The new office of religious freedom

The Prime Minister names a new ambassador

The Prime Minister has named the government’s first ambassador for religious freedom. Here is the official biography for Andrew Bennett. And here is Mr. Harper’s response this afternoon when asked about whether the office would also concern itself with the freedom of atheists.

This is an office to promote religious toleration and religious diversity. And, in fact, as president Malik himself said, people who choose not to believe, that’s a valid religious and democratic perspective that we all must also accept and promote. We’re not trying to impose, we’re trying to respect peoples’ own religions, their own faith choices. Not impose those faith choices or non-faith choices on others. And so just as it is important that religion be respected in a pluralistic and democratic society by those who don’t share religion, it is likewise expected in a very religious society that those who don’t share faith will be respected as well.

Here is John Baird’s speech last year on the importance of religious freedom.

The New Democrats have responded with congratulations and a couple quibbles.

The Office of Religious Freedoms, as introduced today, represents both a broken Conservative promise and a missed opportunity. Conservatives had repeatedly promised a democratic development agency, but they broke that promise and now they’re moving forward on a much more limited and narrow approach.

That much is reference to the Conservative party’s 2008 platform, which promised a “new, non-partisan democracy promotion agency that will help emerging democracies build democratic institutions and support peaceful democratic change in repressive countries.”