A municipal by-law allowed city council meetings in Saguenay to begin with a voluntary prayer for members who wished to participate. Alain Simoneau, a resident of Saguenay at the time, filed a complaint with a human rights tribunal in 2007 over the prayer and the presence of religious symbols, such as a crucifix, at city hall. Simoneau argued that these religious expressions violated his freedom of conscience and religion.
The Quebec human rights tribunal found in Simoneau’s favour and instructed the city of Saguenay to remove the religious symbols and not allow prayer before council meetings.
In the appeal of the tribunal decision, the Quebec Court of Appeal found that the practice of reciting the prayer was permissible and did not infringe on Simoneau’s freedom of conscience.
This case considers the meaning of religious freedom and whether religious expression in state activities violates the neutrality of the state and whether exposure to someone praying does or does not violate the religious freedom of the observer.