Julie Payette was sworn-in as Canada’s Governor General on October 2, 2017.  About a month later, the Governor General made a few comments during a public address that offended a few people (see articles referenced in the further reading section, below).

The debate over the Governor General’s comments is an example of systemic faithism in action.  Let’s perform a small comparison:

a) Julie Payette, a politician, astronaut and scientist spoke at a meeting of scientists and affirmed commonly-held views of many scientists.

b) Brad Wall, a politician and Christian annually releases a Christmas message and affirms commonly-held views of many Christians.

Probable audience notwithstanding,  Payette’s affirmation of science (and attendant disregard of other views) is not significantly different than Wall’s affirmation of Christianity (and attendant disregard of other views).  What is different is that adherents of religions are often vocal about having their views respected (and by respect, one must include not merely tolerance but also deference and high regard).  Consider the Ontario government’s language regarding systemic faithism:

Systemic faithism refers to the ways that cultural and societal norms, systems, structures and institutions directly or indirectly, consciously or unwittingly,  promote, sustain or entrench differential (dis)advantage for individuals and groups based on their faith (understood broadly to include religious and non-religious belief systems)

It is not a coincidence that Brad Wall, Saskatchewan’s Premier, is a leading critic of the Governor General’s comments.   The criticism that Wall and others hold forth is the typical demand of advantaged (highly regarded) religious adherents that those with different views never publicly voice views that contradict or disregard religious ideals.

At the heart of this “controversy” of free speech is whether tolerance must, at all times, fully incorporate respect for dissenting views, opinions and sentiments.  Furthermore, there is a question as to what extent respect inherently requires a position of deference and high regard.

Free speech is predicated on the strength of a pre-existing emotional and intellectual maturity of the public; systemic faithism is predicated on the strength of a pre-existing emotional and intellectual dependence of the public.  Free speech necessitates tolerance not just of disparate views but also of uncomplimentary opinions.  Systemic faithism requires deference, high regard and sets limits to uncomplimentary views.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/11/23/news/julie-payette-doubles-down-anti-science-mythbusting
  2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/wall-comments-on-payette-speech-1.4394958
  3. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/julie-payette-climate-divine-intervention-analysis-wherry-1.4383734
  4. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/julie-payette-speaks-her-mind-and-thats-a-good-thing/article36926331/
  5. http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-julie-payette-and-the-golden-rule
  6. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/governor-general-julie-payette-praises-freedom-of-religion-tolerance/article36873050/

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