Monday, June 27, 2005

Bob Brow’s Model Theology

I cannot now remember the first time that I met the Reverend Bob Brow who had recently become the Anglican Rector at St. James’ Church on the campus of Queens University in Kingston. It was sometime in 1978, perhaps due to our friends Peter and Ann Jervis.

In any case, it was not long before I, and later “we”, (as my girlfriend, then later wife Eleanor) visited Kingston in 1980 and got to know him and his lovely wife Mollie and their children and regularly attended St. James. We shall never forget his sermons and his conversation and the times with him and his delightful, warm, witty and ever smiling wife Mollie (who died October 18, 2004).

Bob turns 81 years of age this August (the 30th) and this small tribute to him is to wish him “many happy returns” and to say “thank you Bob”.

Bob, it turns out, had studied philosophy at the doctoral level after earlier studies at Cambridge and Princeton and world travels here and there. He was fascinated by the implications of Wittgenstein’s insights for theology and he soon got the many students who went to the old gray stoned church interested as well.

He used to infuriate certain kinds of questioners by saying “it all depends what you mean by x, y, z….” and that lesson showed the importance of clarifying terminology. His “model theory” for world religions is hugely important and does much to show how human beings necessarily develop a model to explain their lives and goals whether they know it or not. This insight has been of great benefit to me over the years in trying to understand what we mean by “belief” and “faith” in relation not just to religion, but culture generally.

There is too much to say about this extraordinary man and his influence on a whole group of us at that Church in Kingston over twenty years ago. Fortunately Bob embraced the benefits of new technology early on and his work and biblical teaching may be consulted now on a very good website. There you can read a bit about his life and work. To those of us who knew and loved Bob and Mollie, we can only say “thanks” for their example and their love. Of his friends, and later ours, Dennis and Gladys Clark, another blog needs to be written.

See Bob Brow’s website:

Iain T. Benson©

Inter-faith Sculpture Day in the City Park

The Atheist erects a huge monolith with nothing on it, the Agnostic erects a stunning question mark in bronze. The Jewish artist erects a Star of David, and a Christian erects a large cross while a Muslim artist makes an attractive Crescent. Which, if any, are offensive?

Which one(s) offend(s) the separation of Church and State if the City pays for them all?

Think about it. It makes a useful thought experiment in relation to our current situation.

Iain T. Benson©

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dignity and Difference: Presenting Before the Parliamentary Committee on the Same-sex Marriage Bill

I recently returned from a trip to the humid expanses of Ottawa and Toronto. I was invited to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Bill C-38, the same sex marriage bill. After only a few days to prepare a brief, and no days to translate it (they wanted all materials before them to be submitted in French and English and would help if one got the Brief to them many days before - - too many days for me) a terrible series of missed flights and bad night’s sleep, I eventually appeared before them as their second to last witness CPAC, the Parliamentary television program taped the whole thing so it will be somewhere in a dusty vault for my children’s children to view I suppose … sigh.

The M. P.’s on the Committee were courteous and the proceedings were tightly choreographed. The Chair of the Committee, Monsieur Proulx, informed us that the three witness presenters each had 10 minutes then each of the four political parties (Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Bloc Quebecois) would get 7 minutes to question us.

The presenters were Stanley Hartt, former Chief of Staff to former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and now Chairman of Citigroup, your humble servant, and Rev. David Maines, a television evangelist.

Mr. Hartt went first and spoke eloquently about how the word “marriage” just couldn’t be changed by law and that it was unnecessary to do so. All arguments made unsuccessfully before the Courts. He was right, however, to point out that the Supreme Court of Canada Reference left many unexplored options that the Same-sex Marriage Bill ignores. I suspect this would be just so much “oh yeah, …..yawn…….” from the politicos who are set permanently to the settings of the last activist group that left their offices….

I went next and my brief [ click here ] now available on the Centre’s website (so I shall not repeat my arguments here.) The essence of my brief was that proper respect for the dignity of another citizen cannot entail that I accept all the practices or beliefs of the other citizen. Just as one citizen cannot force other citizens to accept religious beliefs or practices (since based on dogma and belief) so another citizen cannot force other citizens to accept his or her sexual practices or belief (also based upon dogma and belief).

Therefore the government should not attempt to force recognition of same-sex practices (entailed in marriage) by legislation.

Next came David Maines’ presentation. He represents a well-known television show “101 Huntley Street”. He spent four minutes of his important time talking about his past discussions and associations with Svend Robinson (a former M.P. who resigned in disgrace after a ring-stealing episode) and his high regard for the man because he “follows his beliefs” .

The Committee had many questions about the concerns of religious groups. Mostly they professed themselves surprised along the following line:

1) The numbers of gays and lesbians seeking access to marriage is small so “hey, it won’t affect you religious folks”;
2) This law is only about “civil” marriage and shouldn’t therefore worry religious people;
3) Times change and isn’t the attempt to set up “civil unions” or some other non-marital kind of category simply another “separate but equal” kind of thing?

Generally, they (the Liberals and others supporting the bill such as the Bloc and the NDP) wanted to assure religious groups that this bill is only about “civil” marriage and won’t affect religious groups.

I dealt with all the arguments, above, and several more key ones.

First, that “only a few gays and lesbians relatively speaking, want to get married”. The numbers are irrelevant because what is being sought is to change a constitutional norm to achieve social recognition. That will then change all of society because the claim will be made that the new norm should apply in all public fora, including public education, thus affecting everyone. To illustrate the last point I used the following metaphor.

Same sex activists say that their claim is just like adding two drops of oil (themselves) to a bucket of water (the rest of society) - - they argue, on this example, that little or nothing is changed. The reality is that it is like adding two drops of food colouring to a bucket of water - - the whole is changed. That is, after all, their intent whether they are conscious of it or not (and most are).

Second, marriage is a social institution that does not divide into “civil” and “religious”. All citizens are in the civil and the concept of marriage is shared between them as part of our “civic glue” (at the moment). Dividing “civil” from “religious” in this way just plays into the hands of secularism.

Third, the “separate but equal” argument applied to racism does not apply to same-sex marriage claims. The notion of “separate but equal” based on the U.S. case on segregationist education, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) does reject the establishment of prejudicial second-class categories. But the claim for same-sex marriage is not the same as fair treatment in education where exclusions were based on race because rejecting same sex marital claims is not the same sort of thing.

This is because, in racism, one is rejecting a race “all the way down” and rejecting their personhood not their beliefs. Same-sex marriage is a belief of same-sex people, a dogmatic view that they have, it is not the same as rejection of a particular gay or lesbian person per se. I can respect gays and lesbians without granting the validity of their claim for marriage recognition just as they can respect the dignity of a religious person without accepting his or her beliefs. The validity (or non-validity) of same-sex conduct is a belief like other beliefs.

Just as one can reject a belief that a particular religious person may have and to try to use law to force acceptance of my religious beliefs is going too far, so it is going too far to use law to force acceptance of gay or lesbian beliefs - -such as the belief in same-sex marriage. Remember that the law did not define heterosexual marriage, it recognized it.

Of course, in the briefs put before them, and special mention here must be made of Peter Lauwers’ excellent one on public education, [ click here ] and how it will be changed by a constitutional norm change to include same-sex marriage, religious groups explained why the proposed bill would effect them and the long list of recent attacks to marginalize and stigmatize them in Canadian society.

The proposed “Civil Marriage Act” is a clever bit of secularistic planning. It drives a further wedge between religions and society since the line between some so-called “civil” and “religious” marriage is, of course, an illusion. All citizens are part of the civil whether or not they are religious citizens. Secularism simply uses this alluring distinction to get the upper hand yet again. Marriage is for all citizens and the goal of changing it is just proceeding one step at a time - - the pose of giving comfort to religious groups is the step just prior to attacking them head on.

After the Committee had asked its hard questions of Mr. Hartt and myself, they decided to ask most of their questions to Rev. David Maines. For the most part he spoke generally about concerns of Christians regarding society generally and did not seemed well versed in the specifics of the Bill itself.

The old legal adage about not asking a question to which one does not know the answer plays out slightly differently in these governmental Committees. There the theory is, “don’t ask a question unless you think the answerer will give you what you want or will do less damage than others will to the position you want to advocate”. Svend Robinson was a past master at asking questions in Committee, of those he knew would put the worst (or least best) light on the positions he opposed.

The Committee, by all accounts, had been stacked before the hearings began to ensure that its majority mind would not be swayed. Apparently Prime Minister Martin has said “perhaps I ought not to have stacked the Committee so heavily”. Good of him. What a guy - - not only a serious Catholic but dispassionately aware, after the fact, of the effects of gerrymandering…! The Bill is going forward but some of the amendments suggested by the Committee (including one made in our brief) shows that they are unsettled by what is before them. The so-called Civil Marriage Bill is not a good or fair thing for Canada and should not be passed into law.

Speaking with Committee members and a few M.P.’s afterwards it is generally acknowledged that the most effective presentation before them by anyone or group was that made by Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary. The portion of the Hearing with his comments may be found at:

If you want to know what our arguments were, you can read the brief or consult the Parliamentary site :

First Report, June 15, 2005 - [click here]
Committee Membership - [click here]

Iain T. Benson©

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Bishop, the Taxman and the Separation of Church and State

In the exchange that follows, from the Parliamentary Committee Hearings on Bill C-38, one of the quickest minds amongst Canadian politicians, Conservative M.P. Jason Kenney, takes up a point made by Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary who had testified that an official of Revenue Canada had phoned him. First, however, it would be a good idea to set out what Bishop Henry had said in his direct remarks.

Here is a selection of testimony from Bishop Henry:

I want to point to a growing spirit of intolerance in Canada and an inability to think critically.

First, on June 15, 2004, I received a harassing telephone call from Terry De March from Revenue Canada. His telephone number is 941-1647. He called as a result of a complaint lodged by someone objecting to another pastoral letter in which I attempted to clear up some moral confusion engendered by the Prime Minister. In much of the secular media, Mr. Martin was portrayed as a devout Catholic, even though his clarified positions re abortion and same-sex unions constituted a scandal within the Catholic community and reflected a fundamental moral incoherence.

Second, in my response to my January 2005 pastoral letter on the subject of same-sex unions, which was printed in the secular press, I received a number of messages that I would classify as hate mail. I'll give you one example, from Billy, who said, “You are a sick, narrow-minded, disgusting excuse for a human being. Child molesters like you deserve to die.”

Third, two individuals have recently filed a complaint against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary and me on the grounds of sexual orientation discrimination in the area of services refused, in terms of goods and services, and in the area of publication notices, signs, and statements, based on my January 2005 pastoral letter in which I refuted the standard arguments used to support same-sex unions as the equivalent of traditional marriage.

These complaints are an attempt to intimidate and to silence me and are without any foundation in fact. As a matter of fact, the lodging of these complaints constitutes a violation of my rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The recent Supreme Court decision bows in the direction of religious freedom. However, it adds a disturbing qualifier to its decision, namely, the statement that, “Absent unique circumstances with respect to which the Court will not speculate, the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials...”.

When you read this carefully, you don't have to be a lawyer to recognize an open door. Particular circumstances might lead to some future court legitimately trying to force religious officials to perform these ceremonies against their conscience, though the justice system declined to speculate on what those circumstances might be. It's disquieting that the court would even raise the possibility.

Bill C-38 not only does not close the door; as a matter of fact, it fails in a number of particular ways to support religious freedom.

One, it fails to recognize, protect, and reaffirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman, which the Supreme Court of Canada did not suggest was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor did it suggest that a redefinition of marriage was necessary to conform to the charter.

Two, it fails to affirm cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments to enact the necessary legislation and regulations to ensure full protection for freedom of conscience and religion so Canadians are not compelled to act contrary to their conscience and religion.

Three, it fails to affirm cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments to ensure all leaders and members of faith groups are free everywhere in Canada to teach and preach on marriage and also on homosexuality, as is consistent with their conscience and religion.

Four, it fails to affirm cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that in addition to sacred places, all facilities owned or rented by an organization that is identified with a particular faith group are protected from compulsory use and preparations for or celebrations related to marriage ceremonies contrary to that faith.

Five, it fails to affirm cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to ensure all civil as well as religious officials who witness marriages in Canada in every province and territory are protected from being compelled to assist when these are contrary to their conscience and religion.

Six, it fails to safeguard faith groups that do not accept the proposed redefinition of marriage from being penalized with respect to their charitable status.

In response, Bishop Henry was asked questions by various M.P.’s and, as already stated, one was fellow Albertan, the young and bright Jason Kenney. Here is that exchange.

Mr. Jason Kenney: Okay. I'd like to pass to Bishop Henry.
Bishop, you mentioned in your submission that you had received a call from a certain Terry De March from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. I believe that was in June of last year.

Most Rev. Fred Henry: Yes, it was.

Mr. Jason Kenney: Could you please describe for us that call and what preceded it?

Most Rev. Fred Henry: First of all, when you get a call from Revenue Canada, you start to shake in your boots, so it was one of those things that went to the top of the pile really quickly. I phoned him back the same day, I believe it was June 15, and he reminded me very forcefully from the beginning that I wasn't to engage in partisan politics, pointing out that my actions were in contravention of the Canada Elections Act and implying that my actions jeopardized my charitable tax status.

I pointed out to him that if he'd read the pastoral letter very carefully, I hadn't told anyone how to vote, that my letter was a pastoral one to the people of my diocese and was inserted in bulletins and read from the pulpit. It happened to be picked up by the media and reprinted, but I had simply been writing to clear up the moral confusion that was generated by the Prime Minister and the media. I asked him if pastoral letters were now outlawed; he refused to answer that particular question.

He then talked about perception and said that some people may perceive.... I said, I can't control the perceptions of all people in Canada, but I have to assume that they can think, and can think critically and evaluate, and surely to God they can understand that I'm not telling anybody how to vote here.

Then he said, well, are you going to take down the pastoral letter from your website? I said, no, why should I take it down from my website? He didn't answer that either. Then he said, are you planning on doing anything else? I said, I find that question very strange, but no, I'm not contemplating doing anything else. Then he said, I'm going to write a report for my superior; you may hear back from us again in the short term.

That was the end of the conversation. I assume that things didn't go the way he wanted. My interpretation was that he thought that Revenue Canada coming down and calling me to task would mean that I would beat my breast and say I was sorry and fold my tent and go away. When he found out that I wouldn't, and the conversation didn't go the way he wanted, he was upset. However, I think he felt that his purpose was served: I was warned, I was threatened. But since that time, I have heard nothing directly from him.

Mr. Jason Kenney: For the record, Bishop, you said you felt threatened by this call. How so?

Most Rev. Fred Henry: Yes, I did. Well, I think in the first instance it was clearly implied to me, and he suggested, that I had done something wrong, that I had contravened the Elections Act. I was familiar with the precepts and the content of that law, and I felt I was fully within my right as a bishop to teach my people and to clear up moral confusion.

Mr. Jason Kenney: Do you think he was implying that the charitable status of your diocese depended potentially on your conforming your religious expression to his interpretation of the charities act?

Most Rev. Fred Henry: Yes, is the short answer.

Mr. Jason Kenney: Bishop, clearly you're not somebody to fold your tent. If you were just a pastor of a small independent, perhaps a protestant, church and you received a similar call for something you had expressed to your congregation, and the financial stability of your church depended on that tax status, do you think you might have felt even more pressure in that kind of situation than you did as bishop of a large and fairly prosperous diocese?

Most Rev. Fred Henry: No question; several ministers have told me precisely that.

Mr. Jason Kenney: Do you know others who have received similar calls?

Most Rev. Fred Henry: No. Most of them have been intimidated. Based on what has happened to me and it becoming public, most of them are a little bit gun shy right now.

Following Mr. Kenney, M.P. Real Menard addressed the Bishop. Here is that exchange.

The Chair: We'll now go to Mr. Ménard for the Bloc Québécois.

Mr. Réal Ménard: Thank you.
I'm going to speak in French.
I'd like to begin by directing my comments to Monsignor Henry. I've heard a great deal about you. It's a pleasure to be able to discuss this bill in person with you. You have many staunch supporters among committee members. However, you would be wrong to count me among them.

Deep down, do you believe that Canada has a State religion? Earlier, you had some harsh words for the Prime Minister and for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. You're entitled, just like all Canadians are, regardless of their religious affiliation, to your opinions and to your views on men and women in public office. However, the debate on same-sex marriage and the position taken by Catholics demands at the outset that you state whether or not you believe Canada has a State religion and if so, whether you think some believers should enjoy a favoured position with the nation's lawmakers.

Most Rev. Fred Henry: Thank you. That's a good question.

Obviously, I don't think there is a state religion. Nor am I in favour of a theocracy, like they have in Iran. However, what has happened right now is that we have gone to the opposite pole. There is a stream of anti-religious bias within, I'm afraid, the halls of Parliament and in society in general. We don't exclude a Freudian psychiatrist and tell him to leave his Freudian traits outside when he enters into public debate. You don't tell a trade unionist to leave out his thinking. You don't tell a CIBC bank manager. I don't want to be told I can't participate because I happen to be a religious believer.

You'll notice that I have yet to quote sacred scripture in anything I've said today. I have been talking from the vantage point of a citizen who also happens to be a believer. I want to talk about reason. I want to talk about the state of affairs in our country. I want to talk about the nature of marriage. I'm quite prepared to bracket a religious text and teaching of the church for the purposes of discussion.

Mr. Réal Ménard: I have a second question, if you have no objections.

You realize full well that the bill now before us has nothing to do with religious marriage; it came about as a result of a consultative ruling which did not, admittedly, bind the government to a Supreme Court reference. It has nothing whatsoever to do with religious marriage.
Canada does not have an official State religion. For the sake of equality, do all governments not have an obligation to uphold equality by eliminating discrimination?

I have to admit that I'm having a bit of trouble following your argument this evening. You agree that there is no State religion in this country. However, if the government grants homosexuals the right to get married, this would, in your view, violate religious principles.
I can't quite get a handle on some aspects of your argument, because we're talking here about civil marriages, not religious marriages. No member of any specific religious community in Canada will be forced to marry homosexuals in a religious ceremony.

With all due respect, your argument smacks a little of religious interventionism. Are you not trying to impose your views on the lay community and on politicians? Politics cannot be driven by religious opinion or by some particular view of the world. Equality must be the primary consideration, as entrenched by various charters and human rights codes.

Putting it another way, if you consider marriage to be a civil right—and civil rights is the issue here—are you not appealing through your arguments to an audience that holds somewhat extreme views?

Most Rev. Fred Henry: No, I don't think I'm being excessive. If it makes you any more comfortable, I'll take my collar off. I'm just going to talk about marriage. I don't believe that religious and civil marriage are in opposition. What we're talking about is one fundamental reality, marriage as we know it, which pre-dates this country, this Constitution, and all of us. It's irrelevant whether or not I happen to be a religious person. All I want to talk about is marriage itself.

Now, I happen to be both a minister of the state, in terms of having a civil licence to perform marriages, and a religious minister. I'm quite prepared to reflect upon the nature of marriage itself. I don't have to keep talking about marriage as a sacrament. I'm a citizen here. As a citizen, I object to an attempt to reinvent a fundamental social institution of society in the manner in which we're proceeding right now.

Mr. Réal Ménard: If you're prepared to remove your collar, I'll remove my tie.

Most Rev. Fred Henry: We'll exchange. I'll give you my collar.

Mr. Réal Ménard: No, no. You don't understand.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Most Rev. Fred Henry: No, it's interesting. You wouldn't take mine, but I'll take yours. I like your tie.

Mr. Réal Ménard: I am a secularist, don't forget.
Seriously though, you talk about the sanctity of marriage and about preserving and upholding the current interpretation of the institution of marriage.

Most Rev. Fred Henry: I haven't talked about that here.

Mr. Réal Ménard: However, you refer to marriage as a social institution, whereas that is not the case. Your position as a Catholic is not necessarily shared by other religions. You value marriage not as a social institution, but for its religious nature. If marriage is a social, and therefore lay, institution which must conform to the principle of equality, then it's our role to ensure that marriage is accessible to everyone. What connection do you draw between the religious nature and the social nature of marriage?

Most Rev. Fred Henry: Well, I think it's a natural fit. First of all, we're starting with nature and natural law. We're talking about a fundamental institution that serves two purposes. One, it involves the gender complementarity of the participants in this union. Second, there's a procreative dimension or an openness to new life. That I understand to be fundamental, and so far, I haven't used any religious terminology whatsoever.

As a religious person, I would add an overlay to that particular reality and call it a sacramental union in virtue of it being a situation, any bond, that is sanctified by God himself. But for the purposes of this table, I don't have to do that. Let's just talk about the institution itself. That's all I'm prepared to do.

When I use all my arguments that I brought forth and the six or seven weaknesses with respect to Bill C-38, I'm doing so because supposedly everybody keeps saying, oh, yes, but we're guaranteeing that you will not have to perform, as a Roman Catholic, same-sex marriages. I'm saying I don't care what the government has to do there; I'm not going to do it, period, even if it means surrendering my civil licence. I'm prepared to go that far.

However, for someone simply to say that you shouldn't have anything to say with respect to the nature of marriage because you happen to be religious, I'm going to say, excuse me, this is a false understanding of the separation of church and state that the foreign minister, unfortunately, didn't take a course in when he was doing his course in political science. I venture to say there are probably a few others in the halls of Parliament who haven't passed Political Science 020. I say that as a former university professor.

The Bishop could have pointed out, but did not, that the “separation of Church and State” is best understood as a valid jurisdictional distinction important to both but that it is neither here nor there with respect to the cooperation of Church and State nor is the Separation of Church and State another way of saying, as it often is, “remove religions from the State.” These two points are important and need to be understood against the secularistic arguments of people like Real Menard.

All in all it would seem that Real Menard, were he a bowler in cricket - -got hit for six; and CRA (aka Revenue Canada)? Time will tell about it……but it is high time that it had its nails clipped.

Iain T. Benson©

Monday, June 20, 2005

Almost Meeting Terry Teachout

Years ago I was invited to a luncheon in New York City hosted by a friend of mine - - George Marlin. Marlin went on to become well-known as a candidate for Mayor of NYC and then was appointed head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Part of George’s job was to run the World Trade Centre as well as the airports and ports of New York. Yes, that’s right, a huge job. George is a big man. Still is, because, a few years later, such appointed posts being what they are, he got un-appointed (to use a nice word for it) from his job.

Just as well for him since, had he not, his office being the largest suite in it, he would likely have gone down with the twin towers and the thousands of folks who lost their lives on that infamous day a couple of years back. But I digress.

At that luncheon in NYC at the time, I found my place name card and noticed that the seat next to me was to be occupied by someone George had told me about, but I had not then met, Terry Teachout. At the table, in addition to Mrs. Benson, were Fr. George William Rutler, Fr. James Schall and the late philosophy professor William Mara.

Teachout, alas, never showed but the lunchtime conversation was sparkling (as you’d expect from that group of people). Recently, I had occasion to look at Teachout’s blog on the arts scene. Like the new editor at First Things, Jody Bottum, an old friend of mine, Teachout is a master of many genres within the arts and holds together vast cultural interest and insight with a winsome insouciance. Check out his blog:

Iain T. Benson©

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Threats to Tax Status

The Centre for Cultural Renewal has been commenting on tax status threats for some time (see LexView 18.0: 'An Uncharitable Threat' in relation to the Human Life International Case). We have said for some time that the way that the threats to religious and conscience beliefs in relation to same-sex marriage issues will go is eventually towards tax and charitable status.

Well, folks, don't say we didn't tell you. A week ago last Sunday, on June 12th the Ottawa Citizen carried a front page article quoting same sex activists as saying that the church's charitable status should be removed because religious positions amount to bigotry and religious people are bigots.

What next? Well, as we have said for a long time, there will be more and more attacks upon religious institutions and religious people until either the legal system stands up to them or they succeed in making Canada an even more unhealthy place for freedom loving citizens to live.

Those are the two choices: 1) change the faulty legal and other philosophy that has bent law and politics, or 2) prepare for wholesale attacks upon traditional marriage and the family and those who defend them.

There is no third course.

Iain T. Benson©

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

CCCB Points out Canada’s non-Liberal Direction in Relation to Marriage:
Is Anybody Listening?

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (“CCCB”) has spoken out about threats to religions and religious believers in a Brief they submitted to the Special Legislative Committee holding hearings on Canada’s forced gay marriage Bill C-38. One says “forced” here, advisedly, because we are a country that likes to believe that its democratic processes are in place even when they are, as in this instance, being abused.

Same-sex marriages are being rammed through Parliament with no responsible analysis of their implications and without answer to the many groups who have expressed alarm about the social implications. The CCCB is just one of many groups voicing concern.

Will anyone in a position of power - - such as PM Martin, lift a finger to give substantial support to alleviate concerns (such as requesting Provincial assurances that Human Rights Acts will expressly protect groups who do not wish to have anything to do with purported marriages of same-sex relationships)? Hardly. It would be nice to be proven wrong on this point.
A summary of the Brief and the full text can be found at:

The Bishops note that the proposed law will alter the significance of marriage and, very significantly, notes “…the challenges that are already being posed to the basic freedoms of conscience and religion, as well as to freedom of expression.”

Like many organizations who appeared before the courts and made the same arguments, it is pointed out by the CCCB that introducing purported “same-sex marriages” to the category of marriage is not an addition to the category but an obliteration of the only concept of marriage recognized everywhere as a universal norm - - the essence of marriage as male and female. Under the new legislation the CCCB statement says that “marriage as the most basic of all social institutions becomes meaningless”.

The CCCB statement lists several key points, some of which indicate grave consequences to individual freedoms, and all of which have been the subject of comment in past articles from the Centre for Cultural Renewal:

1. When a society issues arbitrary laws that reject the primacy of natural law, the result is not only the risk of social chaos and disorder but, as the 20th century witnessed, a potential basis for state totalitarianism.

2. Leaders and members of faith groups throughout Canada are already being challenged about their right to teach and preach on marriage and homosexuality in accordance with their conscience and religious beliefs.

3. An organization associated with a faith group has already been summoned before a human rights tribunal because it refused to rent its facilities for the celebration of a marriage incompatible with the religious convictions of that faith.

4. Civil officials who preside at marriages in certain Canadian provinces and territories have already been told that their conscience and religious beliefs are not protected in law, even when officiating at a marriage would be irreconcilable with their personal convictions.

5. The federal government has given no assurance to faith groups that do not accept the proposed redefinition of marriage that they will not be penalized with respect to their charitable status.

Of course, use of the vague term “faith groups” is not helpful to the clarity of the CCCB Statement (they should say what they mean - - religious groups since every group, even soccer teams, have faith of some sort but not all faiths are religious). But I digress.

What is clear is that major groups in Canada are now clanging warning bells big enough to rouse even the sleepiest of Canadian sleepy-heads (and they are legion). Perhaps even some on the Senate and House Committee will wake up and take notice of what kind of country is being erected around them and they are complicit in forming.

There are many who wish to use the redefinition of marriage as a way of attacking male/female marriage and the male/female family and/or the place of religions in society. Doubt this? Then you are have not been paying attention.

Quite apart from a relentless litigation strategy employed against religious groups and individuals of a wide variety of types, the language of “attack” has been used in recent academic literature pushing the same sex marriage agenda.

The questions contained in the full Brief of the CCCB are important ones that all Canadians should have answers for from responsible government. Here they are as presented by the CCCB:

"… What authority does the federal government effectively have for protecting the religious freedom of those persons called upon to perform marriages, since the solemnization of marriages comes under provincial jurisdiction? What does the federal government intend to do to protect freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression for all Canadians? How does it plan to ensure that? "

1. Canadians will not be compelled to act contrary to their conscience and their religious beliefs?

2. Leaders and members of faith groups throughout Canada will be entirely free to teach and preach on marriage and homosexuality in accordance with their conscience and religious beliefs?

3. In addition to sacred places, all facilities belonging to or rented by an organization associated with a faith group will be protected against any obligatory use for marriage ceremonies incompatible with the religious convictions of that faith?

4. All officials, both civil and religious, who preside at marriages in Canadian provinces or territories, will be protected against the obligation to officiate when the conditions are irreconcilable with their conscience and religious beliefs?

5. Faith groups that do not accept the proposed redefinition of marriage will not be penalized with respect to their charitable status?

Religious freedom is not limited to the freedom to perform or to refuse to perform marriages involving same-sex partners. Religious freedom is intrinsically linked to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. It is not a concern only for religious authorities, but for all citizens who must be able to express their freedoms publicly in daily life.

A number of serious issues are emerging, including the following:

1. What will happen to civil officials refusing to preside at a “gay marriage”?

2. What will happen to preachers expressing the teachings of their religion on marriage and homosexuality if these differ from the new social norm?

3. What will happen to politicians proposing legislation that recognizes the unique contribution heterosexual couples offer to society and supports them in their procreative role?

4. What will happen to teachers who cannot in good conscience present “same-sex marriage” to their students as the equivalent of natural marriage?

5. What will happen to parents who do not accept a school presenting their children with a vision of marriage different than their own?

6. What will happen to authors and publishers who write and publish texts that present a vision of marriage inspired by moral convictions but not in agreement with the new social norm?

The Bishop’s Conference concludes with words that ought to get everyone’s attention; here is what they say in closing.

"Will those who believe in the historical definition of marriage henceforth be victims of discrimination? Should we anticipate lengthy, costly lawsuits in the courts to defend the freedom to teach, preach and educate in accordance with one’s faith and conscience?"

The authors of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms certainly did not foresee such a confrontation between the different basic freedoms of Canadian citizens. They did not intend the Charter to allow such a radical re-engineering of our most fundamental social institutions. It is thus reasonable to believe that it is the current interpretation of the Charter that is distorted.

Iain T. Benson©