Picking and choosing religions - Macleans.ca

Picking and choosing religions

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Prison inmates will now only be served by Christian chaplains.

Inmates of other faiths, such as Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance, according to the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is also responsible for Canada’s penitentiaries. Toews made headlines in September when he ordered the cancellation of a tender issued for a Wiccan priest for federal prisons in B.C.

Toews said he wasn’t convinced part-time chaplains from other religions were an appropriate use of taxpayer money and that he would review the policy. In an email to CBC News, Toews’ office says that as a result of the review, the part-time non-Christian chaplains will be let go and the remaining full-time Christian chaplains in prisons will now provide interfaith services and counselling to all inmates. “The minister strongly supports the freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners,” the email states. “However, the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded … [Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.”

The CBC says the prison chaplain program costs $6.4 million and it’s not clear how much of that will be saved as a result of this change.