Less than a year ago, Quebec’s newly-elected Premier François Legault argued that religious symbols had no place in a secular government… except, of course, the giant crucifix hanging in the National Assembly, which he defined as “a historic symbol, not a religious one.”
In March, however, his government announced that it had changed its mind.
On Tuesday, at last, the crucifix was taken down from the council chamber, where it had been hanging since 1936.
The crucifix was a replica of one originally gifted to the Quebec National Assembly by the Catholic Church, in recognition of then-Premier Maurice Duplessis and his “devotion to religious ideals.” In the context of a modern government attempting to uphold an ideal of unbiased secularism, however, such symbolism isn’t necessary or appreciated.
Legault described his government’s shift in position on the subject as evidence of flexibility on the topic of religious symbolism:
What we want is to show all Quebecers that we are also ready to make compromises on the grandfather clause, on the crucifix, in order to get as much support as possible. My goal is to really unite Quebecers.
Following the controversial legislation prohibiting public employees from wearing religious symbols, support and unity are in short supply. At the very least, this is a move towards treating Christian symbols the same way they treat the symbols of other religions.
What it doesn’t acknowledge, however, is the difference between a religious symbol on display in a government building and a symbol of individual religious belief on a person.
Visitors will still be able to view the crucifix on display as a historical artifact elsewhere in the building. But it will no longer be present in the Salon Bleu, where government business takes place.
(Thanks to Andrey for the link)