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Ontario Government Responds to Anti-Christian Ruling by Human Rights Tribunal

LifeSiteNews.com

By John-Henry Westen

TORONTO, April 29, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to force a Christian ministry to the disabled to stop requiring staff to live up to Christian moral standards as a condition of employment threatens the existence of all faith-based charities in Canada. (For more coverage, see: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/apr/08042512.html)  In light of the recent decision, LifeSiteNews.com spoke with the provincial government ministry in charge of such matters and found they showed little willingness or desire to accommodate sincere Christianity in the public sphere.

Raj Dihr, the prosecutor for the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in the case, explained to LifeSiteNews.com that the Christian ministry in question - Christian Horizons - was not permitted an exemption under the human rights code which would permit it to hire only Christian staff who were willing to live according to fundamental Christian moral precepts.  The reason, he explained, was two-fold.  First, he said, the organization was serving the general public, and not restricting its services to Evangelical Christians, and secondly, in the opinion of the Tribunal (a single adjudicator by the name of Michael Gottheil) adherence to the tenets of Christianity as set out by the Evangelical group was not seen as necessary in fulfilling their services to the public.

Of course, from the perspective of the ministry their whole raison d’ĂȘtre was ministering to the disabled as Christians.  Christian Horizons (CH) describes itself as "an evangelical ministry seeking to reach out with Christian love to people with disabilities."  Forbidding them to require staff to be Christian would thus effectively end their ministry. 

Since CH is the largest provider of community living services in the province, providing care and residential services to 1,400 developmentally disabled individuals with over 180 residential homes across Ontario, (not to mention employing 2,300 individuals) the ending of its ministry would present no small problem for the provincial government, which provides $75 million annually to CH for its services.  That reality, however, seems not to have dawned on the provincial government.

Julia Sakas, Communications Assistant to Madeleine Meilleur, the provincial Minister of Community and Social Services, spoke with LifeSiteNews.com about the matter.  Although the government wants "to see that those clients continue to receive services and that those services will not be disrupted," she said, "anything that would be determined as discriminatory would not be tolerated."

"We expect our provincial organizations that are funded by the province to uphold the province’s shared values and those are that we don’t discriminate and we respect the law and we respect the same from our agencies," said Sakas.  One requirement, she explained, would be that employment contracts would not "infringe on the right to live one’s lifestyle as one chooses."

Sakas said that the government could not comment directly on the case until the final ruling is handed down.  CH has 30 days from the April 15 ruling to decide whether it will appeal the Tribunal ruling.

Dihr, the Tribunal prosecutor, told LifeSiteNews.com that the decision puts all Christian organizations at risk of facing fines and prosecution from complainants or even the Human Rights Commission itself.  Asked if, based on the ruling, other Christian organizations which stipulated Christian sexual morality for employees could also face fines, Dihr replied, "Yes, I think that’s one danger that organizations face is that if they don’t address these things in a pro-active way, which is what we’d encourage - then there’s always the possibility that an individual or even the commission will file a complaint against them and bring them to the tribunal."   

Christian Horizons spokesman Adrian Midema told LifeSiteNews.com that the organization is disappointed with the decision and are reviewing it carefully.  The deadline for appeal is May 15.

To contact the Premier of Ontario about repeated Human Rights rulings violating freedom of religion and conscience:
  Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/feedback/default.asp 

Ontario Residents to express concerns contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament:
http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/go2.jsp?Page=/members/members_main&menuItem=mpps_header&locale=en

See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Huge Christian Ministry to Disabled Fined $23,000 For Rejecting Homosexual Employee
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/apr/08042512.html

Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Ruling Denies Christian Ministry’s Right to be Christian
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/apr/08042809.html

Canadian Human Rights Commission Punishes Group for Being too Tolerant
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/apr/08042807.html

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