Volume 94, Issue 19


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Haskett should keep politics out of the pews

Editorial cartoon

Haskett should keep politics out of the pews

The ways of God, it is sometimes said, are mysterious and inscrutable. The ways of London Mayor Dianne Haskett, it must be said, are sometimes similarly impenetrable.

On Friday night, Haskett stood up before an assembled PromiseKeeping multitude of over 3000 at Western's Thompson Arena and delivered a speech in which she voiced her support for the conservative Christian men's group The PromiseKeepers.

Why, the distinterested political observer might ask, would a municipal politician go out of her way to align herself with a group that has caused so much consternation and controversy in the community that she is charged to govern?

One need not be gifted with Machiavellian political shrewdness to know that, when neutrality can be maitained on a divisive issue, it should be. So why didn't Haskett just leave well enough alone and abstain from mounting a soapbox in front of the PromiseKeepers?

This is not to say that, as mayor, Haskett must suppress any and all of her personal beliefs or that she is not free to practise the religion of her choice.

However, all holders of public office should try their best to keep their religious inclinations as far removed from their political life as possible. Admittedly, keeping the public and the private completely separated is not easy and, no matter how hard anyone tries, their private convictions will almost inevitably seep into their public decisions.

But Haskett needs to try harder.

By speaking at the PromiseKeepers rally, she offered an explicit endorsement of the group and the principles on which they stand. Those principles, of course, are anathema to many Londoners, as was seen at the Saturday afternoon informational picket on the corner of Sarnia Road and Western Road.

The mayor prefaced her speech by asserting that she was not speaking as a public servant, but as a devoted servant of God. Nonetheless, she spoke at length during her address of the experiences she has had in public office and how her faith has helped her cope with the rigors of mayoral life. For a speaker trying to downplay her political position, her frequent references to city hall activities were ill-advised.

Could the mayor not have simply attended the conference as a delegate and offered her support to members in a more subtle way?

Of course she could have. But instead she chose to yell out loud and clear to the London media and the London community that she believes in what the PromiseKeepers teach.

The result? Those in London who opposed the coming of the Christian men's group will doubtlessly feel further alienated from a mayor whom they probably already criticize as ultra-conservative.

The mayor, it seems, works in mysterious ways.

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