Letter to Councillor Carolyn Parrish sent t by our Past President, John Jackson:
I also wish to express my support for your recent stand on the issue of prayers at Mississauga City Council. Your advocacy for all citizens, including non-believers, and your recognition of the need to be neutral in the public domain was not shared by your fellow councillors. The requirement for neutrality was expressed recently by the Supreme Court of Canada and its message was unequivocal.
You will not recall that we were political opponents in the debates leading up to the 1993 Federal Election. While we may have had different views of political issues at that time, such as with the now discredited Free Trade philosophy, you nevertheless were very civil and gracious in the discussions.
Mississauga City Council chose to view our recent challenge to the use of The Lord's Prayer as a matter of political expediency when the issue was raised last December. Rather than understand the issue as a matter of human rights, they chose the easy path and asked the assembled (mostly) Catholics if they could remain seated for the prayer. They were not willing to risk losing votes and do what the Supreme Court has now said is the right thing to do: maintain neutrality in the public sphere. I think that the other councillors were willing to "sacrifice" the rights of some citizens (humanist, atheists, freethinkers) to favour the religious majority. Perhaps some councillors were completely ignorant of the blatant discrimination they exhibited on that occasion. It is true that atheists are persecuted in North American society for their non-beliefs in a supernatural world. But you seemed to understand the issue and exhibited courage by taking the position that you took. I feel that you are somewhat vindicated for your stance with the recent Supreme Court ruling.
It is important to have elected representatives who understand that minority rights are expressly protected in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You got it right on this issue and I wish to compliment you and acknowledge your actions.
Past President, Halton-Peel Humanist Community