Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Compas Poll on "Protection of Religious Freedom"

Some days, it doesn't pay to get out of bed. This morning, I was doing my morning review of the headlines when I ran across this little piece crowing about a recent COMPAS poll commissioned by the National Post.

My first alarm bell went off when I realized that this poll had been commissioned by the National Post. As part of the CanWest Global group, which appears to be well on its way to becoming Fox News North(tm), I figured that the poll itself might be a trifle loaded.

Sure enough, a brief bit of digging turns up the the Poll itself.

The poll contained these questions:

1) Should an individual minister, rabbi, iman or other clergy have the freedom not to marry a same sex couple if this were against the clergy’s religious beliefs?

2) Should a school teacher have the freedom to disagree with the same sex law in a letter to a newspaper?

3) Should a religious person who prints brochures for a living have the freedom to recommend another printer to a homosexual group wanting some brochures printed?

4) So long as there are enough marriage commissioners available for gay marriages, should individual commissioners be allowed not to officiate at gay marriages if this is against their religious beliefs?

It then goes on to ask the following questions about parliament's involvement in the subject:

1) do you think Parliament should…Review the same sex law to make sure that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fully protected?

2) do you think Parliament should…Review the same sex law to decide when freedom of speech and freedom of religion should or should not be protected

3) do you think Parliament should…Not review the freedom-related aspects of the law

This is about the most blatantly dishonest poll I've ever laid eyes on. First of all, the opening questions are based on largely bogus "talking points" such as the cases of Scott Brockie and Chris Kempling - which I debunked back here. Not only are the questions loaded, but they are vastly misleading. In the case of Brockie, it wasn't a matter of "religious freedom", it was a denial of service complaint - pure and simple. As for Kempling, his actions went far, far beyond merely writing a letter to the editor or two.

Question 1 was specifically addressed by the legislation in Bill C-38 as follows:

3. It is recognized that officials of religious
groups are free to refuse to perform marriages
that are not in accordance with their religious
3.1 For greater certainty, no person or
organization shall be deprived of any benefit,
or be subject to any obligation or sanction,
under any law of the Parliament of Canada
solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of
marriage between persons of the same sex, of
the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed
under the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in
respect of marriage as the union of a man and
woman to the exclusion of all others based on
that guaranteed freedom.

The last question, regarding marriage commissioners bothers me further. For two reasons. First of all, marriage commissioners are solmenizing secular marriages - they are not specifically bound by any one faith. While I don't support "forcing" someone to do something they find morally objectionable, I do have concerns about blithely treating this as a matter of "religious freedom" and simply allowing refusal. (My feeling is that if you are going "refuse" something like this, then you are at least obliged to provide a referral to someone else who will - besides who wants their marriage solemnized by someone who is hostile to it?)

However, returning to the poll itself, the direction of questions in the opening scenarios opens up a whole raft of evil potentials. In particular, if the Brockie case were "allowed to stand", then we open a significant can of worms. For example, does that allow a doctor to refuse to treat a patient because they are gay, on the basis that the person's sexuality is offensive to the doctor's religion? Does it allow a doctor to refuse to prescribe oral contraceptives to a woman because the doctor is Catholic? Does it then justify a restaurant refusing service to a couple because they think the couple is gay? The answer to all of these is - potentially - yes, it certainly could be read that way.

If allowed to go to its logical extreme, one could begin denying service to members of specific religions because your own faith happens to believe that the other faith is "apostate".

Fundamentally, the poll is among the most dishonest polls I have ever seen. The questions are leading, and worse presuppose either outright hypothetical situations (that have not yet occurred), or misconstrues those that have already been evaluated. Both Compas research and the National Post should be embarrassed by this poorly designed, blatantly political poll.


evilscientist said...

It would seem that the Tories and their media support are thrashing around in the hopes of propping up their sagging fortunes. They hope that by formulating public opinion, there may be another Tory minority in the future.

I suspect that Harper will also look at ways of disenfranchising voters for the federal election in the same way he did for the Wheat Board election in order to help them into a second minority. So much for being the party of democracy and openess.

Anonymous said...

But... do I have the right to refuse to print for someone of the religious right whose 'freedom of religion' offends my 'straight but not narrow' sensibilities?

The tables, they are turned...

Grog said...

whose 'freedom of religion' offends my 'straight but not narrow' sensibilities

Therein lies the rub, doesn't it? On one hand, the reich demands the right to have a group they can treat as second class citizens, yet they will scream like stuck pigs if you return the favour.

North of 49 said...

evilscientist --

I think you're right about Harper looking for ways to disenfranchise voters, and I'm right now going through the Canada Elections Act to see if there are any loopholes he could use.

So far, compared to the ploys in use in, say, Ohio, I haven't found too much he could play with -- under the Act as currently worded, anyway. Short term, I think I'd be looking for tricks like voter ID (already floated once), roll-purging and disqualification, and on the day, goon-squads of special scrutineers to challenge likely-looking electors (visible minorities and such).

Long term, I'd be looking for him to try to change the Act itself, or force out the current Electoral Office staffers and replace them with Blackwell clones.

Cheery, eh?