Freedom of religion and conscience is a fundamental freedom in Canada and the United States. It has shaped the genuinely pluralist nature of Canadian and American society. Our institutions have historically recognized this. Yet in Canada, an amnesia has developed. The presence and articulation of faith within our society is undervalued at best, and many in our public institutions, including in the media and in our public services, even see it as a threat.
This past May, Cardus welcomed faith leaders and Cardus friends to the official launch of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute (CRFI). This new Cardus initiative seeks both to help ensure robust religious freedom and to foster a vibrant public faith in Canada. While the situation is somewhat different in the United States given America’s distinct political culture, there are increasing challenges to freedom of religion for those within American society who seek to live according to their faith and in contrast to the persistent secularism of our age. To this end, the CRFI has entered into a strategic relationship with the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) of Washington, DC. The CRFI will collaborate with the RFI’s North America action team in developing research and specific tools to address these challenges.
The CRFI will be a leading voice, supporting faith communities and faith advocacy groups among others in affirming the foundational place of religious freedom in a democratic society. We will provide leadership and equip our partners in faith communities with tools to defend and promote this most important and basic freedom. The May launch afforded us a chance to talk about how we can work together to restore within our common life deep respect for religious voices and to reaffirm that robust freedom of religion and conscience contributes to a thriving democratic life and a complete citizenship.
In the next six to eight months, the CRFI will be launching a series of quarterly policy papers on religious freedom and public faith. The first one, An Institutional History of Religious Freedom in Canada, was released as part of the May launch of the CRFI. This will be followed by a paper on freedom of conscience and the pitfalls accompanying attempts to compel belief. We are also looking forward to building on the success of our Faith in Canada 150 Millennials’ Network. Our aim is to deepen and activate this network of faithful youth across the country, giving them the resources to reach back into their own networks to educate their peers on what it means to live a public faith, one that is integral and deeply authentic.
You can follow our ongoing work here.