Bob Mills, CA member of Parliament for Red Deer, declared on the CBC Radio program The House (May 19, 2001) that “religion and politics should be kept separate.” His statement reveals a serious misunderstanding of both religion and politics; that’s what happens when slogans dominate people’s thinking. It’s such a common mistake, it really ought to be analyzed.

Several such slogans are frequently used to marginalize people of faith:

  • “Religion is a private matter”
  • “You can’t legislate morality”
  • “Religion and politics don’t mix”

The first step in thinking about these “philosophy-by-bumper-sticker” slogans is to ask: “Qui bono?” – who benefits? The answer: those who want to expunge any transcendent principles from public life – the advocates of militant, fundamentalist secularism.

But secularism is also a religion – the most intolerant faith on the planet: its primary goal is to extirpate every other faith from public life.

What, after all, is religion? It’s our world view: our concept of how we came into being, and what principles should guide us where our lives intersect. Militant secularists are usually materialists, insisting that the universe is self-creating and that only what we can see, hear, touch or measure is real. They want no transcendent principles at all in public life: they believe “There are no absolutes. Absolutely not!”

But because our world view – our religion – governs how we behave, it cannot remain a purely private matter, unless we are all willing to adopt the religion of Secularism.

In short, those who want to make religion purely private are, in effect,saying “Surrender to Secularism.”

Similarly, when people say, “You can’t legislate morality”, they reveal that they don’t really understand government because the only thing governments do is to legislate morality. Speed limits say we think it’s immoral to endanger public safety; laws against theft and violence declare it’s immoral to steal from people, or to hurt them. The question is always “Whose morality will be legislated?” Laws may not guarantee compliance, but to say we shouldn’t legislate morality is to claim we shouldn’t have any laws at all!

Keeping religion and politics separate is also impossible, because someone’s world-view will always dominate the political scene. The Preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (in Canada’s Constitution) says the foundation of political life in Canada is the traditional Judeo-Christian moral code, based upon the supremacy of the God of the Bible. The Canadian Alliance rejected that idea during its founding convention in February 1999; so MPs like Bob Mills are being consistent with their party’s philosophy when they say we should ignore those constitutional principles. But what they’re really saying is that the only religion they want to see allowed in politics is fundamentalist secularism. If that’s what they choose to believe, that’s their right;but they should understand what such a statement really implies: “People of faith, shut up so we-the militant Secularists-can rule your lives!”

And they should also be prepared to grant freedom of expression (it’s also in the Charter!) to those of us who believe there are transcendent standards of right and wrong, and that civilization depends upon our willingness to defend those standards.

To do that, we must let our faith govern our politics. If it doesn’t govern every part of our lives, including our political role as citizens, it’s not real faith.

Ron Gray is the national leader of the Christian Heritage Party. This is reprinted from the Oct. 9 CHP Communique.