Two weeks before Christmas, regional councillors from the municipality of West Hants, Nova Scotia, voted unanimously to remove all references to the word “church” from official documents on December 10. 

The motion seeks to replace the term “church” with “place of religious congregation” in the municipal planning strategy and the area’s land use bylaws. Councillor Tanya Leopold brought forward the motion before the council approved it with no further discussion.  

“Regarding rural churches, it’s recommended that council consider amending the text of the West Hants and Hantsport municipal planning strategies and land use bylaws to: a) remove the term ‘church’ from the definitions, b) add the term ‘place of religious congregation’ to the definitions as described … and c) replace the use of the term ‘church’ with ‘place of religious congregation’ in all documents,” said Leopold in a video of the council meeting.

According to Leopold, the term “place of religious congregation” is meant to encompass churches, synagogues, temples and could also include auditoriums or nursery schools.

Official National Household Survey data from 2011 shows that over 75% of Nova Scotians identified as Christians and 21% were non-religious. The remaining respondents self-identified with other religions including Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. 

True North reached out to Councillor Leopold to ask her reasoning behind the motion and had received no comment. 

In October, a Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia school was at the centre of a controversy after the administration decided to remove a prayer from its Remembrance Day ceremony. The decision provoked outrage from local veterans and received national media attention. 

Shortly after the story came out, the school reversed its decision and reintroduced the prayer. 

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