National Post

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Re: Judge's Decision a Smokescreen, George Jonas, Oct. 21.

Letter to the editor from Roland De Vries
National Post

Re: Judge's Decision a Smokescreen, George Jonas, Oct. 21.

Mr. Jonas's comment that "what our judges are jealously upholding is the right of the government and its agencies to interfere with everyone and everything according to the state's own lights and ideas" is insightful. Clear evidence of this was provided by The Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, when she delivered the René Cassin Lecture at McGill University on Oct. 11.

The Chief Justice argued that both law and religion make demands in every area of our lives -- that is, each claims an absolute kind of authority over us -- which inevitably results in a conflict between the demands of law and religion. She then went on to make the rather disturbing suggestion that, as a result of this conflict, it is necessary for the law to "make room" for religion. The hubris of this position becomes clear when one realizes that rather than recognizing the authority of religion, the Chief Justice's position establishes the law as the primary authority in our lives. That is, the courts, in mediating between the value-commitments of the Charter and the religious commitments of Canadians will determine if and when those religious commitments are legitimate.

Rather than recognizing the limits of governmental authority and the appropriate sphere of religious authority, it seems that the court's desire, as Mr. Jonas puts it, is to allow government to interfere with everyone and everything according to the state's own lights and ideas. There is no better test case in this regard than the issue of marriage and the question of whether or not the definition of marriage can be altered to include same-sex relationships. If the courts were to seriously acknowledge the limits of the state's authority, they would have to observe that the institution of marriage is prior to the state and thus outside of the authority of the state. Marriage is a religiously conceived institution which binds a man and a woman together in a lifelong relationship, with a primary end being the raising of children. The state has neither established nor defined this institution and thus has no authority to redefine it.

Here's hoping that the courts will come to recognize that the government's authority is not, in fact, all-encompassing.

Roland De Vries, Montreal.

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