TORONTO, Thu Apr 21, 2011 ( – The pro-life message on a monument, set up by the Knights of Columbus in front of a Catholic church in a small Ontario town, does not contravene the Ontario Human Rights Code, a human rights tribunal has ruled.

The Chevaliers de Colomb (Knights of Columbus) Council 6452 of the francophone church of Saint-Jean Baptise in the town of l’Original, Ontario, had set up a monument on church property in 2001, with the inscription, in French, that says: “Let us pray that all life rests in the hands of God from conception until death.”

Marguerite Dallaire, a parishioner, filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal saying that the reference to life “from conception until natural death” is a statement against abortion, and that the inscription is “offensive and discriminatory because it denounces, victimizes, and excludes women.”

Dallaire explained in her submission to the tribunal that she is deeply offended by the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion and that she feels that they and the monument in question are discriminatory towards women.

Tribunal adjudicator Michelle Flaherty said in her ruling on April 5 that “the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to scrutinize the content of religious teaching and beliefs, particularly where these are conveyed on the premises of a religious organization.”

Flaherty noted, “the inscription cannot be read from the sidewalk and that, to read the inscription, a person must enter church property. There is no dispute that the inscription is consistent with the Catholic Church’s position on, among other things, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide.”

“The applicant is offended by the inscription on the monument,” Flaherty wrote. “At the hearing, she explained that she strongly disagrees with the Catholic Church’s beliefs regarding abortion.

“It is clear to me that the applicant is attempting to use the Code as a vehicle to challenge not only the monument but also the Catholic Church’s belief system and teachings. In my view, this is not an appropriate use of the Code.”

Flaherty based her decision on the reasoning that the inscription “is not a ‘service’ or ‘facility’ within the meaning of section 1 of the Code.  Accordingly, the Application is outside the Tribunal’s jurisdiction (power to decide) and it is dismissed.”

However, she also made clear while the K of C and the pro-life message on the monument stand exonerated, other aspects of “the content and expression of a religious belief, which is not a service or facility within the meaning of the Code,” may very well fall within the scrutiny of the tribunal

“The fact that some of a religious organizations activities are not ‘services’ or ‘facilities’ for the purposes of the Code does not, however, mean that other aspects of that organization’s activities will be immune from scrutiny under the Code,” Flaherty concluded.

The full text of the decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in the case of Marguerite Dallaire vs Les Chevaliers de Colomb – Conseil 6452 is available here.