In Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem, the Supreme Court of Canada held that while the government may inquire into the sincerity of a Charter claimant’s religious belief, such inquiries must be as limited as possible and may not rely on the only two objective criteria that may practicably be available to the state to test sincerity: consistent practice and expert opinions. This article expresses the view that the restrictions imposed by the Court in Amselem on the state’s inquiry into sincerity make it virtually impossible for the province to reliably weed out persons with “fictitious” or “capricious” claims, and this restriction may actually make it more difficult for the state to tolerate religious exemptions from laws of general application. The state’s ability to reliably test for religious sincerity became a central concern in Alberta’s decision to terminate the religious exemption for photo-I.D. driver’s licences, a policy which was upheld by the Supreme Court in the Hutterian Brethren case. The jurisprudence should permit the government to require evidence of a “shared and corroborated religious belief” in order to offer exemptions for members of religious communities while ensuring that the government’s objective can still be effectively achieved.
Charney, Robert E..
"How Can There Be Any Sin in Sincere?: State Inquiries into Sincerity of Religious Belief."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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