Thaddeus Baklinski

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Wide-ranging political and religious groups condemn Quebec’s values charter

Thaddeus Baklinski
Thaddeus Baklinski

QUEBEC, September 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Parti Quebecois’ charter of values legislation, which proposes "to entrench the religious neutrality of the state and the secular nature of public institutions" in Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, is being condemned by all sides of the political spectrum, and by religious leaders across the country.

On Tuesday, Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney responded to statements about the proposed charter from Quebec Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville, saying "we are very concerned about any proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion."

"If it's determined that a prospective law violates the constitutional protections to freedom of religion to which all Canadians are entitled, we will defend those rights vigorously," Kenney told reporters.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, speaking from the NDP's summer caucus retreat in Saskatoon, stated that his party completely rejects Quebec's plans for banning conspicuous religious symbols. He said that workers should not have to choose between their expression of faith and their jobs.

“To be told that a woman working in a daycare centre, because she's wearing a headscarf, will lose her job is to us intolerable in our society," Mulcair said. "There's no expiry date on human rights. It's not a popularity contest, this for us is completely unacceptable and the NDP will be standing up foursquare against this project."

Even at the risk of alienating Quebecers that overwhelmingly voted for the NDP in the last federal election, Mulcair pointed to what he believes is an entrenched discrimination against minorities in Quebec's civil service. 

"What we have today is an attempt to impose state-mandated discrimination against minorities in the Quebec civil service. That for us is an absolute non-starter," he said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused Premier Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecois of indulging in “divisive identity politics” as a distraction from more pressing economic problems.

"Madame Marois does not speak for all Quebecers when she puts forward an idea of forcing people to choose between their work and their religion, to set out an idea of second-class Quebecers who would not qualify to work in public institutions because of their religion," Trudeau said.

"Quebecers are better than this," Trudeau added, "and Madame Marois is going to find that out the hard way."

James Fitz-Morris of CBC News said that the proposed charter of values legislation is a red herring for Parti Quebecois separation aspirations.

"Is the Parti Québécois government attempting to set itself up for a political win-win?" Fitz-Morris wondered, saying that, win or lose, the separatists would gain ground.

"On the first front: If it is successful in entrenching secularism and religious neutrality in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it will set Quebec on a new course quite different from the other provinces. That could make it easier down the road to argue Quebec is so different from the rest of Canada that it should separate," he said.

"If Ottawa were to interfere and block Quebec from proceeding, or defeat the proposed changes in court later, Quebec could argue the rest of Canada is incompatible with what Quebecers want and, therefore, push for separation," he added.

Religious and pro-family leaders across the country have expressed serious concern about the charter of values legislation's impact on religious freedom and human rights.

Montreal's Archbishop denounced the Marois government’s proposed legislation, calling the ban on conspicuous religious symbols worn by public employees a violation of their religious rights.

"I think it is a violation of the right to have a religion, and to be religious. Because it is not only about private religion, private life. It's also about public life," said Archbishop Christian Lépine.

Brian Lilley, senior correspondent for Sun Media on Parliament Hill, called the Parti Quebecois values charter "an outright attack on individual freedom."

Lilley wrote in his blog that while he can understand that support for the proposed legislation is largely due to "a fear and understandable discomfort with Muslim women covering their faces in public," because "the niqab and burka are foreign concepts to Canada and most people do not like them," he said that the PQ government's strategy to deal with the "sense of anxiety Quebecers are feeling regarding the burka and niqab," is taking a "sledgehammer approach to the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Quebecers."

"In Canada, we expect to see the faces of the people we pass on the street, that we meet in stores, doctors’ offices or at our local schools," Lilley observed. "But...when did it become a Canadian or Quebec value to have government bureaucrats set our wardrobe?"

Lilley argued that the PQ government's intention to pass legislation that would limit freedom of religion is "running roughshod" over the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

"It is clear the majority of Canadians from coast to coast reject people covering their faces in public," Lilley stated, but added, "We will have to find a way to deal with that growing trend one way or another, but attacking freedom of religion is the wrong way to go about it."

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) condemned the proposed measure, saying the ban targets some religious groups of Quebec citizens, but not others, and strips the targeted groups of the opportunity to seek or retain employment with provincial and municipal governments, and potentially with private employers, as well.

“Premier Marois and government officials have claimed that such a ban treats all Quebeckers equally, and places them on equal footing, but that is not the case,” said EFC President Bruce Clemenger in a statement. 

“The Charter of Values does not require most Christians to choose between religious observance – the practice requirements of their faith – and government employment as there is nothing distinctive about what we Christians, or secularists for that matter, wear," he said. "The proposal does mean that adherents of those faiths that do require the personal display of symbols or that specific headgear or other clothing be worn are being asked to choose between their religion and being a civil servant.”

“This is not neutral nor an equal treatment of religion” said Clemenger. “Only some religious groups will be impacted and it does not treat religious adherents equally as it imposes the practices of some who do not wear distinctive attire on all.“

The Catholic Civil Rights League said the Quebec government’s plan to introduce the charter of Quebec values is an overkill reaction to existing tensions in the province that would not withstand a constitutional challenge.

"The proposed ban on religious symbols is clearly an issue of religious freedom, and also raises a second question: just how far the state can go in imposing religious conformity on its citizens," said CCRL Executive Director Joanne McGarry in a statement

"The fact that public institutions are expected to be neutral on religious matters does not mean the people working in them are. A sweeping ban on the wearing of religious or cultural symbols would limit employees’ religious freedom, and it would probably also increase the sense of exclusion of minorities and of religious believers," McGarry said.

"In a society that guarantees religious freedom, it is difficult to see how such a sweeping ban could withstand a constitutional challenge," McGarry concluded.

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‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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