A roundup of important news from around the interwebs.
Over at the National Post, Kristopher Kinsinger has a column explaining why the arrest of Alberta pastor James Coates is so concerning. An excerpt:
It’s clear, however, that Coates and his church will accept nothing less than a full revocation of all COVID-19 restrictions on religious assemblies: no face coverings, physical distancing or capacity limits. Regardless of whether we accept the necessity of such measures — and it’s worth noting that many Christian pastors and theologians disagree in good faith on this issue — there’s little point in suggesting that these policies are going away any time before the summer, at the earliest.
Yet we shouldn’t just dismiss Coates as a fundamentalist receiving his due. There is nothing normal about his arrest, and it’s unsettling that this was the Crown’s chosen method of enforcement, rather than, say, merely issuing fines against his church.
But there’s another, more fundamental reason that Coates’s arrest is so disconcerting. Within Canada’s constitutional architecture, religion is not merely a service to be deemed essential or nonessential as a matter of policy: it is, at its core, a public good. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms this through the twin guarantees of religious freedom and religious equality. Both of these protections are reinforced by the principle that the state, as much as it can, must remain neutral toward matters of religion.
The past year has tested the limits of this principle. So far, none of the restrictions that have been imposed on religious gatherings in Canada have actually targeted the content of worship, per se. Preachers can continue to preach the same messages that they did prior to the pandemic. But there’s no denying that these policies have profoundly restricted the extent to which religious communities are able to exercise their faith in community with one another.
That said, the Charter expressly allows for limitations to be placed on these freedoms where doing so is demonstrably justifiable. As I wrote in these pages last month, it’s reasonable for governments to require religious assemblies to follow empirical guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19, even if this means issuing fines against places of worship that don’t comply. Yet these restrictions, as I also explained, must be constitutionally justified on the basis of non-speculative evidence.
The burden that pandemic restrictions impose on religious communities must be constantly weighed against the health and welfare of the broader community. This balancing is an exercise in proportionality. Even if such measures are currently justified, this won’t be the case forever. The hope is that these policies will succeed in reducing the long-term transmission of COVID-19. There are encouraging signs that this may already be taking place, even as public health leaders warn that we shouldn’t become complacent.
But make no mistake, the constitutional cost of restricting peaceful assemblies — religious or otherwise — will eventually outweigh the relative public benefit. This is not a question of if but when.
Coates’ ordeal is a sobering reminder of just how drastic these policies are. As a pastor, he’s willing to endure imprisonment in the fight to allow his church to meet together again as a whole body. None of us should take any joy in the fact that things have gone this far. For the sake of the public good, let’s hope that the constitutional balance shifts back in Coates’s favour sooner rather than later.
Read the whole thing.
Ben Woodfinden has a good (albeit very lengthy) analysis of the streak of anti-Canadian sentiment that often colors the views of Canada’s conservatives, due to the (accurate) perception that Canadian nationalism is primarily progressive—something J.J. McCullough explains brilliantly in this video. If you’re interested in a deep dive on Canadian conservatism, it’s worth a read.
The Dutch government has voted to remove the five-day waiting period prior to procuring an abortion by a margin of 150 to 119. This had been attempted several times in the past, but the proposal always failed to achieve the majority. As with so many other issues, the Dutch are on the cutting edge of the Culture of Death.
The National Centre on Sexual Exploitation has released its annual “Dirty Dozen List,” detailing the companies with the worst track record when it comes to sexual exploitation and pornographic material. Unsurprisingly, Netflix and OnlyFans are on it; Twitter and Reddit also make the cut.
Good news from South Dakota. From LifeNews:
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed a pro-life bill Wednesday to protect newborn babies who survive abortions from infanticide. News Center 1 reports Noem’s signature means state House Bill 1051 becomes law. It overwhelmingly passed the state legislature last week.
“The pro-life cause continues even after a child is born,” she said in a statement. “Today, I signed Born Alive legislation to guarantee the right to life for every baby that is born alive. We expect doctors to treat all children equally, even those born in horrific circumstances. It’s basic human decency.”
Sponsored by state Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Brookings, the pro-life legislation requires that the same basic medical care be provided to a baby who survives an abortion that would be provided to any other baby born at the same gestational age. Doctors who do not could face huge fines and the loss of their medical license. Babies born alive and their mothers also could sue doctors who fail to provide basic medical care.