By John-Henry Westen
TORONTO, April 30, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The editor of Canada’s national Catholic magazine of news, opinion and analysis, Father Alphonse de Valk, has renewed his call for the federal government to rein in the far-reaching powers of human rights commissions in Canada.
The move comes in light of the recent ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) in the case of Christian Horizons, a service organization for the disabled. De Valk called the decision, “a brazen attack on the rights of religious associations and individuals to conduct their activities without having to check their religious principles at the workplace door.”
The OHRC on April 15 decided that, because Christian Horizons required a former employee to sign a Lifestyle and Morality Statement that prohibited homosexual relationships, Christian Horizons must: pay lesbian Connie Heintz two years’ wages and $23,000; no longer require its employees to sign a lifestyle and morality statement; develop ‘anti-discrimination’ policies; provide ‘training’ to all employees and managers; and review all of its employment policies to ensure they are in compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
De Valk, the editor of Catholic Insight magazine, originally issued a call for the powers of the Human Rights Commissions to be curtailed when a human rights complaint was filed against his magazine in February 2007.
Brian Rushfeldt of the Canada Family Action Coalition was outraged by the ruling saying, “The ethos of immorality reigns in the Human Rights Commission at least in Ontario.” The Commission, he explained, “by the very fact it orders an agency not to require employees to sign a statement regarding unbecoming conduct and behavior is endorsing immorality.”
“This decision is further reason citizens who have rights, hold to religious beliefs and have a sense of morality must force governments to rescind the Human Rights Acts that interfere with normal functions of a civilized society and democracy,” said Rushfeldt. “The empowerment of a few appointed people to act as dictators is a dangerous deception of democracy. Governments must be held to account as they are the perpetrators of this authoritarian arm of government.”
Don Hutchinson, General Legal Counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, was also incensed with the decision. He told LifeSiteNews.com that the ruling was “the decision of a single adjudicator functioning as a human right tribunal.” He added: “It is unreasonable for any tribunal to make a decision which assumes that faith and practice can be severed and in this case the capacity for practice in the type of ministry that Christian Horizons exhibits is dependent on a shared faith commitment amongst its staff.”
Referencing the many cases where Human Rights Commissions across Canada have threatened the freedom of religion of Christians and Christian businesses, Hutchinson said, “I think there is general knowledge in Canada right now in regard to the decision-making capacity of Human Rights Tribunals across the country.”
De Valk quoted Pope Benedict XVI in noting that, “Human rights must include the right to religious freedom, understood at once (as) individual and communitarian…It is inconceivable, then, that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.”
De Valk says workplaces must indeed be free of harassment or poisoned environments. However, the OHRC decision violates the rights of evangelical Christians, even though Christian Horizons was offering its services to all without discrimination. “No complaint appears to have been filed by any client of Christian Horizons or by the developmentally disabled people they serve,” said de Valk. “In addition to disrupting the fine work being undertaken by the organization’s employees, the OHRC decision ominously threatens the rights of other faith-based institutions, as well as their employees and volunteers, in Ontario.”
Rushfeldt concluded, “Canadians – wake up – next election, both federally and provincially we must demand of those who want to govern that they will resolve these authoritarian hate based actions by Human Rights Commissions.”