Andrew Scheer: Advocate for Religion and Ignorance (Op/Ed #2)

Given his behavior since rising to power in the Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer has made it quite plain that he sides with religion and willful ignorance. More to the point, Scheer has shown himself willing to pander to them in ways that might have held weight in the United States but almost certainly not in this highly educated, highly secular country.

In late 2017, the newly appointed Governor General Julie Payette, an astronaut and public advocate of science, rightfully bemoaned popular ideas such as “alternative” “medicine”, belief in astrology and the denial of evolution before the audience of a science convention in Ottawa. Then Ms. Payette, appearing frustrated and exhausted by the thought, turned her commentary on religion. “We are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, lo and behold, a random process.” This was bound to be a controversial comment but one which was absolutely refreshing to hear coming from one of our politicians. The Prime Minister correctly defended the Governor General and, after describing the Canadian public as people who value science and the Canadian government as being grounded in science, he described himself as being proud of her. Indeed, we can say with great certainty that the government of this country is on the side of science, given the amounts of money being poured into environmental protection (oil pipelines notwithstanding). Moreover, this government is most certainly not on the side of religion, thankfully. Just this past year, we have succeeded in stripping the blasphemy laws out of our criminal code, joining the 21st Century at long last.

Of course, Scheer, following in the late Conservative Federal Government’s anti-science footsteps, scolded both the Governor General and the Prime Minister via Facebook post. “It is extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister will not support Indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and other faith groups who believe there is truth in their religion. Respect for diversity includes respect for the diversity of religious beliefs, and Justin Trudeau has offended millions of Canadians with his comments‎.” The implication here being that one must tolerate the nonsensical, unscientific beliefs of the public in order to serve their best interests on a governmental level. Pardon me, Mr. Scheer, but I would like my elected officials to be better informed than the masses about the nature of reality.

Scheer, who is a practicing Roman Catholic, has continued to openly pander to the religious right voting block in this country, which does not exist in the same forceful, organized manner that it does in the United States. Like Donald Trump, Scheer has announced that his hypothetical government would recognize Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel. In America, this might make sense politically due to the power of the Jewish voting block and the interest that Evangelical Christians have in such politics. In Canada, the Jewish population is minuscule, barely reaching 1.1% demographically and Christianity as a political force lies on the fringes of the political landscape. More importantly, numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, stand firmly in opposition to such needlessly incendiary political posturing. The recognition of Jerusalem does not help anybody. Looking deeper into Scheer’s history of making religion part of his political discourse, he came out in defense of the deceased Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, allowing the latter to hide behind the transparent concept of faith to defend the man’s bigotry.  “To think that a Catholic bishop must answer to a civil authority over matters of faith is abominable. It is abhorrent to me, to other Catholics and to every member of every faith community. It is abhorrent because the very essence of being a religious official is to teach the faith and instruct the faithful.” Naturally, the Bishop had the right to express whatever idea he wanted to—such is the nature of freedom of expression—but because he was a public figure, he was destined to be scrutinized. Religion does not make one untouchable or safe from criticism.

In the end, given everything, I have only one question: Who exactly is Andrew Scheer trying to appeal to? Not entirely unlike an unprepared teenager trying to cheat during an exam, he appears to be copying the movements of our conservative American counterparts–movements that are tailored to please their constituents.

Canadian conservatism surely deserves better than this.

 

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