Analysis: Ontario Human Rights Code Being Used to Beat Christianity out of the Public Square
By Mark Westen
TORONTO, ON, May 14, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In its ruling against Christian Horizons(CH), the Evangelical charitable organization, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) adjudicator Michael Gottheil has delivered several striking juridical precedents which have serious implications for all Christian organizations operating in Ontario.
Several sections of the ruling infringe upon the rights of managers and employees to act, or in some cases to even think, in a Christian manner within the context of their specifically Christian organization. They also epitomize the modern homosexual activists’ self-interested and accusatory misunderstanding of the Christian position on homosexual persons.
In one section, Gottheil states that: "Its (CH’s) policy, based on the belief that homosexuality was unnatural and immoral, engendered fear, ignorance, hatred and suspicion. It sent the message to employees that gays and lesbians were not equal members of the workplace community."
This statement was made only in reference to the implications of CH’s policy and the Christian belief without any specific citing of resulting discrimination tied to it. Whether or not Christians, or more specifically the fellow employees of CH, are called to respect the dignity of the human person and not to indulge in hatred of other persons was not mentioned. Therefore the Christian position itself, regardless of context or evidence of wrongful discrimination, is, according to Gottheil, wrongfully discriminatory under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Among several other violations of the Code adjudicator Gottheil was particularly condemning of Christian Horizons’ offer of counselling to Ms. Heintz.
Speaking to the offer of ‘restoration’ counselling, Gottheil states that, " …the attempt of ‘restoration’ for persons who are gay or lesbian is profoundly disrespectful and oppressive. Notwithstanding that Christian Horizons sincerely believes that homosexuality is unnatural and immoral, homosexuality is neither a crime nor an illness. Gays and lesbians are entitled to be treated by their employers, even where those employers may be religious organizations, with respect and dignity, and not be offered counselling to cure them of their sexuality."
Thus, the mere offer of counselling from a Christian perspective in the area of sexual morality, within the context of a specifically Christian organization, with a published and agreed upon code of conduct, is ‘profoundly oppressive’ and in violation of the code.
Christian Horizon’s only available defence within the Ontario Human Rights Code was an exemption under section 24(1)(a) which states:
"A religious, philanthropic, education, fraternal or social institution or organization that is primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, creed, sex, age, marital status or handicap, is allowed to give preference in employment to persons similarly identified, if the qualification is a reasonable and genuine one because of the nature of the employment. Inquiries about such affiliation may be made at the employment interview stage."
Gottheil denied this exemption based on the fact the CH serves the public outside of its own creed, not, as many have supposed, because Christian Horizons receives public funding for its work with the handicapped.
Whether this decision lays further ground work for the type of ‘secular bullying’ now characteristic of Human Rights Tribunals remains to be seen. The decision may well have implications for Christian schools and even Churches, as it can be argued that they operate within the public sphere outside of their own specified groups in terms of evangelization ministries and outreach programs. Such a finding may prohibit even Christian schools and Churches from being able to require employees to be practicing Christians.
Christian Horizons has appealed the current decision. The nature of the appeal and its outcome should be of great interest to all parties involved.
Commenting on the decision, Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Commissioner, Barbara Hall, stated:
"This decision is important because it sets out that when faith-based and other organizations move beyond serving the interests of their particular community to serving the general public, the rights of others, including employees, must be respected."
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Huge Christian Ministry to Disabled Fined $23,000 For Rejecting Homosexual Employee
Christian Ministry to Disabled Drops its Code of Conduct Under Human Rights Tribunal Pressure
Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Ruling Denies Christian Ministry’s Right to be Christian