Calgary Bishop: Human Rights Act Needs Revision

Cites Discrimination Against Christians

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CALGARY, Alberta, JULY 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The bishop of Calgary has asked the premier of Alberta to repeal a section of the territory's Human Rights Act, citing that it has been used to discriminate against Christians.



In a letter dated July 6, Bishop Frederick Henry informed Premier Ed Stelmach that the situation concerning Christians is "continuing to deteriorate across our country and the various levels of governments are seemingly nonresponsive."

Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act states, "No person shall publish, issue or display or cause to be published, issued or displayed before the public any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that is likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt because of the race, religious beliefs, color, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or class of persons."

The bishop cited several examples of how this section has been used against Christians, including the April ruling of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that ordered an evangelical Christian charity, Christian Horizons, to abolish its morality code and provide its employees anti-discriminatory training.

Illegal morality

The charity was additionally told to pay Connie Heritz $23,000 for firing her after she violated the morality code, which she freely and knowingly signed.

"Every religious institution should have the jurisdictional independence to determine its own confessions, doctrines and ordinances, including conditions of employment," said Bishop Henry.

The bishop also cited the May ruling of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal that found a Regina marriage commissioner, Orville Nichols, guilty of discrimination after he refused to marry a same-sex couple.

The commissioner was ordered to pay $2,500 to the gay couple, who he had referred to another marriage commissioner.

"The conflict between social pressure and the demands of right conscience can lead to the dilemma either of abandoning a profession or of compromising one's convictions," wrote bishop Henry. "Faced with that tension, despite the ruling of the commission, we must remember that there is a middle path which opens up before workers who are faithful to their conscience. It is the path of conscientious objection, which ought to be respected by all, especially legislators.

"Every person has the right to have their religious beliefs reasonably accommodated."

Censored

The bishop then cited a third example from May, in which the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal fined pastor Stephen Boissoin $7,000 for a 2002 letter on homosexuality he sent to the Red Deer Advocate, the newspaper of the central Alberta town of Red Deer.

In the letter to the editor he referred to Biblical passages on homosexuality, and cited the extra health risks of the homosexual lifestyle. Boissoin was the executive director of the Christian Coalition at the time.

Soon after the letter was published, a gay teen was attacked. Red Deer schoolteacher Darren Lund filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission stating that the letter had provoked the attack.

In addition to the fines, Boissoin and the coalition were also ordered to stop publishing in all forms of media any “disparaging remarks” about homosexuals, and apologize to Lund.

With the ruling, said Bishop Henry, "the tribunal effectively stripped Boissoin of his right to freedom of speech."

"This is tantamount to ruling out honest debate and a plurality of views in the public sphere lest someone be offended by a differing viewpoint," he added.

"We have talked enough," the bishop continued. "It is time to repeal Section 3 [...] of the Alberta Human Rights Act and to protect the rights of religious freedom. Every person has the right to make public statements and participate in public debate on religious grounds."

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On the Net:

Bishop Henry's Letter: www.zenit.org/article-23134?l=english