Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Religion in the Public Sphere: Canadian Case Studies

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Religion in the Public Sphere: Canadian Case Studies

Article excerpt

Solange Lefebvre and Lori G. Beaman (eds), Religion in the Public Sphere: Canadian Case Studies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), 332pp. Cased. $80. ISBN 978-1-44264862-3. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 978-1-4426-2630-0.

A collection of essays by distinguished scholars, this book raises a considerable number of issues which would seem almost incapable of resolution. The very title begs questions principally those of definition. So many people talk of relegating religion, which itself requires defining, to the private sphere without considering what indeed is the distinction between public and private. There has indeed been little discussion of what rightly falls into the public sphere and this book, in seeking to remedy this deficiency, aims both to clarify the issues and enlighten the reader. The co-editors acknowledge, however, that there is a need for more research to add to the insights gained from their work.

Many of the problems encountered in Canada will be quite familiar to British people. We have in the recent past encountered Sikhs having difficulty with regulations requiring them to wear safety helmets while they prefer to wear turbans, employees being banned from wearing visible crucifixes, Orthodox Jews in North London encountering opposition to their demarcation of their area for religious purposes, Church of England clergy being exempt from solemnising same-sex unions, and examining boards moving their GCSE and A level timetables specifically to take account of Ramadan. Canada, however, has seen a case of a Sikh boy wishing to wear his ceremonial dagger at school, Orthodox Jews wishing to use their balconies to erect a temporary shelter for the Feast of Succoth, Hutterites refusing to have their photographs taken for driving licences, and Muslim ladies being subject to a general regulation requiring that those taking the Oath of Citizenship have their face fully exposed. …

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