Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Bishop Henry Speaks - Does Stelmach Listen?

I sure as heck hope not. Bishop Henry's recent letter to Stelmach showed up on Zenit - the Roman Catholic Church's "news release" agency.

[Editor's Note]: I see that Zenit has pulled the letter itself off their English Front Page. I have archived a copy for reference purposes.

[Update 21:16]
I see that Bishop Henry has posted his letter on the diocese website
Bishop Henry, as we have seen before, is once again in the business of confusing issues and misconstruing the situations.

Consider the following:

April 2008: The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ordered an evangelical Christian charity, Christian Horizons, to rescind its morality code and require employees to undergo anti-discriminatory training. In addition, Christian Horizons has been ordered to pay $23,000 plus lost wages for terminating Connie Heritz’s employment based on a morality code which she freely and knowingly signed as a condition of employment and which she failed to adhere to.

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

Hmmm...Christian Horizons...I've heard that name before. Oh yes! Here it is, in all its shining glory. The Bishop has missed a very key aspect of the issue in this case - namely that Christian Horizons used its "moral code" not merely to regulate the lives of its employees outside of work, but allowed a poisonous, harassing working environment to fester with respect to Connie Heintz.

I have some problems with these "moral codes" being imposed by employers (regardless of faith) that attempt to strictly regulate someone's life outside of the workplace. It strikes me as an unreasonable invasion of privacy. However, if Canadian Law allows for it in some capacity, that's fine as long as it doesn't get modified "on the fly" - as happened with Julie Nemecek.

Next up, we have Bishop Henry pulling on a recent ruling in Saskatchewan regarding a Marriage Commissioner who refused to serve a gay couple.

Nichols, who has performed nearly 2,000 marriages since 1983, had referred the couple to another marriage commissioner because he said his religious beliefs (Baptist) kept him from performing the ceremony.

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. 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.

Hold on a second, here Bishop. We are talking about someone who is being paid out of the public purse to perform a legal public service. Since when did the benefit of the law and government become subject to the moral assessment of the public functionary? Am I going to be subjected to someone's "moral assessment" (and objections) next time I go to renew my driver's license? I certainly hope not!

If the man wishes to hide behind his religious beliefs to justify not providng service, then let him become an ordained minister and carry out his marriage duties in that capacity. Otherwise he is essentially an agent of the government, and is obliged to conduct himself accordingly.

Section 30 of the Alberta Human Rights Act states: “Evidence may be given before a human rights panel in any manner that the panel considers appropriate, and the panel is not bound by the rules of law respecting evidence in judicial proceedings.” It would also seem that this panel is also not bound by reasonable argument or the elementary rules of logic but is free to skewer anyone not espousing and proclaiming politically correct views. Darren Lund, the complainant, said that Boissoin’s words in his 2002 letter to the Red Deer Advocate were hateful, and furthermore, an assault on a gay teenager three weeks later could be connected to them. No proof of either was presented.

Lori Andreachuk, the chairperson of the Tribunal, agreed that his words were “likely” to expose gays, “a vulnerable” group, to hatred due to their sexual orientation. No court in the land would connect the letter and the assault but this silly tribunal did.

Hmmm...if the only issue involved was the assault that Bishop Henry is referring to, I might consider agreeing with him. However, there is quite a bit more to the Boissoin case than that. (The actual decision is here)

Second, with the exception of Mr. Boissoin, all of the witnesses and intervenors in the case concur with the linkage of the assault in question and Boissoin's letter - including the Attorney General of Alberta. (This is Alberta, we are talking about - a province that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Supreme Court of Canada in Vriend before the AHRC would even look at a case involving GLBT rights!)

After ranting on further about Boissoin, Bishop Henry concludes with the following:

Mr. Premier, we have talked enough about the inadequate provisions of and appointment to the Alberta Human Rights Tribunals, it is time to repeal Section 3(1)(b) of the Alberta Human Rights Act ("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, colour, 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") 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.

Hold it a second, Bishop. Just because someone professes to having a faith of some sort doesn't make every statement they make "faithful". The white supremacist nutcases cloak themselves in a warped form of Christianity, and I dare say that just about every other community has its faith.

In essence, Bishop Henry is demanding that free license be given to all forms of public bigotry in the name of "religious freedom". Think on the implications of his demands for a moment. While Bishop Henry, along with Boissoin and allies, are thinking in terms of their glorious crusade against homosexuality, they would be giving a free pass to all sorts of hatemongers who target any group that they can bully.

In all of the cases that Bishop Henry cites, he has erroneously assumed that it is all about "matters of faith", and in doing so has clearly disregarded the reality that matters of faith must be handled with a certain level of decorum. Using religion as an excuse to promote bigotry, deny services, or to poison the workplace environment is an unacceptable exercise of that freedom.

I have seen others write their opposition to GLBT rights on religious grounds without invoking blatant falsehoods or making spurious inferences that cannot be substantiated. It is possible to do, and there are still valid reasons why the HRC construct remains a valid, extra-judicial process.

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