By John-Henry Westen

TORONTO, April 28, 2008 ( – The ruling of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against a Christian ministry serving disabled people in Ontario has the Christian community in Canada deeply concerned for religious freedom. 

Don Hutchinson, General Legal Counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, summarized the situation by way of analogy in an article in the National Post today.  He wrote: “Imagine that Mother Theresa and her Missionaries of Charity had been told that their ministry in the streets of Calcutta was, in essence, not ministry but ‘social work.’ In order for the sisters to continue in their work, they would no longer be permitted to require that staff members share their beliefs and ministry commitment.”

  Christian Horizons (CH), the group in question, describes itself as “an evangelical ministry seeking to reach out with Christian love to people with disabilities.” Its services have been so well received by the province that it has become 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, and 2,300 employees. CH receives $75 million in funding annually from the Ontario government in order to carry out these services.

  CH has always been up front about being a Christian ministry. They have a statement on their website that says that the top criteria for their employees is, “A commitment to personal conduct and lifestyle consistent with the values and principles of Christian Horizons.” 

Connie Heintz, the former employee who launched the complaint against CH which led to the current ruling, had, like all employees, signed a “morality statement” as a condition of employment, promising not to engage in “homosexual relationships”, among other un-Christian activities such as “extra-marital sexual relationships (adultery)”, “pre-marital sexual relationships (fornication)”, “viewing or reading pornographic material” and “lying”.

  Hutchinson’s comparison between Mother Teresa’s sisters in India and CH’s operations in Canada is particularly apt.  In India Mother Teresa’s sisters were often persecuted by Hindu extremists because they wore their habits – wore, as it were, their Christianity ‘on their sleeves’. 

Hutchinson told, “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.”

  One very alarming aspect of the ruling, according to Evangelicals, is that the OHRT is requiring that all of CH’s 2,500 employees be given a pro-homosexuality “human rights training program”.  Rev. Royal Hamel, spokesman for Campaign Life Evangelical told that the situation was reminiscent of Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ where the ‘Ministry of Truth’ was used to indoctrinate citizens into believing the currently held lies of the state.  “It’s 2008 and we’ve finally reached 1984,” he said.

  See related coverage:

  Huge Christian Ministry to Disabled Fined $23,000 For Rejecting Homosexual Employee