See State of the Canadian Church – 2008
However, there were also 26 stories about the residential schools for Native children formerly run by churches. Many of the stories concerned Prime Minister Harper’s apology on behalf of the Canadian government (which set up the schools) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (which proved unable to reconcile differences among the commissioners, resulting in the resignation of chief commissioner Harry LaForme before the commission had fully begun its work).
Other family issues generated only 14 stories. It is the unusual that generates news.
The mainstream media find it much easier to report on large, highly organized denominations. The Roman Catholic Church generated 24 stories, on a variety of issues, including the Pope’s visit to the United States. There were also 32 stories about Catholic school boards, mostly about financial wrongdoing by the Catholic School Board in Toronto.
The Anglican Church of Canada also made the news, with 43 stories, all about the schism that is dividing that denomination into “liberal” and “conservative” camps.
The United Church of Canada also made the list, with three stories about its declining membership. Charismatics also made an appearance with five stories about disgraced healer Todd Bentley. Other denominations received virtually no notice. Evangelicals were mentioned only in connection with stories about politics in the US and Canada.
Obviously bad news about churches garners more attention than good news. There were nine stories about churches’ involvement in social ministry. A few of these stories concerned a Canadian government grant to Covenant House in Vancouver. The rest concerned attempts by municipal governments in the British Columbia cities of Vancouver and Abbotsford to restrict churches’ social ministries.
Like many Canadians, some mainstream media seem to pay attention to the church only at Christmas and Easter. There were 28 stories about theology and the state of the church generally, but most of these were in the context of Christmas and Easter.
The most prominent other religion in the news was Sikhism, with 53 stories. The stories concerned incidents of Sikh terrorism; the deportation of disabled Sikh Laibar Singh; Sikhs’ attempts to be exempted from motorcycle helmet laws; and Prime Minister Harper’s apology for Canada’s refusal to accept the Sikh immigrants on the ship Komagata Maru in 1914.
Judaism and Israel (particularly the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel) generated 20 stories. Various modern religious views (including those of New Age guru Eckhart Tolle) were featured in 22 stories. Atheism garnered four stories.
There were also 21 stories about the conflict between science and religion, particularly over evolution. Many were generated because of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and a Darwin exhibit in Toronto. Others concerned the documentary movie Expelled, which described the efforts of evolutionary scientists to silence creationist views in universities.
There were also 13 stories about the clash between religion and health professionals, particularly Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused blood transfusions for their children and Christian Reformed parents in Chilliwack, BC who refused vaccinations for their children.
There were 39 stories about crime. The majority concerned crimes committed against Christians, but some concerned government efforts to deal with crime generally.
There were also 16 stories about criticisms of or verbal attacks on Christianity. They ranged from complaints about the noise of church bells to the Toronto “prankster” who hired an airplane to display the banner “Jesus sucks.” The Vancouver Humane Society garnered some attention for ads suggesting that Jesus would not approve of rodeos; some Christians suggested Jesus would not approve of the ads. There were also five stories about the upside-down church sculpture which has been interpreted as insulting to the church.
Elections in Canada and especially the US generated 36 stories. Many of them dealt with the religious views of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and other candidates. Others dealt with the voting preferences of religious voters.
The interaction of religion and government generated a lot of stories, including some already discussed above. There were 17 stories about Quebec’s attempts to accommodate — or not accommodate — religious minorities. There were 19 stories about the plan of the Ontario government to stop using the Lord’s Prayer before meetings of the Ontario legislature.
There were also 16 stories about the Canadian government’s proposal to stop funding controversial movies, a move strongly supported by the also controversial Charles McVety of the Family Action Coalition. This issue once again raised issues of “free speech”, about which voices should be heard or not heard in the marketplace, and which views should have government support.
To help put the matter in perspective, there were 8 uniquely Canadian stories on the Chinese government’s more rigorous suppression of religious rights and freedom of speech.
There were also 610 stories that were listed as “other” in the weekly listings — since there was only one story on each topic during the week in question. Some of these would have swelled somewhat the numbers of many of the categories already discussed. However, many of them were on completely unique topics, demonstrating the wide variety of religious experiences in Canada.
• See State of the Canadian Church – 2008.