Prayer Banned at Remembrance Day Services
“I thought our constitution protected freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion,” a wise person said, when addressing the current situation in Canada. The reality of this statement is further demonstrated by a recent decision of Canada’s military brass.
It came to light recently in a news report that orders had been sent to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) chaplain service that religious prayers in official public functions are now forbidden. The directive says: “While the dimension of prayer may occupy a significant place for some of our members, we do not all pray in the same way; for some, prayer does not play a role in their lives. Therefore, it is essential for chaplains to adopt a sensitive and inclusive approach when publicly addressing military members. Chaplains must ensure that all members feel respected and included by undertaking inclusive practices that respect the diversity of beliefs within the CAF.”
The policy applies to any public event, including Remembrance Day services.
Here we go again with the “inclusive” approach, which seems to exclude the majority of Canadians who profess to be religious. Why is it that inclusivity leaves out or demotes the majority?
It is not as if Canada’s military does not acknowledge or accommodate religious expression in its ranks. Watch any parade formation and one can observe Sikhs wearing turbans, Muslims wearing hijabs, and now hair colours of anything under the rainbow. And special mention is made in the directive for the indigenous. “Leaders of traditional Indigenous spirituality also have a vital role to play and may share a teaching that is consistent with the inclusive purpose of this directive.”
One veteran commented: “Now we are paying for our failure to stand up for our own culture and traditions. I would dearly love to once again be proud of being a Canadian.” The vet continued: “Oh, what about all the troops in WWl and WWll who gave their lives, almost all of whom were believers. Isn’t Remembrance Day all about them?”
This directive has its roots in a 2022 National Defence Minister’s Advisory Panel’s report: “to seek out the policies, processes and practices that enable systemic racism and discrimination in the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and provide advice on how to eliminate them from our institution.”
The reaction at the time was strong, as, for example, Bishop Scott McCaig, the Catholic military ordinary for Canada, said the report seemed to target Christian faiths and called the report’s section on redefining the chaplaincy “deeply problematic and regrettable.”
“Narrowing spiritual support does not increase diversity. Excluding the majority of faith traditions does not make the CAF more inclusive. Facilitating intolerance toward particular religious groups, who are believing and living in accord with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, does not make the CAF more tolerant. Historic discrimination is not overcome by new and different forms of discrimination.”
At the time, representatives of religious organizations called the panel’s position “a clear violation” of constitutional protections of freedom of conscience, religion and association and said the report was advocating for the state to “effectively police the legitimacy of Canadians’ most deeply held beliefs and how those are lived out in community with others.”
[T]he panel displays “a deep ignorance and unfounded prejudice of various religious traditions.”
Retired military chaplain Fr. Timothy Nelligan, when commenting on the Advisory Panel’s report, said: “I take umbrage at the panel’s outright assault against the...Judaeo-Christian heritage at the core of this country’s ethical, moral and spiritual life.” He went on to say: “The idea of having “knowledge keepers” or multi-denominational chaplains who have little or no connection to one faith or another would leave chaplains with no foundation to defend spiritual convictions. The very fact of being “multi-denominational” treats spirituality as a mere thing and not an intimate part of who a person truly is.
“The Chaplaincy’s structure affords troops the spiritual care they seek and deserve, according to their own faith convictions enshrined and protected in the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both of which the advisory panel deems fit to ignore. It also dismisses their right to serve and their right to be respected for their beliefs and practices of faith, the legacy of faith in their lives, their families and in the world in which we live.
“Faith is a way of life, not a post-nominal at the end of your name.”
The CHP most strongly objects to the replacement of “prayers” (Christian and others) with “reflections” at CAF public events, especially Remembrance Day ceremonies. Our serving and veteran military members deserve better. Call or write your MP today to register your objection to this directive. And join CHP in efforts to retain the Christian heritage of our nation.
Let us finish with a last word from military mother Anna Farrow: “I don’t know how conscious the Panel members are of their own mortality, or how well they recall facing the threats confronting active duty members. But do they really think human needs for guidance and succour can be sufficiently met by aridly bureaucratic Action Plans, or by the woke fantasies they have seen fit to rely on?”
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget — lest we forget!
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Other Commentary by David Darwin:
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