A news report last month described municipal officials in Quebec revoking the operating permit of a community centre because the centre refused to prohibit prayer by people gathering at the centre. Apparently this action was precipitated when inspectors found 20 people praying together in the building.
And opponents of freedom slyly ask where do we see basic freedoms being eliminated from Canadians through the abuse of power by public authorities?!
There might be valid municipal planning reasons to prohibit large public gatherings in some residential neighbourhoods, such as parking issues, noise, or fire safety concerns. That said, even those rules are subject to very lenient application which permits you and I wide use and enjoyment of our homes. I’ve been known to have the occasional well-attended celebratory gathering in my home, and my neighbours have too from time to time.
But there is no explanation consistent with basic democratic freedoms which justifies making it illegal to gather, in a private home or in a public community centre, simply because the purpose of the gathering is to pray, and because that would make the venue a “place of worship.”
Simply put, those who wish to prohibit prayer by consenting adults, simply because prayer is a form of worship, are authoritarians seeking to oppress those who do not share their beliefs.
When you click on the link I’ll insert below, and read the article, you will see that the victims of the abuse of power this report describes are Muslims. Does that make any difference? Absolutely not! If authoritarian rulers can prohibit the peaceful gathering of any group of citizens for the legitimate purpose of praying together, then those authoritarians can (and will) end up prohibiting the peaceful gatherings for legitimate purposes of others, including you and me. If Muslims can be prohibited from gathering because their purpose is prayer, then so can Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or anyone else.
In fact, if people of faith can be prohibited from gathering simply because their purpose is to pray, then even atheists can be prohibited from gathering because their purpose is to discuss opposing religion. Everyone, of any faith or no faith, should take up the defence of their neighbour when their neighbour’s basic freedom to govern their own peaceful activity is eliminated by state authorities. If you don’t, you will probably be next!