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Andrew Scheer.

Charles Lewis: Faith has its place in federal election

  • September 25, 2019

In this federal election, part of me feels like a bystander. If you are like me, an orthodox Christian, someone whose faith is not confined to Sundays, you may feel the same.

The issues we care most about, issues of religious freedom and the beginning and end of life, will not be discussed. 

To be clear, I am not saying not to vote. We all have an obligation to exercise our franchise. 

But there is a fundamental flaw in how our elections have evolved. They have followed a course of increased secularization to the point where orthodox faith is considered a nuisance. Look at the way Doug Ford dumped Tory candidate Tanya Granic Allen in the 2018 Ontario election for being too socially conservative.

The idea of protecting liberal values has been bolstered of late by the writings of Michael Coren, former Catholic and now social liberal provocateur, soon to be ordained as an Anglican minister.

Frankly, I would rather not mention him but given he writes for several outlets it would be wrong to ignore him. His influence poisons our well.

For some time, Coren has had Andrew Scheer in his sights  — not for what the Tory leader says now but what he has said in the past on abortion and same-sex marriage and whatever other dark secrets he supposedly keeps to himself in his Catholic mind. Scheer, for Coren, has become a stand-in for all he dislikes about Catholicism. No matter what Scheer says, to Coren Scheer’s faith makes him suspect.

For example, on Sept. 1 the CBC reported the following:

“Scheer did say that a Conservative government led by him would not re-open the abortion and same-sex marriage debates, and that while backbench Conservative MPs are free to follow their individual consciences, he would ‘oppose measures to reopen’ these debates and is ‘confident’ the caucus ‘understands that.’ ”

Then came Coren’s interpretation of the CBC story in a column appearing in the Sept. 12 edition of the Toronto Star.

“Frankly, I believe the Tory leader when he says he won’t introduce legislation regarding either issue, but I don’t believe that if he becomes prime minister he’ll prevent his backbenchers from initiating bills that, in particular, try to incrementally limit women’s reproductive choice. His statements and scrums around social policy have been clumsy at best, and often downright misleading.”

So Coren believes Scheer himself would not open the debate but does not believe him when it comes to controlling his backbenchers, even though Scheer has said he would quash any attempt to reopen the debate on abortion or same-sex marriage.

I may be going out on a limb, but it sometimes seems to me that Coren distrusts Catholic politicians. Not so, writes the future Anglican minister.

“Oh, and as for me being a nasty old anti-Catholic, I’m an almost daily communicant who believes in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Ho hum.”

Ho hum?

Coren is not really the problem but a symptom of a larger anti-orthodoxy malaise. His columns, presumably approved by editors, simply reflect where many Canadians are these days when it comes to suspicion of faith.

This public perception of deep-seated faith has created an atmosphere in which there is no way many issues of concern to Catholics and other orthodox Christians can ever be raised. Worse, we accept this refusal to address life issues, for example, under the logic that the most important thing is for the candidate of our choice to win. But win what?

Every candidate believes in helping working families. They all believe in helping people get ahead and supporting a strong economy and protecting jobs and doing something about climate change.

But other issues that should matter to us — issues that reflect our morality — are ignored. It’s as if religious views must remain private no matter what.

Look at Bill 21 in Quebec, which discriminates against many public service workers who dare wear an article of clothing that expresses his or her faith. You would think this law is something any political leader would want to fight. Party leaders say they do not like it but they will keep their heads down for fear of angering Quebec voters. 

What I would love to see is a party leader who is not afraid to risk losing — someone who will build an election platform based on Judeo-Christian principles without apologizing for it.

We have been so brainwashed into believing Catholic views are anathema that we become understanding when political leaders push us aside. It is time to stop being so understanding.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

(NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect that there were several issues that led to the removal of Tanya Granic Allen as a Conservative candidate.)

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