some Western countries to control religious appearances in public places. For example, in 2010, the French government passed a ban on wearing full-face veils. In the US, arguably the freest country in the world, no nativity scenes or Buddha statues can be displayed in government buildings or in front of schools, although almost all of its people have a religious belief. Moreover, crosses have been torn down in parks in the US.

However, in general, with the global return of religion, the Western policy of separation of church and state has been seriously challenged. Different religions have tried to influence politics and continue to invade the public sphere, shaking the foundation of Western social stability. 

Perceiving the importance of the separation of religion and state, the Chinese government has taken measures to promote secularization in the past years so as to protect social stability and prevent the penetration of religious fundamentalism. 

Religious symbols were barred in China's public service system many years ago. Chinese authorities also demanded that religious activities be conducted in specific places approved by the relevant administrative departments. There are exceptions that need exceptional approvals. 

Some Western officials and media outlets are fond of smearing China's efforts on the separation of church and state while ignoring that their own society faces the same challenge, and their governments must ultimately make the same choice. This is the best protection for the rights of a wider range of people of different faiths.

For example, in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, public servants were asked in late 2018 to speak Putonghua - the country's common language - in public spaces and at workplaces. The BBC used this as an example to try to prove that China is cracking down on Islam in the region. BBC is wrong. Because asking public servants to speak the official language in the workplace is a basic principle of a modern society on the separation of church and state. This is not suppression of a certain religion, but keeping the principle of separation of church and state. It is similar to Quebec's recent legislation move. 

All that China has done and is doing in religious affairs serves the goal of maintaining stability in society. China is not a religious country but there are about 200 million religious people in China - three times the population of France. Thanks to the efforts of Chinese authorities, the country was able to keep stable and rapid development on track, providing people, including religious people, improved living standards and a more harmonious living environment.

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