CALGARY, Alberta, January 21, 2011 ( – The move in Saskatchewan to force marriage commissioners to perform same-sex “marriages” neglects the fundamental importance Canada has always bestowed on the freedom of conscience and religion, and threatens to undermine the conscience rights of medical practitioners, says Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary.


“Freedom of conscience and of religion is a primary and inalienable right of the human person,” the bishop wrote Wednesday in the Calgary Herald.  “What is more, insofar as it touches the innermost sphere of the spirit, one can even say that it upholds the justification, deeply rooted in each individual, of all other liberties.”

On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan government announced that marriage commissioners who refuse to “marry” same-sex couples will be fired.  That followed a ruling earlier this month by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal stating that commissioners’ Charter rights to freedom of religion and conscience are outweighed by homosexuals’ right to freedom from discrimination.

Allowing commissioners to refuse performing same-sex “marriages” would send “a strong and sinister message” that “gays and lesbians are less worthy of protection as individuals in Canada’s society,” the court had said.

Bishop Henry emphasized, however, that religious belief was given fundamental importance by Canada’s founders and holds pride of place in the national anthem and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

After specifying that Canada is founded on the recognition of “the supremacy of God and the rule of law,” the Charter, he explains, then “immediately” lists the fundamental freedoms of religion and conscience, followed by the freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression.

“Only after, not before, asserting our fundamental freedoms, does the charter begin to spell out rights – first democratic rights, then mobility rights, followed by legal rights, then equality rights, etc.,” said Bishop Henry.

“A commitment to human rights is not alien to any authentic quest for religious or moral truth,” he continued, “because it flows from the very nature of the human person and emerges naturally in all authentic religious, moral and cultural traditions as they move to express more deeply the truth of human life.”

The prelate warned that this issue extends beyond marriage commissioners: “We might well ask: ‘Who’s next?’”

“Are physicians and surgeons going to lose their right not to perform a service or offer advice when doing so would be to act contrary to his or her conscience or religious and ethical principles,” he asked.

Contact Information:

Justice Minister Don Morgan
Room 355, Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, SK S4S0B3
Phone: (306) 787-5353
E-mail: Use this form.


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