Does a Leader’s Personal Religious Practice Hurt or Help with Voters? “It Depends”—but on What?

The reliable Angus Reid Institute (ARI) released a report on a recent poll, undertaken in concert with our friends at Cardus, that “suggests that it is not necessarily a leader’s faith that provokes negative or positive reactions, but how the leader approaches and handles the issue on the campaign trail.”

I’m not so sure.

The press release goes on to say that “the study shows that most Canadians were aware of (at equal levels) the faith and personal beliefs of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, a Catholic, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, an orthodox Sikh. However, twice as many report Scheer’s religiosity having a negative impact on their views of him than say the same of Singh and his beliefs (51% versus 24%).”

Roughly 60% of Canadians polled say that religious freedom “makes Canada a better country overall” (note that that fraction isn’t even two-thirds of the country—which confirms how fragile religious freedom is nowadays) while a similar proportion says “it ultimately does not matter to them whether or not a political leader is a person of faith.”

Those stats seem high to me. Again, if we understand religious freedom to be the freedom to believe and practice in ways that discomfit and disquiet other Canadians—which is the only kind of religious freedom that matters, since no one scores points for tolerating what they affirm or don’t care about—almost every cultural indicator I can think of indicates a Zeitgeist blowing strongly in the opposite direction.

Professional colleges and societies curtail the religious freedom of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and lawyers on a wide range of bioethical, sexual, and gender issues. Universities keep having visiting speakers shouted down or physically threatened. And even the courts mumble pieties about religious freedom in the Constitution before flicking it away in the interest of “Charter values” and other convenient constructions.

But let’s zero in today on this question of religion among political leaders. Why do polls indicate that Singh didn’t seem to pay much of a price for his clearly different religious views (outside, perhaps Quebec—I’d like to see the provincial numbers)? Why did Scheer?

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

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