Picking and choosing religions

by Aaron Wherry

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.




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Picking and choosing religions

  1. This is pretty low. They should apologize and get the money from the office of religious freedoms (and use what’s left over to restore the gun registry, but that’s another story).

    • I just think that the man is really mean-spirited. This isn’t the first program that he’s stripped from inmates. He hates them.

      • The last one a few weeks ago was about “pizza parties”. The next thing you know he’ll declare a jihad against two-ply toilet tissue in prisons. Vic Toews is beyond pathetic, to the point that I’m actually beginning to pity the guy. Can you imagine how bone-deep miserable he must feel?

        • I do because that is the logical conclusion here.

      • Which is odd, because I fully expect he’ll end up joining them someday.

  2. “Surely one key test of any society is how we treat the most vulnerable and, even more particularly, the most despised. Justice policies offer a glimpse into the soul of a nation.” — Alex Himelfarb

    • And the soul of a political party. I’ve looked into particular this one long enough thanks.

  3. There is something really wrong with Vic Toews. He reminds me of the warden in the Shawshank Redemption.

  4. Obviously this is another in a long series of inane decisions by a basket case of a Minister. But beyond that, why in the hell are we paying any religious advisors from any religious denomination? If religions are interested in harvesting souls, then let them do it on their own dime. (A dime that is already tax-exempt, btw).

    • Religious ministries help some people turn their lives around, so the guys don’t come right back to prison once they’re out. So it also saves the government money that way.

      • I don’t think so, Rob. A religion that needs to be paid to minister to the incarcerated is a religion not worthy of the name. Why the hell should Jews, Muslims, Atheists and others be supporting the Christians? It’s an absurdity and an obscenity.

        • Far from being obscene (!!!) think of it as the state meeting the populace’s religious needs when the state has removed that person from normal soceity (most chaplincy – military, hospital, prison – occurs when you aren’t in a position to visit yoru regular church).

          • Moreover, this would be a better position if chaplincy were the kind of thing a lay religious person did foir a few hours on a volunteer basis. Nowadays it’s a full time job which requires a masters and often social work training on top of that.

          • All of that is beside the point. We don’t pay alter boys for ringing their bells, nor missionaries for digging their wells. Why, in the name of all that is holy, should we be paying preachers to preach?

          • Well, you can have your theoretical abstract point, demands on religious institutions and pretty charged conclusions (obsence?!), I’ll take the practical reality-based that’s worked for at least decades. The latter will continue trying its best to addess the issues at hand, the former will continue to post on the internet.

          • think of it as the state meeting the populace’s religious needs…
            That’s exactly how I think of it and I object to that in the strongest possible terms. It’s the role of religious institutions to meet the demand for religious instruction. How did we ever get so far from reason that we think it’s natural and right for a Priest or a Rabbi or an Imam to be paid from the public purse. It is absurd.

          • Are Catholic Schools funded by the public purse?

  5. I see we now have an official state religion.

  6. “the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status,” so we’ll pick the Christian religion and give it preferential status.

  7. “However, the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding.”

    Umm, I hate to tell you this, Vic, but that’s EXACTLY WHAT YOU’VE JUST DONE. Holy jumping idiocy.

  8. Wonderful. So I wonder how much money the CPC will waste in appealing the inevitable charter challenge to this?

    • They know it will cost millions, and that they will eventually lose. None of which matters to them because the ordeal is what they want. It’s very effective for sucking money out of the pockets of their hard-core supporters. They are setting themselves up for their next fundraising campaign.
      My father used to say that lotteries were an extra tax on the stupid. I wonder what he’d say about pensioners who contribute to the CPC?

    • I am interested to know if there will be a charter challenge. How does Quebec get away with their stance on not allowing other religions to be represented in public buildings (except Catholicism) and yet the Federal government can’t do this? Are there different rules for provinces?

      • There’s a difference between “represented” and “freedom to practice”. If some inmate thinks that his ability to practice his religion is hampered by the lack of a proper official of it, especially since the state controls what religious officials are allowed in, that runs into Charter territory. A private, non-incarcerated citizen not being represented in the public buildings does nothing to prevent them from practicing their religion (unless of course their religion required practice in government buildings — that’d perhaps open up a can of worms for Quebec — but I don’t think there is one of those yet).

  9. I have never seen anyone but a Christian chaplain employed at a hospital. I am not sure that we are at all sensitive to the needs of our citizens who practice other faiths. We do have a “non-denominational service” but that is really a quiet prayer time in the chapel. The only option people of other faiths have is that their spiritual advisor can come and visit them.
    I wonder how much time these chaplains of other faiths were even working. It seems really petty to get rid of them. Just another subtle sign of complete bigotry and intolerance.

    • I have encountered Jewish chaplains, although not in Catholic hospitals. In said hospitals, I declined counselling by the in-house chaplain and received assistance from the local community’s Rabbi. In my case, interfaith counselling would have failed to meet my religious needs.

    • +
      “I wonder how much time these chaplains of other faiths were even working.” I believe most, if not all were only working part-time. I would say it’s not a subtle sign of bigotry & intolerence, rather it’s a blatent sign. Yet another case of demonizing “others” – and this one’s a twofer – non-Christian & criminals.

  10. I bet this is about making sure Omar Khadr doesn’t see any Moslem clerics, since we know they’re all jihadists.

  11. And this man wants to become a judge?!

    • I plan on being Mr goody two shoes any time i drive through Manitoba when and if that happens.

      • I will simply stay out of Manitoba.

    • Imagine the mean-spirited, measured cruelty he’ll be able to dispense from the bench when he gets his plum judicial appointment. It’s obvious he’s practicing for the role right now.

  12. I suspect that most chaplains – jail, hospital, army, police force – spend more of their time counselling and listening than in prayer or worship. In other words, they are mostly performing a mental health role in situations that are characterized by challenges to mental health. Some people receive this better from a person of faith. Taking the chaplains out of the mix will just increase the unmet burden of counselling/mental health crises in any of these places.

  13. Is he planning to cut the FNs programmes out too? Or will elders still be able to access the er rather large Aboriginal prison pop anyway?
    Got to talk to a member of the church if you have residential school issues eh! I can see this heading off to the courts, that’s for sure.

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