AuthorRichard Moon
ProfessionFaculty of Law, University of Windsor
The foundations of religious freedom are both principled and pragmatic.
According to the courts, section 2(a) of the Charter1 protects the indi-
vidual’s freedom from compulsion by the state to participate in religious
practices and her freedom to hold religious beliefs and to engage in re-
ligious practices subject only to restrictions in the public interest. The
courts, though, have said that section 2(a) protects more than individual
liberty and establishes a form of religious equality. Section 2(a) requires
that the state remain neutral in religious matters. The state should not
support or favour the practices of one religious group over those of
another, and it should not restrict an individual’s religious practices ex-
cept for compelling public reasons. The requirement of state neutrality
toward beliefs and practices that are the subject of disagreement in the
larger public sphere rests on concerns that religious contest in politics
and the alliance of state and religion may undermine social peace and
contribute to the marginalization of some groups within the community.
Because religious beliefs are deeply held and because they have
sometimes given rise to social and political conf‌lict, the courts have
said that the state should remain neutral in spiritual matters. The state
should take no position on the truth of religious beliefs, because (or
even though) they address matters of the utmost importance to the indi-
vidual. Yet, at the same time, the courts seem to recognize that religious
1 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, be-
ing Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

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