Commissioner of religious symbolism study criticized for Templeton link

MONTREAL, QC-- A columnist from the Journal de Montreal has caused a stir by questioning Charles Taylorês impartiality as a commissioner in Quebec's "reasonable accommodations" study because of his link to the Templeton Prize, a prestigious award given annually for "progress toward research or discovery about spiritual realities."

Taylor, one of two commissioners appointed by premier Jean Charest to oversee Quebec's travelling inquiry into accommodating religious differences, became the first Canadian to win the Templeton Prize this March.

"How can the co-chair of this reasonable accommodation commission be expected to open-mindedly consider the role of religion in Quebec's public spaces," Journal de Montreal columnist Richard Martineau asked, "when he has received $1.5 million from a bunch of Catholics actively campaigning to scientifically promote the existence of God?"

Martineau's September 3 column led to a number of radio and television interviews.

Martineau also took Taylor's co-commissioner, Gerard Bouchard, to task for his comment about letting ordinary people have their say on an issue that the intellectual elites had monopolized.

Martineau identified the Templeton Prize's intent to "sponsor research projects that will tend to prove that the existence of God is not a myth but a scientific reality," and described previous winners as "evangelists like Mother Teresa, preacher Billy Graham and businessman William R. Bright, founder of Crusade for Christ" (sic). He also mentioned the prize's presentation to the producers of The Passion of the Christ, "the ultra-catholic film from anti-semite Mel Gibson."

In later online interviews Martineau referred incorrectly to Mother Teresa as an evangelist and Billy Graham as an "ultra-catholic."

In an interview with radio talk show host Gilles Proulx, Martineau said he hopes Quebec opposition leader Mario Dumont will continue to pressure Charest to put an end to the commission, or at least to appoint more appropriate chairmen.

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