It may be nothing, but when Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanked God for keeping the country safe on Canada Day, he did so with the heaviest of thumbs and it did not go unnoticed.
In one tweet, Canada's leader nearly doubled the amount of Godly references he has made this year, hammering the reference into a Canada Day message, twice.
"God bless you all, and God keep our true north, strong and free!" reads a message posted to Harper's official Twitter account.
— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) July 1, 2014
The reaction online was pointed, with the feathers of users becoming instantly ruffled by the post. "Which God? Zeus?" one person asked. Another sniffed that there was "clearly no separation of church and state for this PM." While many such responses are not suitable for repetition, here are a few G-rated examples:
@pmharper Please try to keep your favourite god to yourself. We have enough crazies invoking imaginary f(r)iends in the world already.
— Richard Prins (@Richard_Prins) July 1, 2014
The question of separating church and state has always hung heavy in the air around federal politics.
As Harper's defenders pointed out on Twitter, Canada has no official separation between church and state, as there is in America. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms links God to the "rule of law" in Canada. But there is still a general unease about governing a multicultural nation in the name of a specific deity.
Two years ago, the Globe and Mail's Lawrence Martin discussed this matter in a column about the connection between Harper's agenda and the positions of his church.
"The Prime Minister is under no obligation to tell anyone about his religious convictions. But if his government’s policy-making in important areas like the environment is being motivated by religious faith at the expense of reason, it is cause for debate," Martin wrote at the time.
This is not the first recent reference to God that Harper and his team have made on Twitter, but it is awfully close. Three other times this year, Harper has mentioned God in official communiqué.
Harper’s Twitter account, which is run by the prime minister’s team at his behest, has made three previous mentions to God, all of which were in reference to either death or the military.
On June 10, Harper's account made a more reserved reference to God while addressing the death of three Mounties in New Brunswick. A similar comment was offered on Canada's military Day of Honour in May. Another came on the day of former finance minister Jim Flaherty's funeral.
— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) June 10, 2014
God bless you, the family, and farewell to our friend, Jim. On behalf of a grateful country we thank you. pic.twitter.com/PUbR4QGzSH
— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) April 16, 2014
Aside from those, Harper has shied away from directly linking God to government. No other direct mention of a divine authority has been made this year — even while the Montreal Canadiens were making their playoff push this spring.
In the prepared versions of speeches Harper has made in the first half of 2014, he also cited God in only three of them, all of which linked to the same topics of those God-referencing tweets.
Indeed, moments of tragedy and while celebrating the military — a profession that calls for members to face their mortality for a larger purpose — are very natural moments to consider religion and thank one’s god. But the reference on Canada Day seemed to come out of nowhere.
Is it evidence of a larger plot to drag religion into Ottawa's decision-making process?
No, but some people sure took it that way.
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