Macfarlane: Should religion be a tool of Canadian foreign policy?

By: /
20 February, 2012
By: Emmett Macfarlane
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo

No. Religion should not be used as a tool to develop policy in a free and
democratic state. But even without regard to “separation of state and
church” concerns, it is worth noting that initiatives like the Office of
Religious Freedom are misguided for other reasons. The protection of
religious minorities is a noble goal but the government should not
prioritize religious freedom above others. An Office of Freedom of
Expression would meet the same goals but cast a wider net in combating
oppression worldwide. Without freedom of expression there can be no
religious freedom, no equality or right to associate. Freedom of
expression (embodied by freedom of thought and conscience) is the alpha
right, the right that leads to all other rights. Privileging religion
allows the current government to appeal to core constituencies but
arguably reflects too narrow a focus in defending minority rights abroad.

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