Canada’s ideological left, confident of its control of academe, the Supreme Court and the federal Liberal Party, appeared this month ready to declare war on its most formidable enemy of all, namely conservative Christian churches that refuse to make their teachings conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as defined by the Supreme Court.
Janice Gross Stein, Belzberg professor of conflict management and director of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, a luminary and advanced thinker in the feminist and human rights movement, effectually disclosed the new campaign in an article published in the Literary Review of Canada, entitled “Living Better Multiculturally: Whose Values Should Prevail?”
Her answer was clear: The Supreme Court’s values should prevail. Then she played her trump card. Churches whose teachings fail to conform to the Charter should be denied charitable status in Canadian tax law and exemption from property taxes. To my knowledge it was the first time the tax threat was seriously levied. It will seek to force the churches to accept gay rights, abortion and (in the case of the Catholic and Orthodox churches) female priests.
The Stein article appeared in the fall edition of the Review, but did not attract media attention until an Ottawa reporter, Deborah Gyapong, quoted it last week in the Canadian Catholic News.
Though professor Stein centered her article on churches, synagogues and mosques that refuse to ordain women, the same threat would likewise apply to churches whose teachings on moral questions do not conform to the Charter.
“Religious institutions that systematically discriminate against women are recognized at least implicitly by government,” she wrote. “They enjoy special tax privileges. Religious institutions do not pay property tax and most receive charitable status from the federal government. Does it matter that the Catholic Church, which has special entitlements given to it by the state and benefits from its charitable tax status, refuses to ordain women as priests?”
Once it became aware of this new leftist initiative, the response of the right was immediate. “Religious practices discriminate against women? What women?” asked Gwen Landolt, lawyer for REAL Women of Canada. “It’s only radical feminists who feel Christian practices are against women. And as for charitable tax status, who does more charitable work in this country than the Catholic Church and the Salvation Army?”
Ms. Landolt also saw the wide implications of the Stein article: “We are right at the periphery of perhaps the most serious issue we have faced. All the things that we have had in the past – abortion and same-sex marriage – are closing around the freedom of the churches. This is a gauntlet that has been thrown down.”
Indeed it was, and a case can be expected to appear in the courts very soon in which a feminist plaintiff claims that the church’s refusal to ordain her as a priest contravenes the Charter. That such a case will succeed is altogether likely, given the fact that almost every judge on the Supreme Court bench was put there because he or she was known for a passionate support of all liberal causes.
But since there is no such thing as a “Canadian” Catholic Church, but only a Catholic Church, its view of the priesthood cannot be decided by a circle of politically appointed lawyers in a relatively insignificant country called Canada. So the church in Canada will disobey the court, giving rise to the second case in which the church’s tax status is challenged. If that case also succeeds, then similar cases would follow in which the teachings of other churches on various moral questions would be similarly ordered to conform to the Charter, rather than the Bible.
It is, in short, a doleful prospect for Canadian Christians. They would be watching their churches effectually declared unfit to exist in Canada. Officialdom would view them as alien institutions, propagating ideas and principles loathsome and unwanted in our pristine liberal paradise, which that same officialdom has imposed upon us.
Will it happen? Two things could prevent it. First, the Harper government has cut off most of the funding for Charter challenges, and liberals are characteristically loath to pay for such ventures out of their own pockets. Second, maybe the Nine will see that if they directly attack the churches, they will be fostering in the populace a deep sedition. If the country doesn’t want my church, then it doesn’t want me. Thus the court could wind up destroying not the churches but the country.
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