Wal-Mart of Separation

You've heard of Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state? How about a wall of separation between church and store? According to the Globe and Mail, there is one now, between a new Wal-Mart outlet and a next-door religious retreat:

After a 10-year battle with its Jesuit neighbours in Guelph, Ont., the giant U.S. retailer has agreed to hide its store so that it won't be seen or heard by people communing with the divine next door.

In an agreement announced yesterday, Wal-Mart will install high berms designed by acoustical engineers and a "living wall" of willows and six-metre-high cedars between its development and the Jesuits' 240-hectare spiritual retreat on Guelph's northern boundary.

If the store's presence and traffic noise still intrude on religious practices at the Jesuit centre -- typically people go there for weekend-long or eight-day silent retreats -- the agreement requires Wal-Mart to take further action.

In return, "the Jesuits and a Guelph interfaith coalition in return will drop a court case claiming infringement of their Charter rights to freedom of religion." But there is a note of regret:

Rev. James Profit, spiritual director of the Jesuit centre ... acknowledged some disappointment that the courts won't be asked to rule on whether silence and the night's darkness have legal as well as spiritual sanctity in the exercise of religion.

Sure. I'd love to see the justices tackle that one.

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Well, observing this saga from the Toronto area (a short drive down the highway from Guelph) I was hoping for a ruling calling for berms/walls on all 4 sides of every Wal-Mart.

I can dream, can't I? :-)

It should be noted that there's no court decision involved here at all. Other stories have suggested that some had hoped it would have gone to court and won, since that might well have provided precendent beyond these specific faith-based circumstances.

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 19 Jul 2006 #permalink

Hmmm...another intersection between religion and science, I dare say: http://www.darksky.org/

Dark Sky has been lobbying governments and municipalities to shield street lights, among other things, to reduce light pollution which affects amateur astronomy. On Hawaii, all street lights are sodium yellow to aid the Mauna Kea observatories by having them deal with only a simple spectrum of "cultural noise".
I know, it's a digression, but still...