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U.S. State Dept: Canadian laws are threatening religious freedom

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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a report on international religious freedom on Tuesday that includes Canada’s battles over freedom of conscience and parental rights as concerning international incidents.

The report documents Ontario’s Christian doctors’ fight for conscience rights and the government’s inclusion of gender expression and identity in child welfare law. Pro-life and pro-family advocates have warned that the latter gives the state license to remove children from homes if their parents are not accepting enough of the LGBT cause.

Pompeo also announced his department will host a conference on international religious liberty, “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” in Washington. 

The meeting of faith leaders and top diplomats from “like-minded governments” around the world is scheduled for July 25 and 26. It will not be a “discussion group” but rather provide an opportunity to “break new ground,” Pompeo told reporters at department headquarters.

“It will be about action,” he said. “We look forward to identifying concrete ways to push back against persecution and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.”

Pompeo described religious freedom as the “most fundamental of human rights” and asserted, “the United States will not stand by as spectators” when religious persecution occurs outside its borders.

Ontario government trying to force Christian doctors to refer for abortions

The International Report on Religious Freedom for 2017 is available on the State Department website and is organized by country and area.

It documents incidents concerning religious freedom in all countries regardless of their relationship with the United States, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told reporters Tuesday.

“We put forward in the report everything that’s happening around the world,” Brownback said. “And we report it without favor or analysis.”

He told reporters religious minorities are currently facing a particularly dire and desperate situation in Myanmar, CNN reported.

Hundreds of thousands of mainly Muslim Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in the face of systematic violence the report describes as “ethnic cleansing.”

“I don't think you’ve seen progress taking place there in the country,” Brownback said. “If anything, the administration there is doubling, now, its effort in going after the (predominately Christian) Kachin in the northern part of the country.”

North Korea also emerges as an egregious violator of religious rights in the report, which documents “arbitrary executions, political prison camps, and torture amounting to crimes against humanity,” and 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners incarcerated in North Korea's prison camp system “under horrific conditions.”

As for Canada, the report’s executive summary highlighted the January 29 murder of six worshippers in a Montreal mosque, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s condemnation of this as “a terrorist attack on Muslims.”

It also noted the continued legal fight by “a group of Christian physicians in Ontario” for conscience rights.

The group argued that “provincial regulations requiring doctors to refer patients seeking assisted death, abortion, or contraception to another practitioner, rather than to a registry of licensed physicians that perform such procedures, constituted facilitation and violated constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion,” stated the report.

An Ontario court quashed the challenge in January 2018, and the group is appealing that ruling.

Ontario Bill 89 allows government to remove children from Christian homes

The report’s summary of “government practices” in Canada noted Ontario amended its laws in June “to add a child’s gender identity and gender expression as factors provincial child welfare authorities should consider in matters of child protection, adoption, and foster care.”

The law “also eliminated consideration of the religious faith in which the parents were raising a child when deciding where and whether to place a child in care,” it stated.

“Some NGOs stated the change could discriminate against parents, adoptive couples, or foster parents with religious beliefs that only recognize marriage between individuals of opposite sexes,” it noted. “They also stated the change could allow child protection services to remove LGBTI-identifying children from the custody of biological parents whose religious beliefs do not support LGBTI persons. Government officials said this was not the intent of the law.”

It reported that the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) in November filed an application for judicial review “on behalf of an evangelical Christian couple” of the Alberta government’s decision to deny them “the ability to adopt a child because of their religious beliefs.”

Alberta’s child welfare services allegedly told the couple those beliefs “appeared to ‘reject’ children who identify as LGBTI.”  

The JCCF’s application argued the decision “was unreasonable and arbitrary, and violated the couple’s right to religious freedom under the constitution and the Alberta Human Rights Act,” it stated.

The JCCF announced on May 2, 2018 that the Alberta government had reversed the decision.

The report also noted that Canada’s Supreme Court in December heard “appeals of provincial court decisions on accreditation for future graduates of Trinity Western University (TWU) Law School, a Christian university in B.C..”

“In June 2016 an Ontario appeals court found the Ontario law society’s decision to bar future TWU graduates from receiving provincial legal accreditation was reasonable. The law society argued that TWU’s requirement that students sign a ‘Christian covenant’ pledging to abstain from sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage discriminated against homosexuals and violated same-sex equality laws,” it stated.

“In contrast, the B.C. Court of Appeal found unlawful the B.C. law society’s decision to deny accreditation on the same grounds,” the report stated.

And, “in 2016 a Nova Scotia appeals court ruled that province’s law society exceeded its jurisdiction in denying accreditation to future TWU graduates because TWU was located in B.C. and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.”

The Supreme Court’s decision on TWU is still pending.

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