Centre for Cultural Renewal

Centre for Cultural Renewal

June 12, 2006 20:36 ET

Centre for Cultural Renewal: Co-operation Between Religion and Government Explored at Conference

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(CCNMatthews - June 12, 2006) - Same sex marriage, sharia law, religious symbols in public schools, are all issues where religious groups and governments have collided in Canada this past year.

A national conference held in Calgary June 9 & 10, "The Co-operation of Church and State", explored ways in which governments and religious groups can pursue cooperation rather than confrontation when such issues arise. Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars presented concepts of how religion and state have interacted in history.

"This conference examined some of the key ideas that exist in relation to "church/religions" and the state, and suggested that any faith community (whether religious, atheist or agnostic) must avoid the twin temptations of theocracy and secularism - - too much or too little formal religious tie-in to the state," says Iain Benson, Executive Director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal.

"Some people look on religious traditions as enemies of free or multicultural societies," says Dr. David Novak, a conference speaker. "But different faith traditions share common principles and have always made room for others within their public life. The religions provide internal moral measures for their adherents and provide also a critique on the role and scope of law and government when those two areas attempt to over-reach." Novak is a Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.

Speakers from across Canada, the US, and the UK, joined several
local speakers at the conference including Gordon Dirks, Chair of Calgary Board of Education, Bishop Fred Henry, and St. Mary's University College president Terrence Downey. Bishop Henry outlined his recent conflicts with the Canadian government which arose from his stand on same-sex marriage. Gordon Dirks outlined the ways in which the Calgary School Board is incorporating teaching about religion into the system in a manner that respects parental beliefs, and has made a number of policies to accommodate religious diversity in public schools.

Approximately 130 people attended the conference which took place at the Telus Convention Centre on Thursday evening, June 8, and all day Friday June 9. It was hosted by the Ottawa-based Centre for Cultural Renewal and sponsored by the Ontario Bridgeway Foundation and the Calgary Herald newspaper. It was the subject of a column by Father Raymond De Souza in the National Post, Saturday, June 10, 2006.

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