Tuesday, June 11, 2013

HR Tribunal Overreaches Again

For 150 years, the Saguenay City Council has opened its meetings with a 20-second prayer.

Citizen Alain Simoneau complained that the prayer to an "all-powerful God," as well as the crucifix in the council chambers infringed on his rights as a non-believer. He complained to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that the prayer forced him to "embrace a concept of recognizing a form of divine supremacy." The Tribunal ordered council to stop saying the prayer, remove the crucifix, and pay moral and punitive damages of $30,000 to atheist Simoneau.

In its decision of June 2013, the Quebec Court of Appeal thought differently. Among other things, the Court ruled that neutrality does not require "that society be cleansed of all denominational reality, including that which falls within its cultural history." There was no evidence the prayer imposed religious views on citizens or shaped government actions. Simoneau did not get his pot of gold.

Questions remain: Is it the possibility of a great payout that inspires such complaints to human rights commissions? If such awards were payable to the government, would there be any complaints at all?

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