Non-Christian prison chaplains chopped by Ottawa

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The federal government is cancelling the contracts of all non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons, CBC News has learned.


Inmates of other faiths, such as Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance, according to the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is also responsible for Canada’s penitentiaries.

Toews made headlines in September when he ordered the cancellation of a tender issued for a Wiccan priest for federal prisons in B.C.

Toews said he wasn’t convinced part-time chaplains from other religions were an appropriate use of taxpayer money and that he would review the policy.

In an email to CBC News, Toews’ office says that as a result of the review, the part-time non-Christian chaplains will be let go and the remaining full-time Christian chaplains in prisons will now provide interfaith services and counselling to all inmates.

“The minister strongly supports the freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners,” the email states. “However, the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded … [Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.”

There are nearly 15,000 inmates in federal custody and a large majority of them identify themselves as Christian:

Figures obtained by CBC News show that before the contract cancellations — which will take effect by the end of March 2013 — there were about 80 full-time chaplains across the country and all but one are Christian. There are about 100 part-time chaplains, 20 of them non-Christian.

Written By: CBC News
continue to source article at cbc.ca

30 COMMENTS

  1. Great. Now all they have to do is go a step further and eliminate the Christian ones too.

    Granted, with the Conservatives in power and their recent “Office of Religious Freedom”, I’m not holding my breath.

  2. The late Gene Roddenberry had it right. When the brass at the network suggested that there be a chaplain on board the Enterprise, he gave them the finger. Counselor Troi wore no religious symbols. More prisons ought to be run by people with that attitude.

  3. ‘Religious counsel and guidance’, presently covered by unqualified faith-heads. 

    Sounds to me like a job best handled by the prison psychiatrist, who is already working on their other mental and social issues….

  4. This story has a bit of history. Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is a right wing extreme fundamentalist, climate change denier, creationist, homophobe, science-phobic — the usual constellation of religious values.

    Somebody in the federal government decided to put out a job for tender as a Wiccan prison chaplain. This was not the usual practice. The tender attracted the attention of Harper’s Christian right base. They got out their metaphorical pitchforks and descended on Ottawa and demanded the government stop funding devil worship, witchcraft, child sacrifice etc.

    The government instantly withdrew the position, and announced in future there would be no more Wiccan chaplains.

    After a pause of a week or two, they made this announcement, — no chaplains except Christian ones.

    In 1955, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Chaput v. Romain, regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses, that all religions have equal rights, based upon tradition and the rule of law. To me, it seems if this goes to court, there can be only two possible outcomes: no chaplains or chaplains from any religion, perhaps offered in some cost-saving way such as email, teleconferencing, volunteers…

    Denying chaplains based on some arbitrary percentage of the population that serves Christians but denies everyone else, will surely be seen for the Christian triumphalism it is. I have watched many hours of Supreme Court debates. I was impressed with their thoroughness and finely argued logic, though distressed somewhat at their lack of common sense. I trust them to be careful with their own pro-Christian bias.

    The Christians are already preparing their argument why they should be treated as special case. They say that Christian chaplains have official certification where chaplains of other religions do not.

    According to my roommate, Wiccans are highly litigious. I have not yet heard anything about their court challenge.

    Obviously, Harper is keen on Christian indoctrination, but on the other hand, he is always looking for an excuse to cut government spending. Let’s hope his inner economist wins.

    If all goes well we will get rid of chaplains altogether, and replace them with non-denominational counselors.

  5. >Office of Religious Freedom

    Harper learned the art of Orwellian terminology from his mentor George W. Bush.

    The U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom in Washington D.C. on which it is based has the function of promoting Christianity overseas.

  6. Most of the religions have died out or are well on their way out. When the conquistadors landed in the Americans, the natives were so impressed, they embraced the religion of their invaders.  I presume the same thing continues today, knocking off religions.

    A religion that could perform even one miracle reliably should wipe out the remaining earth religions. Perhaps one could be constructed then debunked.

  7. “The minister strongly supports the freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners,” the email states. “However…

    When a sentence begins so, you know there’s a big ‘gotcha’ coming.

    the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded …

    drum roll….

    [Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.

    Derp! Wrong conclusion. How about, NO religious services / counselling funded by the taxpayer. Secularism, read it up.

  8.  
    roedygreen, When the
    conquistadors landed in the Americans, the natives were so impressed,
    they embraced the religion of their invaders.  I presume the same thing
    continues today, knocking off religions.

    Well, the impressive power of European weapons, and a spot of heretic burning was quite intimidating.

    A religion that could perform even one miracle reliably should wipe
    out the remaining earth religions. Perhaps one could be constructed then
    debunked.

    There are still plenty of Xtian missionaries today, who take credit for the benefits of modern science and medicine, as a means of converting remote tribes who see these as miraculous innovations!

    As you know their religion is responsible for all the world’s beneficial innovations and none of the abuses of power! (allegedly! – when viewed through rosy blinkers!) 

  9. Why do tax payers pay for the religious chief whips to attend their flock?
    This is subscriber customer care and should be provided free by the service supplier.

    Xtian chaplains may be able to provide counseling on misogyny or homophobia, but can they deal with issues of genital mutilation, apostate murder and organize mass riots if someone tells the inmates that something they don’t really understand may have been offended?

    I mean, would you expect your Verizon help desk lacky to be able to answer your AT&T coverage issues even if the tax payer was picking up the bill?

  10. A step in the right direction. I think roedygreen has a good analysis. If it goes to the highest court, which seems likely, the outcomes will have to be either secularized ‘counselors’ or the requirement to represent all faiths.

    What I also found interesting are the numbers. The percentages given add up to approx.  68% What happened to the other 32%? Are they all non-believers? This being Canada, that is possible.

    It would certainly be useful to determine whether inmates receiving counsel from a chaplain have a lower rate of recidivism than those who don’t. If there is no difference, then the presence of a chaplain is of no benefit to the justice system at all.

  11.  “However, the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded … [Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.” 

    WTF!…am I reading that correctly? Good luck in getting inmates of other religions to wear that oxymoron. 

    “At the same time, a sizable minority of chaplains say that religious extremism is either very common (12 percent) or somewhat common (29 percent) among inmates. Religious extremism is reported by the chaplains as especially common among Muslim inmates–including followers of the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America–and, to a substantial but lesser degree, among followers of pagan or earth-based religions such as Odinism and other small religious groups that many Americans may never have heard of.”

    http://lhfbreakingnews.weebly….

    Convicts being what they are, awkward and inventive bastards, I think we might see a large number of conversions happening in Canadian prisons.

    Is anyone expecting riots and property burning in Ottawa? I feel a ‘mad mullah’ episode coming on. 

  12. The Prime Minister of Canada is a Christian Protestant.  This news may sound good to my fellow rationalists, but I suspect that this is about waging religious war in a subtle way.  If it is waste of tax payers’ money, it should not be limited to keeping one religion.  All preachers should be kicked out of the institutions.  

  13. I agree.  Social workers and psychologists and psychiatrists (depending on the subjects) are the best for the prisoners.  And, it would definitely not be a waste of tax payers’ money.  The preachers just preach and do not reason.  

  14. However, the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing
    which religions will be given preferential status through government funding.

    … and therefore, we have decided to pick and choose Christianity to be given preferential status through government funding?  This is the punchline to a really bad joke, right?

  15. Hang on a moment, they’ll have to hang on to the Christian chaplains. After all:

    “There are nearly 15,000 inmates in federal custody and a large majority of them identify themselves as Christian…”

    I take it there aren’t many atheists in Canadian prisons then?

  16.  Why does a believer need a human switchboard to connect to god? Don’t
    the faithfull know that god answers all of their prayers. Besides, if
    god is busy, the caller can always leave a messege after the ‘beep’ – or
    maybe I just don’t understand this ‘god’ thing.

  17. Harper has excused the discrimination by saying they got away with it in the armed forces, and nobody noticed so people have no right to complain now.  What an interesting legal principle!  Officer, I ran 10 red lights and you did not notice, therefore, you have no right to complain now.

    Several people argued that Christian Chaplains were trained in Christian school to minister to other religions, so people in other religions should accept them. The Crusaders ministered to Muslims too.

  18.    @OP:disqus  “The minister strongly supports the freedom of religion for all
    Canadians, including prisoners,” the email states. “However, the
    government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which
    religions will be given preferential status through government funding.
    The minister has concluded … [Christian] chaplains employed by
    Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.”

    Those theist blinkers work wonders when it comes to non-picking! 
    The dissenters are really just Xtians pretending other faiths.  He can see through their charade and will send Xtian chaplains to help them clear their minds and improve their morals!

    There are nearly 15,000 inmates in federal custody and a large majority of them identify themselves as Christian:

    All good moral true believers then! – Following Xtian ethics! – Makes you wonder why they are inmates?

  19. Vic Toews in the Minister of Public Safety, not the Science Minister. That puts him in charge of prisons and the RCMP. 

    I did a quick scan of google for something dramatic to illustrate Toews’ creationism. I could not find anything. He is a crazy old walrus. That’s how this chaplain fuss got started.  Have you a link?

    The minister of Minister of Industry, Science and Technology is Gary Goodyear, a chiropractor.

    In a March 2009 interview, The Globe and Mail asked Goodyear if he believed in evolution. He responded, “I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate.” While many scientists and educators expressed shock at this, others defended the minister, citing statistics that show a majority of Canadians believe God played a role in creation. Later that day, however, Goodyear said that he believed in evolution during an interview with CTV News. When asked to clarify this belief, Goodyear responded “We are evolving, every year, every decade. That’s a fact. Whether it’s to the intensity of the sun, whether it’s to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it’s running shoes or high heels, of course, we are evolving to our environment.”
     
    If he does believe in evolution, I don’t he has read anything about it. He seems to think of it as something like wearing in a pair of new shoes.
     

  20. I guess it would be too “offensive” to suggest a re-titling of “Chaplain” to that of “Counsellor” and seek applications from any (delusionist or rationalist) with suitable professional qualifications? Perhaps rehabilitation will then be prioritised over re-birth

  21. You don’t pay a salesmen to give you a pitch. So why should chaplains be paid?  If churches want to proseltyse they should fund their own salesmen. If counselors are to be paid, they really should know something about prisons, prisoners and helping them get their lives back together. It is a bonus if they understand various religious traditions, but they should not be pushing any particular one.

    Professional religious people have a reputation for being sanctimonious.  The only way their could get an audience is out of boredom. I suspect a more non-judgemental counselor would get better traction.

  22. Ultimately, prisoners (in particular young ones) need education, training, and realistic hope.  Religious counselling is not going to provide these.  All it does is to provide the priest/preacher with an income,  and it also reinforces delusional thinking in the usually under-educated inmates.  The fear of God is watching and punishment in Hell do not deserve tax payers’ money.  Tax payers’ money to be used for societal progress and true altruistic reasons as understood through 21st century morality.  We must throw into garbage can such damaging bronze age behaviour.

  23. A preacher is a professional and will do his/her best to eliminate threatening competition.  In particular, if the competition is generated through scientific education (sociology, psychology etc).

  24. Humans Will Not Become More Humane If Their Ideas/Behaviour Do Not Evolve In Response To Modern Morality and Love For Reality.  Religious Preachers (Priests, Mullahs, Rabbis, Monks etc.) Are Not In Favour of Such Evolution.  Thus, They Cannot Help.

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