Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Public Religion

This article in the G&M was brought to my attention in an e-mail last night. In the email, a comment to the effect of "my fear is that one of these groups will try to claim that their rights supercede everybody else's.

Unfortunately, they already do. People like Charles McVety come to mind almost immediately as examples of people who argues that his rights as a christianist take precedence over others:

Charles McVety, who heads up the right-wing Institute of Canadian Values, issued a statement Friday saying Delic's invitation to speak is an insult to the Canadian Forces soldiers who have died in Afghanistan.

"This will shock the conscience of Canadians of good faith, dismay military families whose children have made the supreme sacrifice, and undermine the credibility and morale of our armed services in the eyes of allies and enemies alike," McVety said in the statement on the association's website.

(By the way, here is the text of the cancelled speech ... it's just so inflammatory, isn't it?)

But, as the GLBT community has known for decades now, it goes much, much further than that. So-called "christians" regularly try to hide behind the skirts of "religious freedom" to justify discriminating against GLBT people. Consider the relatively recent case of William Goertzen - a landlord in Yellowknife who cancelled a lease agreement and stole the damage deposit from a gay couple once he learned that they were homosexual.

However, the details of Goertzen's case are pretty basic - GLBT people have encountered them many times before. It's what the extreme "christianists" argue about these cases that says so much.

Those who advocate “fixing” Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals rather than abolishing them, do so because they believe the original purpose of these agencies was legitimate.

What was the original purpose? To provide recourse for tenants, employees and consumers who believed they were being discriminated against on the basis of the politically-defined criteria for which “discrimination” was banned. “Sexual orientation” was later added to that list of politically defined groups.

This complaint against Mr. Goertzen fits within the framework of this original purpose for Canada’s HRCs. All those who support simply “fixing” the HRCs, including various Christian groups, have to take a position against Mr. Goertzen.

ChristianGovernance calls for the complete abolition of these discriminatory, anti-democratic institutions. Their original purpose was wholly illegitimate for a free and democratic society. It was an expression of socialism – strident group rights theory. It was predicated on Marxist class warfare theory.

Mr. Bloedow is so dead wrong here it's not even funny.

The irony here is that what he's really arguing for is a 'tyranny of the majority' scenario where minority groups who have at best limited voices in the public sphere. Apparently he has long ago forgotten the violations that early Christians experienced at the hands of the Roman majority of the day.

o when the Northwest Territories HRT ruled against Mr. Goertzen, they awarded the complainants $13,400. Now, of that $13,400, only $1,500 was for punitive damages. The other $12,000 – $6,000 to each complainant – was an expression of Daddy-Mommy-surrogacy – it was for hurt feelings: “injury to the men’s ‘dignity, feelings and self-respect’,” to be specific. This kind of decision bears witness to the effeminization of our culture. The injustice of this kind of typical HRT decision is also stunning. Well, it should be!

No, Mr. Bloedow, those are punitive damages - it's an economic expression of the impact of Goertzen's discrimination and theft. Mr. Goertzen did offend the dignity of those individuals - quite directly. Mr. Bloedow seems to not understand that discrimination issues often have impacts that are difficult to measure explicitly. However, it so often seems that violators do not understand anything that doesn't affect their pocket book.

Contrary to Mr. Bloedow's assertion that we are talking about 'hurt feelings', the fact is that it goes far beyond hurt feelings, and extends into the very ability of minority populations to be full participants in society. Superficially, Goertzen did little more than refuse to rent a property to a gay couple. Implicitly, he sent a much deeper message - namely that his personal problems with the idea of homosexuality give him the right to not only judge others negatively, but to arbitrarily deny them access to goods and services in the commercial arena.

Whether we are to examine it from the perspective of situations like Goertzen's actions, or McVety's bleating about a (*gasp*) Muslim Imam addressing the Armed Forces, it comes down to the argument being made is always fundamentally about "Christians" (more appropriately, "christianists") demanding that their religious beliefs be sufficient justification for limiting the participation of others in society.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Rights and Freedoms in this country live in a state of mutual tension. So far, it seems to me that it is not an unreasonable limitation on the exercise of any freedom that it not be used to arbitrarily limit the freedoms and rights others.


Aerin said...

Ah, but the christians are right and everyone else is wrong. So allowing christians to over-rule, ignore and violate the rights of anyone they deem "un-christian" is not just reasonable, it's a moral obligation.


Mercedes said...

There has been a push to abolish or hamstring the HRCs for a few years now, kicked into overdrive by Ezra Levant and the reaction to the Stephen Boissoin ruling (since overturned). But there's been another surge recently, possibly leading up to the committee consultations on C-389. Check out this "policy" paper from CCPS (a pseudo think tank used by the religious right to draft seemingly non-religious-based research to support their conclusions):