Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Getting Religion Out of Taxis

A Montreal cabbie is taking the government to court because he has been fined for displaying Jewish religious articles in his car. The taxi bureau maintains that the car is a 'public' space and as such should be free of religious references. An article in the Globe and Mail was generally sympathetic to the cabby's position;
Mr. Perecowicz says he's not especially religious, but he's comforted by having articles of his Jewish faith in the car, including photos of the late Lubovoitcher spiritual leader and two mezuzahs affixed to the car frame between the front and back doors. (A mezuzah, typically affixed to doorframes of Jewish homes, is a tiny prayer parchment that, according to Jewish beliefs, offers protection.) Globe & Mail.

Of course the Quebec Jewish Congress, always quick to see discrimination in any situation, is lending him moral support in his quest to assert religious freedom in taxis.

It's positions like this, that have led the organization to lose it's credibility, even amongst many Jews.

Should a taxi driver be allowed to post pictures of his family, affix a crucifix or a rosary, place images of the Virgin Mary or perhaps hang a voodoo doll from the rear view mirror?

Some of you would agree, most would not.

Should Hare Krishna taxi drivers be allowed to burn incense in the car?
Should drivers be allowed to play loud rock music or worse still, howling religious or ethnic music?
Most would agree that incense and loud music cross the line, but why is an assault on the nose and on the ears worse than an assault on the eyes?

Where do we draw the line?

Me, the only picture I want to see in a cab is the mugshot in the taxi license.

I'm not that interested in being in a synagogue, mosque or church or being exposed to family photos. I don't want to see pictures of the Ayatollah, the Virgin Mary or the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I'd also appreciate if the cab was clean and that the cabby drove safely and that he didn't talk on a cell phone or eat lunch during the trip.
How about that!!! Maybe cabbies would earn more if they treated customers better. It's a novel concept.

Mr. Perecowicz says that in 40 odd years nobody got out of his cab because they were offended.
That doesn't mean that his garish display of personal memorabilia is appreciated. I don't think I'd like to see a personalized display of personal items at the license bureau, the post office or at the bank. It's a matter of respect for clients, something that cabbies rarely display.

It is galling to see the Quebec Jewish Congress supporting Mr. Perecowicz's position. Do they really argue that more religious paraphernalia should be encouraged in public spaces?

Jews and other religious minorities have long complained about the dominance of Christian symbolism in public places.

Should we have more?


  1. Since when is a Taxi a public space?

  2. By definition a taxi or bus(whether privately or publicly owned) is a public space.
    Even a theatre is a `public` space.
    While taxis may be privately owned, they are subject to regulatory oversight by the government or it`s authourized agency or commission. Your home or your car(not a taxi) is your own private space. That`s why government regulations (smoking indoor, for instance) don`t apply.

    Thanks for your comment, your point about a public or private space is central to the issue. The taxi driver claims that his taxi is a private place, the government disagrees and actually has the last word.I think any court challenge would fail.

  3. Yes a theater is a 'public space' but they are allowed to decorate their interior as they see fit. Unless Montreal has a strict licensing agreement for Taxis (as in New York City) I don't see why he shouldn't be allowed to do what he is doing.

  4. I've happened to have been in the taxi driven by Mr. Perecowicz several times, and always enjoyed chatting with him and asking him about his memorabilia. His is a taxi with personality, and quite frankly, I think we need far more of that, not less.

  5. As long as they don't discriminate against those who want to have Nazi memorabilia in their cars...

  6. I would definitely get out of a car with Chabad symbols in it...and if you don't know why maybe you should try and find out...