A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
There’s a guy in Saskatoon, Canada, Ashu Solo, who has been offended. He believes that he was made to feel like a “second class citizen” and “excluded” at a public gathering. Apparently this grievous harm happened when Saskatoon city councillor, Randy Donauer, said a prayer (popularly called “grace) before a public meal for civic volunteers. Solo maintains that Canada is a secular nation, and, therefore, there should be no public religious observances — they are obviously offensive to the non-believer. Unwilling to tolerate this level of disrespect, Solo is taking action. He wants to remedy the situation by fiat and remove prayer from public meals entirely, thus saving himself and all other unspecified offendees from having to endure this unbearable situation.
Ashu Solo is no stranger to being offended. Last December, even though he admits to not seeing them himself, he was offended on behalf of others when several buses in Saskatoon displayed “Merry Christmas” messages. At the time, Solo’s argument against “Merry Christmas” was similar to his case against grace: Canada is a secular nation, and, therefore, should not have religious messages displayed on public transportation. It should be noted that Mr. Solo was not offended by the “Go, Riders, Go!” message, also displayed on many buses — even though it is common knowledge that ‘Riders’ football represents the dominant religion in Saskatchewan.
Regardless, since being offended is the #1 pastime in Canada, Mr. Solo has every right to participate. However, he should have a working knowledge of the game before he decides to play. Unfortunately, his anti-Christian argument has two rather large Swiss cheese holes in it.
First of all, Canada is not a secular nation. There has never been any legal provision or precedent that says so, anywhere in our history. In fact, the first line of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly states that “…Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God…” Hardly the statement of a nation “not concerned with religious or spiritual matters,” is it? Actually, the separation of church and state is an American concept (much like freedom of speech or the right to bear arms.) This is a common mistake, made by many Canadians. It comes from watching too much American TV.
Secondly, there is a major difference between Freedom of Religion, as guaranteed by the Charter, Section 2 (a) and Freedom from Religion which again has no legal provision or precedent anywhere in our history. These two distinct concepts are also easily confused. It comes from not paying attention in school when the lesson on the use and abuse of prepositions came up in grammar. To clarify: in Canada, you have the right to put your faith in whatever you want, including Jesus, your neighbour’s cat, American legal nuances or nothing at all, if you so desire. That right is guaranteed. However, you are not protected from the religions which are happening all around you. You have no legal right to arbitrarily stifle their observances, regardless of how offensive you believe they are to you. In fact, attempting to quash any religious observance — including the Christian practice of saying grace — could be considered a crime given the way the Charter is written.
As “Eagerly Offended” goes, Ashu Solo is hardly in the top echelon. However, he does demonstrate that being Eagerly Offended is clearly more an art than a science. Without logical or cohesive arguments, it relies mainly on Western Guilt and usually targets Eurocentric practices and institutions. For example, I doubt very much if Mr. Solo is offended by Sumo wrestling (even though it is closely associated with the Shinto religion) or Kung Fu (as practiced by Shaolin monks.) Nor would he campaign long and hard to ban either one. To be blunt, there simply isn’t any percentage in it. No, the key to success for the Eagerly Offended is to carefully choose a soft quarry, and by selecting a city government (large enough for media attention but small enough to have limited resources) as the offending body, Ashu Solo has made a very wise decision, indeed.