Religion and Discrimination

One might take the view that society should be tolerant to any religion
so long as it conforms to our laws and written constitution. At first glance,
this statement seems as fit an answer as possible to the question of societal
limits to religious tolerance. Unofrtunately, if one were to consider the
matter with more caution, one would eventually see that the statement could only
be part of a greater answer. It is without a consideration of some of the
elements which constitute cults, as well as other factors, that one would falter
in devising a definitive answer to the question.
Certain followings or ?faiths' which claim to be religions that are
prevalent today are, in actuality, forms of cults. Although most of the
practices and elements common to cults are legal, they are, at best, suspect.
The following should constitute the line of telerance society should not cross.
Firstly, what distinguishes cults from religions is the manner in which
they operate. Cults are designed with a view of insulating the individual from
the rest of society. Once a member of a cult, in most cases, the individual is
removed of most (if not all) of their personal autonomy. Most decisions are
made by the cult leader, access to the outside world is often denied, and all
information about the outside world is distorted by the leader. These types of
operations should be intolerable by society.
Second, there should be no tolerance for ?religions' that espouse any
form of sacrifice, be it human or animal. Although historically, these
practices were more or less prevalent and accepted, there certainly is no place
for them in modern times.
Lastly, there should be a limit of religious tolerance with regards to
the manner in which some display their beliefs. Individuals in society should
not be subject toa ny violence or restriction of freedom as a consequence of
someone else's beliefs. There have been numerous illustrations of this in the
past. Individuals have blocked abotion clinics, have participated in violent
demonstrations concerning one issue or another, ad infinitum. These types of
religiously-fuelled practices have no place in, and should not be tolerated, in
present day society.
For some, the state has been seen to usurp the place of God on occasion.
The fervent belief held by Jehovah's Witnesses, in assence, acts as the basis of
their religious dissent. There have been certain areas of the law, which
historically, have given rise to the conflict between the Canadian legal system
and Jahovah's Witnesses. As a result of this conflict, a myriad of implications
have arisen. On one extreme, has been state persecutions of Witnesses. On the
other extreme, has been instances of law reform. A consideration of the
Jehovah's Witnesses' bases of dissent will follow.
To begin, the First and Second World Wars saw the Witnesses as refusing
to be drafted into military service. This area of dissent arose out of their
pacifist doctirne. They refused to be involved in military service, or in
anything that could be tied in with the war effort.
Next, Witnesses reject all practices which allude to idolation. Their
firm belief that only Jehovah be worshipped ahs led them to refuse singing the
national anthem and saluting the Canadian Flag. Anything to do with pledging
allegiance to anything or anyone other than Jehovah is strictly intolerable.
As well, Witnesses have had objections to education. They believe that
only parents have the right to teach faith to their children. Moreover, the
Witnesses have had the view that religious education does nothing but serve to
indoctrinate children into the RomanCatholic faith. These beliefs have led them
to oppose religious education in schools, and the celebration of such Christian
holidays as Christmas and Easter.
Lastly, their literal stance towards to Bible has contributed to the
Witnesses' opposition of such modern medical procedures as blood transfusions.
Although their position is based solely upon two verses in the Bible, it does
nothing to detract them from their adamant views on the subject.
As can be demonstrated, the Jehovah's Witnesses' rigid stance on certain
legal issues has allowed them to continue on as ?conscientious objectors'. Many
of their theological beliefs have contributed to numerous areas of dissent
between themselves and the Canadian legal system.