The Ontario government provides a comprehensive definition of systemic faithism as follows:
Systemic faithism refers to the ways that cultural and societal norms, systems, structures and institutions directly or indirectly, consciously or unwittingly, promote, sustain or entrench differential (dis)advantage for individuals and groups based on their faith (understood broadly to include religious and non-religious belief systems). Systemic faithism can adversely affect both religious and non-religious persons, depending on the context, as discussed in the examples below. Some forms of systemic faithism can be actionable under the Code (e.g. those amounting to “systemic discrimination”), while others may not be (e.g. those taking broader cultural or societal forms). This section looks more closely at two dominant forms of systemic faithism in the current era, flowing from the “residually Christian” structuring of public culture and institutions, and from “closed secular” ideology and practice
Whether this definition should be considered a full, fair and well-reasoned summary could be an excellent subject for debate. In the meantime, given that this language resides on a government website, it should be considered reasonable to publicly discuss issues of Systemic Faithism. issues such as the discriminatory public funding of religion in schools or other public institutions.
Public-funding of religion in schools is, in several countries around the world, a long-standing human rights violation; this funding should be considered a form of systemic faithism. The Ontario Human Rights Commission acknowledges the issue on its website:
Among the most obvious examples of residual Christianity in Ontario are the two statutory holidays organized around the Christian high holy days (Christmas and Easter), and public funding in Ontario of Roman Catholic separate schools, but not other religion-based schools. Scholars have highlighted many other examples, both symbolic and institutional. One example in Ontario law is the Ontario Education Act’s provision in section 264(1) – under the subheading “Duties of teachers” – which explicitly states, in subsection (c) on “religion and morals” that it is the duty of the teacher or temporary teacher to:
inculcate by precept and example respect for religion and the principles of Judaeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues.
While the issue of public funding of religion in schools is not a freedom of expression matter – when individuals wish to publicly oppose the public funding of religion in schools, silencing tactics and threats to freedom of expression may quickly come into effect.
Ontario presently funds both “public” and Catholic school systems; this is a situation that has been opposed by many people in the province for many years. But it is also an issue that is skirted, dismissed and ignored by politicians. It has also often misunderstood or misrepresented in public dialogue. It is “controversial”.
In 2014, an Ontario dentist wished to publicize his opposition to public funding of religion in schools via ads timed to coincide with the opening of The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg (September, 2014). The intention was to leverage media coverage of the museum’s opening to raise awareness of this long-standing human rights concern.
For a brief history of the United Nations’ view of Ontario’s funding of Catholic School boards, see the Wikipedia history (and links) of Waldman v. Canada.
The advertising plan was to distribute bus ads – a common strategy for secular and religious organizations who wish to garner attention and public support for their organizations’ goals.
In Winnipeg, advertising via the public transit venue is managed and implemented by a powerful Canadian advertising firm. Following the application to advertise, the advertising company declared that, in their opinion, the ads may violate Ad Council Guidelines; the company also refused repeated requests to describe which words or phrases were considered the offending features of the ads. Eventually dialogue was abruptly terminated by the advertising agency with the statement that “We consider this matter closed.”
Further Information Regarding Public Funding of Religion in Schools
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