The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Controversy rages on in U. S. society over the issues of religious liberty and sexuality. The right to marry, the destigmatization of homosexuality and reproductive freedom are issues that, historically and in the present, conflict with deep seated religious beliefs and traditions in U.S. society. While the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures addressed these issues, especially in passing legislation to guarantee religious liberty, disputes concerning religious liberty and sexuality more often are settled by the courts. In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia. In 2013, SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California. This removed legal barriers to same sex marriage. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.S. in 2003 when SCOTUS ruled on Lawrence v. Texas. Most recently, the decision handed down by SCOTUS in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is generating heated discussion in the media and blogosphere. In this instance SCOTUS ruled on a dispute between the issues of religious liberty and reproductive rights. Continue reading

I have always believed that I should have had no difficulty in causing my rights to be respected. — Eli Whitney

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Equality between the sexes, particularly the equality and participation of women is something we value in Canadian society. This is enshrined in Canadian law in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Section 15 Equality Rights, which expressly prohibits discrimination based on sex and allows for the legislation of affirmative action laws designed for the “amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). Moreover, since 1971 among the departments of the government of Canada, you will find that of the Status of Women Canada. The mandate of Status of Women Canada is to promote “equality for women and their full participation in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada.” (Status of Women Canada) Yes, the status of women is taken very seriously in Canadian society, but what of the status of men? Continue reading

As long as teachers give tests, there will always be prayer in schools. — Unknown

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The issue of the practice of religion and religious education in Ontario schools has been a contentious issue throughout their history. The first Board of Education was established in what was to become Ontario in 1823. In 1824 the Board of Education was allotted funds to provide  for the “moral and religious instruction of the more indigent and remote settlements.” (The school system of Ontario) While Christianity was the dominant religion in Ontario in the 19th century there were sectarian divisions, notably those between Protestant and Roman Catholic, but there was also division between the various Protestant denominations, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, for example. These divisions created strife and hard feelings regarding the provision of moral and religious instruction in Ontario schools. By the 1840s Egerton Ryerson (1803-1882), a Methodist clergyman and champion of public education, proposed “common schools” to educate children of all faiths. This was really quite forward thinking of Ryerson, but the divisions in Christendom at the time were so pronounced this was not possible. Continue reading

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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In light of a recent mass murder suicide in Santa Barbara, California, there has been a frenzy of impassioned speculation as to what spurred the killer, Elliot Rodger, into carrying out his crime. One point of view put forward is that it was the phenomenon of violence against women; not just on his part, but on the part of men in general that spurred him on to commit this crime. That and abuse of women at the hands of men is tolerated in US society  in a culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity. The abuse of women is a problem and without any doubt reprehensible, but is it fair to lay the blame solely on men? Is it reasonable to assert that the abuse of women is tolerable in US society? These questions merit discussion, but in short, my answer to both questions is a resounding no. Continue reading

I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use. — Galileo Galilei

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In reaching a historic agreement on prohibition of weapons, we made a mighty contribution to delivering a safer and more secure Australian society. — John Howard

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The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. — Josh Sugarmann

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The term assault weapon comes up frequently in media reports on guns in society. The term has its origins in the 1980s and is credited to Josh Sugarmann  executive director and founder of the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and a noted prohibitionist. Prior to founding the Violence Policy Center in 1988, Sugarmann served as the communications director for the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (renamed the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) in 1989). The term assault weapon is said to have entered common parlance after Sugarmann authored a publication entitled Assault Weapons and Accessories in America in 1988. Sugarmann and the Violence Policy Center are among those advocates of prohibition who frame the argument that prohibition is a matter of public health and safety, that this trumps the individual right to own and use guns. In seeking to advance their agenda, prohibitionists have resorted to the underhanded tactic of trying to frame the debate in a manner that confuses the issue, causing people to quarrel over what is seen as good guns vs bad guns. Continue reading