Thaddeus Baklinski

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Ontario tribunal bans Bible distribution unless school board also gives out atheist texts

Thaddeus Baklinski
Thaddeus Baklinski
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TORONTO, September 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the District School Board of Niagara cannot hand out Bibles unless the school board revises its policies to facilitate the distribution of atheistic texts.

"If it [the school board] is prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of Christian texts to committed atheists, it must also be prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of atheist texts to religious Christians," wrote David Wright, associate chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, in a decision handed down on August 13. 

"It cannot design its criteria in a way that would permit communication of materials setting out their beliefs by some, but not all creeds," Wright wrote.

In the case of R.C. versus District School Board of Niagara the Human Rights Tribunal found that atheism is a "creed" that has religious protection equal to that of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions, and declared that the board was guilty of discrimination under the Human Rights Code for not allowing the “creed” of atheism to be equally available to its students. 

“Protection against discrimination because of religion, in my view, must include protection of the applicants’ belief that there is no deity,” wrote Wright. "The belief that there is no deity, superhuman or controlling power is equally connected to ‘spiritual faith, self-definition and spiritual fulfilment’ as a belief that one exists." 

The ruling stems from a complaint by a Niagara region parent who objected to the availability of Gideon Bibles at his daughter’s school.

In 2010 Rene Chouinard took issue with the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) when his fifth grade daughter brought home a slip which would allow the Gideons to give the girl a Bible, with parental permission.

The Gideons are an evangelical Protestant association based in Nashville, Tennessee. They have been placing Bibles containing the New Testament plus the Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament in Canadian public schools since 1936. Gideon Bibles have been made available in the District School Board of Niagara schools since 1964.

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Chouinard, a self-professed secular humanist, challenged the board’s policy of allowing Christian material to be given to students by demanding that he be allowed to distribute two humanist books titled “Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children” and “Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist” to the Grade 5 students of Nelles Public School in Grimsby, where his children attended.

Chouinard told media at the time that his intent was not to actually give the books to students, but to provoke a situation where the board would be forced to censure the Gideon bibles.

In response to Chouinard’s demand, in March 2010 the DSBN amended its policy regarding the distribution of religious materials by inviting other religions to offer religious books to students, with the approval of the education director, principals and parent groups, and with the permission of the child’s parents.

Chouinard applied to have his secular humanist material given to students under the new policy. However, his application was rejected because his tracts did not fall within the definition of religious texts as outlined by the Ontario Multifaith Information Manual (MIM), an “authoritative guide for the management of religious diversity issues” that was consulted by the Niagara school officials to determine if Chouinard's books were acceptable.

The Ontario Multifaith Information Manual covers everything from Bahá’í to Zoroastrianism, addressing such issues as basic beliefs, sources of prayers and scriptures, and even dietary requirements, but does not include atheism or secular humanism.

In his ruling, Wright said that the Niagara Board's policy of allowing only texts considered acceptable by the Ontario Multifaith Information Manual to be distributed to students was discriminatory. His order states that if the school board wants to continue to allow the distribution of Gideon bibles, it has six months to produce and submit a new policy.

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, theologian John Paul Meenan, Associate Professor of Theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a Catholic college in Barry's Bay, Ontario, argued that there is an inherent contradiction in the Human Rights Tribunal ruling that atheism is equivalent to a religion with a creed that has its foundation in a belief in God.

"First, one must define one’s terms," Meenan said. "What is meant by a ‘creed’? A creed is a system of beliefs, by which one directs one’s actions and one’s life, the metaphysical foundation for one’s existence."

"Atheism, by definition, is a ‘creed’ only in the negative sense," Meenan explained. "The very term implies that it does not believe in a ‘God’, or any deity.  Well then, what do they believe?"

"One must define one’s religion affirmatively, through some sort of creed, for it to be protected," Meenan argued. "All of the religions listed in the MIM in the HRC ruling have such a creed. There is a clear idea of what their religion teaches. I think that by asking the ‘atheists’ to define explicitly what they do believe, their support may dwindle. After all, not many can stand up, and live by, the tenets of stark atheism. Without God, there is no basis for love, or hope, or religion in any meaningful sense." 

"After all," Meenan said, "the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the Human Rights Tribunal uses as its guiding document, states in the very preamble that 'Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law'." 

Noting that "there is an underlying issue with the role of the State in education," Meenan said that if "Mr. Chouinard wants to indoctrinate his daughter in atheism, well, go ahead.  But not at school, and not other people’s children." 

"Up until the modern age, we have all more or less agreed on what an education should look like, but that is now unravelling. This HRC decision is just one more disintegration in the common foundation of our society," Professor Meenan concluded. 

The full text of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision is available here.

 

Related:

Case against Gideon Bibles in schools to be heard by Ontario Human Rights Tribunal

Ontario school board bans Gideon Bible distribution after parent complains

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

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