The Canadian courts formerly described freedom of conscience and religion under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the liberty to hold, and live in accordance with, spiritual and other fundamental beliefs without state interference. 2 Under this definition, freedom of religion - understood as a liberty - precluded the state from compelling an individual to engage in a religious practice and from restricting an individual's religious practice without a legitimate public reason. In later judgments, however, there has been a discernible alteration in the courts' reading of section 2(a). The wrong addressed shifted from coercion to exclusion, while the interest protected shifted from liberty to equality. 3 Under this new interpretation, the state must not support or prefer the practices of one religious group over those of another, nor restrict the practices of a religious group unless necessary to protect a compelling public interest. Thus religion, or at least religious questions, are excluded and insulated from politics. 4