Peter Stockton has an editorial in the National Post in which he describes why Paula Celani now finds herself in court for attending a prayer group on October 4, 2009 at which the Mass was celebrated:
Ridiculous doesn’t begin to describe it. Frightening is a much better place to start for the events that began with an entirely uneventful gathering of a Catholic group on October 4, 2009. Celani is the one in court only because her signature was on a $700 rental contract for the use of two rooms in a city-owned complex called La Maison du Brasseur in the borough of Lachine, just west of downtown Montreal.
About 100 people belonging to a lay Catholic association used the rooms to watch some inspirational videos and have a potluck lunch together. Oh, and horror of horrors, they sang songs and held a Mass behind closed doors. Then everyone went home. End of story. Or so it seemed.
Except that seven months later, in April 2010, Celani received a $144 ticket for having allowed the Mass to take place.
By so doing, she had broken a bylaw that prohibits “cultic” activity such as “praying, singing religious songs or conducting religious celebrations.” Under the same regulations, interestingly, renters are allowed to serve liquor provided they have the necessary permits. They are forbidden, however, from using propane tanks to cook inside the building. So, you can get hammered in La Maison du Brasseur. You just can’t blow the place up or mention God.
What Celani and her group did not realize was that they were being “observed” by three employees of the borough of Lachine working at the complex that day. In fact, no one had warned Celani, or anyone else in the group, that a Catholic Mass is now a legally prohibited activity in parts of Quebec.
Stockton asks a few very good questions that deserve to be answered. They are questions important for us in the United States of America, as well, as similar legal circumstances will very soon confront us (with my emphases):
By what authority can municipal pipsqueaks in Montreal or Lachine or anywhere else for that matter, decide that “religious songs” are anathema while hip-hop music, to take one genre, is just ducky?
Under what mandate can they forbid a group of people from renting a room to quietly celebrate their faith, yet allow, say, a group of louts to rent space to set up a TV and collectively drink their faces off watching the Canadiens lose to the Leafs during the Stanley Cup playoffs? (Okay, bad example because it will never happen. But you get my point.)
And finally, how do they dare go against established Charter law that freedom of religion doesn’t just mean the freedom to keep one’s faith in one’s head. It means the freedom to live out that faith within the very wide ambit of reasonable behavior in a free and democratic society?
This final question is the very same question before us in the State of Illinois as the Department of Children and Family Services seeks to force Catholic Charities out of adoptions and foster care. The serious question at hand is, "What does freeom of religion mean?"
Most people of good will and common sense and integrity know it to mean that a person is free to live out his or faith in their daily lives. The aggressive secularists argue the freedom of religion is nothing more than the freedom of worship, and that only in certain buildings, and at a certain times, and that is not to carry over into any other area of life, especially not the public square.
These are frightening times, my friends. Pray the growing persecution is halted.