NEWFOUND RELIGION: TERM 17(3) OF THE NEWFOUNDLAND ACT AND ITS CHALLENGE TO THE CURRENT DISCOURSE ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE
Underlying the dominant legal and theoretical approaches to the freedom of religion in the public sphere is a discourse which assumes that religion is a contestable or mutable aspect of public life. As a result of this assumption, our current approach holds that the role of religion presence. The resulting consensus predominately prefers the absence of religion in the public space where government regulation exists. By amending its constitutional terms of union with Canada to permit religious
... servances in their public school system, Newfoundland and Labrador has protected activities which, short of their constitutional protections, would certainly be condemned by our current approach. However, denouncing this provision fails to account for the current and historical relationship which religion has had in the education of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador. The following discussion examines this discord, a discord which profoundly challenges whether our current approach is based on a faulty premise. It will be submitted that in appropriate circumstance the existence of religion in the public sphere should not be challenged, but rather acknowledged and accepted. In such cases this acknowledgment of religion may need to form the foundation or starting point for our approach to religion. † Mark Heerema received his LL.B. from Dalhousie Law School in 2005. While all the views expressed remain those of the author, the author would like to acknowledge the help and support given by Professor Ronalda Murphy in the preparation of this paper. 112-DALHOUSIE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES I. APPROACHING RELIGION IN SOCIETY Religion has a dual nature in our society. While able to satisfy questions which may seem irreconcilable. From families to communities to na-cially challenging when one considers how religion should be regulated in those currently regulated public spheres of society, a question which the government and the courts must concern themselves with. In answering this question, courts and theorists have sought to evaluate and determine the desired role of religion. What emerges from our current approach is the task of ascribing a place for religion based on has predominately concluded that the exercise of religious beliefs in the governmentally-regulated public sphere ("public sphere") of society is consensus that advocates for the absence of religious doctrines in public settings. Notably, the current approach operates despite the varying degrees to which religion may already exist in the public sphere of a particular society. A fundamental assumption of our current approach is that the existence of religion in the public sphere is properly considered a contest-able, or mutable aspect of society. The questions arises: When religion appears to be entrenched in the public sphere is it appropriate to consider assigning or reassigning its place? Recent constitutional amendments in Newfoundland bring this challenge to bear. Through the current and historical ties between religion and the education system in Newfoundland, the fundamental assumption underlying our current approach to religion in the public sphere is confronted and challenged.