Church petitions British Columbia’s top court to overturn city’s ban on youth conference
January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian church in British Columbia has petitioned the province's top court to reverse a city's 2018 decision to cancel the church's booking of a city-owned center for a youth conference after the city took issue with one of the event's Christian speakers.
Grace Chapel is a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, located in downtown New Westminster. Part of Grace Chapel’s vision is to “build a multi-ethnic, diverse church where people of every nation in our community will worship God…” Grace Chapel does not have a church building of its own. Church events are held in rented spaces, including the municipally-owned and managed Anvil Centre.
As explained in a recently filed affidavit, on May 25, the City of New Westminster signed a contract with Grace Chapel to rent a portion of the Anvil Centre. The rental was for a youth conference to be held on July 21, 2018.
On June 21, 2018, a media article was published which included a picture of a poster for the conference. The Get-A-Grip 2018 conference in New Westminster was on the theme of “LGBT” — only in this case, the acronym stands for “Let God Be True.”
That same day, Grace Chapel received an email from Anvil Centre Director of Sales & Marketing, Heidi Hughes. Ms. Hughes stated that the Anvil Centre was reneging on the contract and cancelling the rental, on the basis that “one of [Grace Chapel’s] event speakers / facilitators, Kari Simpson...vocally represents views and a perspective that run counter to City of New Westminster and Anvil Centre booking policy.”
One of the speakers is Kari Simpson, controversial and well-known free speech and parental rights’ advocate, sex-ed critic and executive director of Culture Guard. Most recently, Simpson has become an outspoken opponent of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, or SOGI 123 — the pro-gender identity curriculum rolled out across BC in September of 2017.
Ms. Hughes did not explain how or why any of the speakers at the conference caused Grace Chapel to “promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits”, or how it is possible that this speaker’s “views” or “perspective” could contravene the Anvil Centre Booking Policy.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on behalf of the church, after the City of New Westminster cancelled the church’s booking to host a conference at the City-owned Anvil Centre.
Grace Chapel’s court petition seeks to quash the City’s decision, and seeks a Court declaration that the decision to cancel Grace Chapel’s contract was procedurally unfair, biased, unreasonable, and unjustifiably infringed the freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, and association and right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion as protected by sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This court application further seeks a Court order prohibiting the City from denying the use of its facilities to this church on the basis of the ideas, views, opinions, perspectives, values or beliefs of Grace Chapel or of speakers selected by the Grace Chapel.
“As a government facility that is regularly used by diverse parties for expressive and associative activities, such as conferences, the Anvil Centre cannot deny use of its facilities in a manner that violates rights and freedoms protected by the Charter,” explained lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay.
In a July 6, 2018, letter to the City of New Westminster, the Justice Centre explained that the Charter protects the right to receive expressive material as much as it does the right to speak. By cancelling the rental, the Anvil Centre unjustifiably infringed the constitutional right of those intending to listen and consider diverse opinions on topics of interest to them.
A hearing of this petition has not yet been scheduled.