Federal Court Judge Michel Shore dismissed Christopher Bennett’s claim that, for him, marijuana is a holy sacrament and thus him smoking it is protected under the Charter as a freedom of religion. Judge Shore said that Mr. Bennett’s pot smoking is a “life style choice.” Yes it is a life style choice, but so are all religions.
A person must decide to belong to a religion. Even if they are born into that religion they are still given a choice at some point in their life (at least in this society). Some religions require a very strict commitment and others are more liberal, but there is no religion in the world that doesn’t come with a particular life style. This makes being a member of a religion a life style choice, the same as being a pot head or being a hipster is a life style choice.
So why would being religious be a life style that is particularly protected?
At least on the surface it would appear that belonging to a particular religion is the choice that has led to the most discrimination in history. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that the British allowed Catholics to be public employees and it doesn’t take much education to think of much more horrific discriminations based on religion. There is, however, another life style choice that has been more consistently discriminated against than belonging to any religion, and that is atheism.
It wasn’t until very recently that someone could be an atheist openly and not fear public ire at best and horrible death at worst. Yet we have no specific protection for atheists beyond the normal protection of freedom of expression.
There are other less notable examples that also don’t receive special comment in the constitution. For example, at a certain time in Russian history bearded men were legally discriminated against. There is no provision anywhere in the charter that assures beard growers that this will never happen in Canada, besides of course the same assurance that the baby faced among us have in the section referring to the freedom of expression.
It is puzzling to me why, if freedom of expression is enough to protect atheists and beards, the choice of religion would need special mention. If the purpose of the constitution is to ensure that people can live their lives as they wish (within reasonable limits) then why does one particular set of choices need extra protection? Why should the individual’s reason behind the choices he/she make have any significance?
In a truly free society Mr. Bennett should not have had to justify his life through religion. All he should have had to say is “it is my choice and I am not hurting anyone.” Case shut.