So long as there are groups of secular and religious conservatives, formal and informal, active in Canadian politics the NDP’s Faith & Social Justice Caucus seems like a good idea to me.
Personally my identity as a social democrat was nurtured in my moderate United Church family upbringing. I identify myself as a Christian but too often have to explain what that does not mean and so, more often than not, happily rush to disassociate myself from the higher-profile Christian right or, just to avoid explanations, Christianity in general. The NDP embodies many of the values which have been part of my spiritual journey and this caucus sounds like it could give voice to alternative viewpoints – and certainly not all Christian, no matter what the particular bent – than those so deftly advanced by religious conservatives.
A “provisional” steering committee, until the upcoming national convention, is being chaired by Windsor MP Joe Comartin and includes Charlie Angus (MP), Paul Dewar (MP), Pierre Ducasse (former national party leadership candidate; responsible for the group’s website), Tony Martin (MP), Monia Mazigh, Bill Siksay (MP), and Chris Duncanson-Hales.
They released this Mission Statement last May:
The New Democratic Party’s Faith and Social Justice Caucus is an informal group of Party activists who’s vision of political and social justice is, at least in part, rooted in faith. We are people who find congruence between our politics and the values that underpin our faith, as was the case with some of the founders of the NDP, including Tommy Douglas.
We believe that the neo-conservative right has unfairly seized the religious discourse and have used it toward their own ends. The religious right has been so successful at this, in recent years, that many have come to associate religion with intolerance, conservatism, capitalism and even imperialism. This must stop.
We hold the opposite to be true. Many progressive and social democratic principles can be founded upon, and guided by, religious values. Love, forgiveness, generosity, dignity, liberation, equality, respect, as well as the support and acceptance of the poor and marginalized are but a few of these values. We proclaim it loud and clear: there is a religious left!
The NDP’s Faith and Social Justice Caucus brings together people from diverse religious backgrounds.
Our group is guided by a fundamental respect for the principles of secularism, the separation of church and state, and religious freedom.
Nevertheless, we believe that these principles should not prevent anyone involved in public life – for whom faith and politics are closely linked – to express publicly and honestly their views.
In no way does our group wish to impose a view on others or on our party, nor do we wish to have any official representation within the bodies and structures of the NDP. We are simply practicing our freedom of association. Indeed, people who define themselves as social democrats come to their political convictions from different sources, references: through organized labour, women’s movements, environmental movements, the student movement, etc. As far as we are concerned, we just want to create a meeting place for those New Democrats for whom faith is an important part of their commitment.
In addition to offering a meeting place for us to share ideas and information, our group seeks to foster, through deep and renewed reflection, a better perspective on the relationship between religion and politics, within a perspective of social justice.
It is also our intention to extend our hand to civil society groups who share our longing for greater social, political and economic justice.