On tolerance

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Canadians have the inalienable right to tell others to stay out of their face. But is it always necessary to take extreme measures?

A story from Thursday’s National Post shows how actions in the name of tolerance often achieve the exact opposite.

A Saskatoon man named Ashu Solo has been standing up lately for freedom from religious influence.

In the latest case, Solo has filed a formal complaint against a city councillor for saying grace at a community volunteer dinner.

Now, even some lapsed Christians might feel a little uncomfortable around public prayer. Some feel guilt; others may just be annoyed. But in these pluralistic times, it’s more common to simply brush it off and ignore it.

Not Ashu Solo.

He considers it a fundamental violation of his rights as a citizen to be subjected to such flagrant displays of organized faith. Just as he decided a couple of months ago that buses adorned with Christmas greetings were also an egregious affront.

These sorts of cases arise all the time in the U.S., where the separation of church and state is sacrosanct. Perhaps that’s because so many politicians there seem determined to blur the lines.

In Canada, there’s usually a bit of give and take.

When kids of varying faiths attend school, their parents understandably don’t want them indoctrinated in the predominant belief system.

There is compromise to be had. Don’t force them to take part in nativity plays, or celebrate their religious customs in an inclusive way.

Mr. Solo, however, is a full-grown adult. He should realize his participation in grace and Christmas cheer is entirely voluntary. He has a right not to be subjected to a full-blown Catholic mass, but should be equally tolerant when most of those present want to hear a few words of thanks before eating.

A reader tells of a dining hall in the Netherlands decades ago, in which many patrons could be seen praying and blessing themselves before eating. One regular, an atheist, made a deliberate point of sitting up and looking around attentively before digging in. In other words, he was deliberately not praying.

If a few people want to be so stiffly principled and dogmatic in their views, that is their prerogative. But demanding others abandon such a minor custom as grace is the height of pettiness. In fact, it turns tolerance on its head.

Meanwhile, you could get a sense of what real home-grown oppression is like from another story in the same edition of the Post.

Language police in Quebec are hassling an Italian restaurant owner in Montreal for using Italian names for dishes on his menu — even though there is no French equivalent for some of them.

The owner received a letter saying words such as “pasta,” “pesce,” “antipasti” and “calamari” violate the province’s French language charter.

This, despite the fact the rest of the menu is strictly in French.

Now that is true intolerance at work.

Ashu Solo should take note.

Organizations: National Post

Geographic location: Saskatoon, U.S., Canada Netherlands Quebec Montreal French.Now

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