Religious freedom under attack in Canada
By Catholic insight staff
Issue: May, 2005
New York—On March 4, 2005, Dr. Chris Kempling of Quesnel, B.C., was given the opportunity to address various UN representatives and NGOs on the topic of limitations on religious freedom in Canada. His talk, sponsored by Focus on the Family Canada, took place in the UN building in New York and was attended by, among others, the just-retired U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Chris Kempling is a secondary-school teacher, employed as a counsellor since 1990, who was denounced by the B.C. Teachers Federation for supposedly discriminating against “gays.” He was suspended from his duties for writing letters to the editor of his local newspaper opposing homosexual practices. (For background, see C.I., March 2004, p. 32 and April 2004, p. 9.) He appealed his case and, in an April 4, 2005 decision, Quesnel School District Superintendent Ed Napier suspended him for three months without pay. Commented Dr. Kempling: “It is a sad day for freedom of speech. It is truly unfortunate that the Quesnel School Board believes that only those who support same-sex marriage are able to comment publicly on a matter of national importance.”
Kempling’s speech at the UN zeroed in on the Canadian experience—where, as Bishop Fred Henry pointed out in the Calgary Sun, “Our Charter of Rights includes a theoretical guarantee of religious freedom which is turning to dust in practice (“Religious freedom falls under threat,” Feb. 27, 2005).
One should understand that all this bullying and harassing is initiated by homosexual activists.
Human Rights Committee
Kempling gave examples of cases dealt with by provincial Human Rights Commissions (HRCs). There is Bill Whatcott, recently fined $20,000 by his provincial Nurses Association in Saskatchewan for speaking out against homosexuality. Also in Saskatchewan, Hugh Owen was convicted and fined in 2001 by the Saskatchewan HRC for placing a newspaper ad with Biblical references (not even the actual verses) condemning sodomy. Thus the Bible became “hate-literature.”
In Ontario, printer Scott Brockie was convicted and heavily fined in 1996 by the Ontario HRC for refusing to print materials for the Gay and Lesbian Archives. It cost him $15,000 in legal fees. In PEI, a couple who refused to rent a room in their Bed and Breakfast to homosexuals eventually had to close down their business. An Alberta Protestant pastor, currently under HRC investigation for a newspaper letter, had a fundraising dinner disrupted by an invasion of “gay” activists.
Some of the most egregious of HRC interventions have been the prosecution and fining of mayors of half a dozen cities for refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Days. Many have surrendered to the bullying; others have avoided the issue by no longer proclaiming any “days”.
The complicity of teachers’ unions and others of the educational establishment in the homosexual cause is also working to curtail Canadians’ religious freedoms. In 2001, the private Christian Trinity Western University in Langham, B.C., spent $1.5 million on legal fees in an effort to have their teachers’ certification recognized. It had been originally denied because the university prohibits immoral sexual conduct by their students. Their principal adversary in the case was the B.C. College of Teachers, the same body which today continues with its persecution of Kempling.
B.C. also had the case of the “gay” kindergarten teacher in Surrey (Chamberlain v. Surrey School District, Dec. 2002). He sued over the rejection for classroom use of books promoting “gay” families. A similar case is the homosexual teacher currently trying to have the provincial Education Ministry change the curriculum to include such items as “queer studies” and “queer role models.”
In Ontario in May 2002 homosexual student Marc Hall, with the help of a “gay” lawyer and a provincial MPP successfully forced his Catholic high-school to allow him to bring his “boyfriend” to the graduation prom. In this case, young Mr. Hall also had the support of the Catholic Teachers’ Union (Hall v. Powers, 2002)! An appeal is still pending.
In Manitoba the Winnipeg School District has forbidden its schools the use of four Christian camps for their students. This move was instigated by yet another HRC case (not yet settled) in which the Mennonite Camp Ames is being sued for “discrimination” on refusing a booking from a “gay” choir.
Kempling notes—as have others—the disturbing anomaly of civil marriage commissioners. While Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler claimed, in December 2004, that no one would be forced to officiate at a homosexual marriage, civilian commissioners—many of whom have religious convictions—were being dismissed by the provinces which have jurisdiction over the administration of marriages. Already some have been forced to resign in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Newfoundland.
Church property does not seem to be immune either, as the Coquitlam B.C. Knights of Columbus found out in December 2004. They are being sued by a pair of lesbians for refusing a hall rental for their “wedding reception.”
With the coming of same-sex “marriage” legislation, the assault on religious and intellectual freedom has widened. Evangelical and Catholic religious leaders in Ottawa revealed, in the spring of 2004, that Churches opposed to same sex “marriage” were called in by the Liberal government to discuss a possible loss of charitable status. Revenue Canada officials warned them not to cite Christian teaching on homosexuality in advice to voters before the June 2004 election. Kempling shares the concern with the Bishop of Calgary that “religious freedom is central to the current debate about the re-invention of marriage.” He notes that where the “rights” of homosexuals and religions collide, the former trumps every time under the present system.
Bishop Henry of Calgary
Just how the threat to religious freedom keeps expanding became clear again when two homosexuals in Alberta secretly denounced Calgary’s Catholic bishop Fred Henry to the provincial HRC for saying in June 2004 the government should use “its coercive powers” to proscribe homosexuality in society’s interest (Globe, Mar. 31, 05). Wrote Edmonton journalist Lorne Gunter in the National Post, “Like everyone else, members of Canada’s political establishment are making a great show of respect for the passing of Pope John Paul II. But even as they are doing so, the forced secularization of Canadian society is continuing apace” (“Chipping away at freedom of religion”, April 4, 2005).
In the spring of 2004 Bishop Henry was called by a Calgary Revenue Canada agent—and ordered to remove the pastoral letter from his website on grounds that an election had been called. The bishop pointed out that his letter was in no way partisan—it named neither persons nor parties—and that he had a right to inform his faithful. He flatly rejected the demand.
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