Canadian Crackdown: A Repost from Michael Coren

Canadian Crackdown

A considered and empathetic opposition to same-sex marriage has nothing to do with phobia or hatred, but that doesn’t stop Christians, conservatives, and anybody else who doesn’t take the fashionable line from being condemned as Neanderthals and bigots. This is a lesson that Canadians have learned from painful experience.

Same-sex marriage became law in Canada in the summer of 2005, making the country the fourth nation to pass such legislation, and the first in the English-speaking world. In the few debates leading up to the decision, it became almost impossible to argue in defense of marriage as a child-centered institution, in defense of the procreative norm of marriage, in defense of the superiority of two-gender parenthood, without being thrown into the waste bin as a hater. What we’ve also discovered in Canada is that it can get even worse than mere abuse, and that once gay marriage becomes law, critics are often silenced by the force of the law.

Although precise figures about gay marriages in Canada are elusive, there are thought to be fewer than 30,000, after an initial surge of around 10,000 as soon as the law was passed. But if large numbers of gay people failed to take advantage of the law, the law certainly took advantage of its critics. Again, definitive figures are almost impossible to state, but it’s estimated that, in less than five years, there have been between 200 and 300 proceedings — in courts, human-rights commissions, and employment boards — against critics and opponents of same-sex marriage. And this estimate doesn’t take into account the casual dismissals that surely have occurred.

In 2011, for example, a well-known television anchor on a major sports show was fired just hours after he tweeted his support for “the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.” He had merely been defending a hockey player’s agent who was receiving numerous death threats and other abuse for refusing to support a pro-gay-marriagecampaign. The case is still under appeal, in human-rights commissions and, potentially, the courts.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, Alberta, Fred Henry, was threatened with litigation and charged with a human-rights violation after he wrote a letter to local churches outlining standard Catholic teaching on marriage. He is hardly a reactionary — he used to be known as “Red Fred” because of his support for the labor movement — but the archdiocese eventually had to settle with the complainants to avoid an embarrassing and expensive trial.

In the neighboring province of Saskatchewan, another case illustrates the intolerance that has become so regular since 2005. A number of marriage commissioners (state bureaucrats who administer civil ceremonies) were contacted by a gay man eager to marry his partner under the new legislation. Some officials he telephoned were away from town or already engaged, and the first one to take his call happened to be an evangelical Christian, who explained that he had religious objections to carrying out the ceremony but would find someone who would. He did so, gave the name to the man wanting to get married, and assumed that this would be the end of the story.

But no. Even though the gay couple had had their marriage, they decided to make an official complaint and demand that the commissioner be reprimanded and punished. The provincial government argued that, as a servant of the state, he had a duty to conduct state policy, but that any civilized public entity could accept that such a fundamentally radical change in marriage policy was likely to cause division, and that as long as alternative and reasonable arrangements could be made and nobody was inconvenienced, they would not discipline their employee for declining to marry same-sex couples. Anybody hired after 2004 would have to agree to conduct such marriages, they continued, but to insist on universal approval so soon after the change would lead to a large number of dismissals, often of people who had given decades of public service. This seemed an intelligent and balanced compromise. Yet the provincial courts disagreed, and commissioners with theological objections are now facing the loss of their jobs, with the situation replicated in other provinces and also at the federal level.

So far, churches have been allowed to refuse to consecrate same-sex marriages, but a campaign has begun to remove tax-free status from religious institutions that make this choice. When asked about how this would undermine charitable efforts in behalf of the poor and homeless undertaken by numerous Christian churches, one of the leaders of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, a Canadian gay-rights advocacy group, replied: “We’ll only take away charitable status from the buildings where the priests live and where the people pray.”

As colossally ignorant and threatening as this sounds, it is also downright disingenuous. Four years ago, a Christian organization in Ontario that works with some of the most marginalized disabled people in the country was taken to court because of its disapproval of an employee who wanted to be part of a same-sex marriage. The government paid the group to do the work because, frankly, nobody else was willing to. As with so many such bodies, it had a set of policies for its employees. While homosexuality was not mentioned, the employment policies did require that employees remain chaste outside of marriage, and marriage was interpreted as the union of a man and a woman. The group was told it had to change its hiring and employment policy or be closed down; as for the disabled people being helped, they were hardly even mentioned.

In small-town British Columbia, a Knights of Columbus chapter rented out its building for a wedding party. They were not aware that the marriage was to be of a lesbiancouple, even though the lesbians were well aware that the hall was a Roman Catholic center — it’s increasingly obvious that Christian people, leaders, and organizations are being targeted, almost certainly to create legal precedents. The managers of the hall apologized to the couple but explained that they could not proceed with the arrangement, and agreed to find an alternative venue and pay for new invitations to be printed. The couple said that this was not good enough, and the hall management was prosecuted. The human-rights commission ruled that the Knights of Columbus should not have turned the couple down, and imposed a small fine on them. The couple have been vague in their subsequent demands, but feel that the fine and reprimand are inadequate.

As I write, two Canadian provinces are considering legislation that would likely prevent educators even in private denominational schools from teaching that they disapprove of same-sex marriage, and a senior government minister in Ontario recently announced that if the Roman Catholic Church did not approve of homosexuality or gay marriage, it “would have to change its teaching.” What has become painfully evident is that many of those who brought same-sex marriage to Canada have no respect for freedom of conscience and no intention of tolerating contrary opinion, whether that opinion is shaped by religious or by secular belief. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has just turned 30 years old, fundamentally changed the direction of the legal system, emphasizing communities more than individuals. This has empowered minority groups with the most appeal to quash individual freedom by exercising their political and judicial influence. The system in the United States is different, more concerned with freedom of speech, and generally more respectful of the individual. But the groups and activists trying to silence their opponents are arguably even more radical and vociferous south of the border and, anyway, legal and political assumptions are capable of change; they certainly changed in Canada.

The Canadian litany of pain, firings, and social and political polarization and extremism is extraordinary and lamentable, and we haven’t even begun to experience the mid- and long-term results of this mammoth social experiment. I seldom say it, but for goodness’ sake learn something from Canada.

— Michael Coren is a Canadian TV host and columnist, and the author, most recently, of Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread about ChristianityThis article originally appeared in the June 11, 2012, issue of National Review.

Michael Coren on Christian Persecution | Holy Post

Michael Coren interview: Why he believes Christianity is the most abused faith on Earth

  May 4, 2012 – 10:11 PM ET | Last Updated: May 4, 2012 10:14 PM ET

Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Peter J. Thompson/National Post

In his new book, Michael Coren calls Christianity the most abused faith on Earth. “I believe the evidence is overwhelming,” he writes.

Michael Coren is growing increasingly impatient. He sees the world around him becoming dangerously intolerant of Christianity. In the just-released Heresy: The Lies They Spread About Christianity, his 14th book, he writes that Christianity has become the most abused faith on Earth. “I believe the evidence is overwhelming … that Christianity is the main, central, most common, and most thoroughly and purposefully marginalized, obscured, and publicly and privately mis-represented belief system in the final decades of the twentieth century and the opening years of the twenty-first century.” He rails that the same intellectual class that so quickly condemns anything Christian will do cartwheels to explain away Islamic terrorism. National Post religion reporter Charles Lewis spoke to Mr. Coren in his Toronto home this week about his latest book — the second in a year in which the broadcaster does battle with Christianity’s enemies — and the place of Christians in what he sees as a hostile world.

Q: You start off in Heresy with the statement that Christianity has become the “most thoroughly and purposely marginalized belief system in the world.” Certainly Christians are under physical threat in much of the Middle East and Africa. But is that really the case here?
A: There’s a radical difference in the life of a Christian in the Islamic world and the life of a Christian in the West. And any North American Christian who says we’re being persecuted should really hold on a minute. This is not the same as the Coptic Christians being in physical danger in Egypt.

Q: So how do you see things here in Canada and in the West in general?
A: Christians are marginalized, they’re mocked, they’re told their views don’t belong, they’re told to keep their views out of the public square and keep their religion at home. And where it can be quite sinister is at universities where Christian students they’re told that their ideas are stupid. I’ve even seen it with my children who are in university. Somehow Christianity is not a valid area of thought any longer. You can bring your socialism, your feminism, your homosexuality, your anti-Zionism into the class but if you bring your Christianity that’s not to be taken seriously.

Q: But there is a lot about Christianity that can seem unreal: the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus. Is it any surprise that people sometimes have trouble taking it seriously?
A: Christians are mocked for believing in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection but really what they are mocked for is the moral consequences of their beliefs: that life begins at conception and ends at natural death, that abortion is wrong, that promiscuity is wrong. We live in a culture where no one wants to hear the word “no.”

Q: There is a tone of exacerbation in your book. Are you getting fed up with have to defend your faith?
A: When you get it from intelligent people it’s particularly irritating, because they will give other ideologies and other religions a great deal of room to try to understand. When it comes to Christianity they seem to assume that any sense of fairness or sympathy should be thrown out the window. They will say things that are blatantly stupid and that’s irritating.

Q: Like what?
A: To say Hitler once said he was a Christian so he must have been a Christian and Nazism came out of Christianity. Nazism was the antithesis of Christianity. The idea that because a tiny number of Catholic priests acted in an appalling manner should jaundice everything said by the Roman Catholic Church is also so illogical. You might as well say that no comment by a Canadian should ever be taken seriously because there are some serial killers in Canada.

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Anders Breivik

Q: In the book you say how angry you are that Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, is constantly referred to as a Christian. Yet before it was known who the perpetrator was most people assumed it was a Muslim. If it’s okay to label one criminal with his religion, why not the other?
A: When the Norwegian massacre took place I said the chances are that this is a Muslim attack. I said that because there had been an attack in Sweden by Muslim groups and because Muslim groups had been promising they would attack Norway and because there are thousands of attacks every year by Muslims. It was a perfectly good assumption given all the evidence.

Q: But who is to say that these Muslim terrorists are devout Muslims and that the Christians are not devout?
A: Muslims read the Koran just before they attack and declare what they’re doing is in the name of Allah. The Koran supports violent acts. And I’m afraid many ordinary Muslims rejoice in these attacks. But no where in the New Testament does Jesus justify violence. Jesus never led armies and was not a warlord. The few Christians who do these terrible things do it despite their Christian faith. Those Muslims who commit acts of terrorism do it because of their faith. Breivik hadn’t been in a church in 17 years. There is just no evidence for Christian terrorism today.

Q: But I’m sure a lot of ordinary Muslims would disagree with you, especially those living in Canada.
A: I did a radio show and a Muslim called and said, “Well I believe it’s wrong to attack Christianity and I think you would find most every Muslim in the world would agree with me.” And I said: ‘Sir, I cannot listen to this. I’ve held a Bible soaked in the blood of Nigerian Christians slaughtered by Muslim fanatics. I’ve held the bullets fired from the guns of Muslim fanatics attacking Christians in a Baghdad church. There’s not a Muslim country in the world where Christians are treated with absolute equality.’

Q: Do Christians in Canada stand up for themselves enough or are they cowed by secular society telling them to keep their religion at home or in the church?
A: First of all, forget mainstream Protestants (Anglican, United Church, etc.). They’re barely Christian anymore, and they’ll accept anything.

Q: What about Catholics? In Ontario a new anti-bullying bill, Bill 13, now in second reading, would allow the formation of gay-straight alliances in Catholic schools yet there seems to have been little protest.
A: I think certainly Roman Catholics and evangelicals should have stood up more to Bill 13. We are being told our view on homosexuality is somehow wrong.

Darren Calabrese/National Post

Q: Could the Catholic Church leaders be afraid of being labeled homophobic?
A: They’re going to be called homophobic whatever they do. I think the Catholic Church has spent too much time worrying about the reaction it might get rather than reacting itself.

Q: Let’s talk about homosexuality a bit more. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts represents “grave depravity” and “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered … and under no circumstances can they be approved.” It also says gay people should be loved and respected. You say you have gay friends. Wouldn’t most gay people be insulted by being told their behaviour is “intrinsically disordered?”
A: If someone calls me a homophobe because I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, then I would rejoice in that. But frankly, with gay friends, I try to avoid the subject. They know I am opposed to gay marriage and they also know I’m fond of them as people and would defend them against personal attack. But let me be clear, anyone who hates gay people is a moral criminal.

Q: But a gay person might still ask, how can you be my friend when you think what I do is “intrinsically disordered.”
A: First, I would never use the same language as the Catholic Church. It sounds too clinical. A young gay woman once asked me if God loved her. I told her, ‘We all face challenges. You are loved as a person but you are more than your sexuality. We’re all sinners and we’re all struggling. I just can’t affirm homosexual behaviour.”

Q: I was surprised you devoted a chapter to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. It seemed odd to me you would choose something that is now fairly old and forgotten. Even Opus Dei, who were portrayed as assassins, no longer seem to care.
A: Well, it has influenced millions of people. They’ve been led by the book to read other books that oppose Christianity. Brown quotes real people and he makes a lot of it seem like non-fiction. I thought it was worth taking on again. I wanted to make sure that what is in The Da Vinci Code is just not true.

Q: In Heresy you say one of the myths is that Christians are obsessed with abortion. But in the chapter on abortion you too seem obsessed with it. Can you explain what you were getting at?
A: Christians, I believe, react so strongly to abortion, so intensely because they’re part of an institution given by God — so they feel it more when the most vulnerable are destroyed. And they feel it more intensely than other people. I guess we are obsessed because it is such a tragedy. And if we dare to mention it, the world tells us to be quiet.

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