Homosexual Activists Target The Knights
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Homosexual activists routinely claim that their drive to legalize homosexual “marriage” is no threat to freedom of religion. So does Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.
A complaint by two lesbians against the Knights of Columbus heard last month in British Columbia might suggest otherwise.
Deborah Chymyshyn and Tracey Smith are suing for damages because in September 2003, the Knights, a lay Catholic fraternal order, canceled the booking the lesbians had made for their hall in Port Coquitlam, a Vancouver, British Columbia, suburb, after learning it was for a reception celebrating their homosexual “marriage.”
The lesbians, who booked the hall in person, claim they had never heard of the Knights — despite one of them being raised a Catholic — and claim they had no idea the hall had any religious connection. The hall stands directly behind Our Lady of the Assumption Church.
As the brief presented to the British Columbia human-rights tribunal by the Knights’ lawyer, George Macintosh, pointed out, however: “The inside of the hall is adorned with a large crucifix, photographs of the Pope and leaders of the Knights, a certificate from the Supreme Council of the Knights, a painting of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary [and] posters of various Catholic organizations.”
The facts presented at the hearing demonstrate that the lesbians suffered no material damage. The Knights apologized to the women for what they regarded as a regrettable miscommunication, returned their payment checks and, after consultation with the Archdiocese of Vancouver, which owns the hall, paid them about $480 in compensation for wedding invitations, postage and alternate hall rental.
The Knights and the archdiocese expected a legal release in exchange for their courtesy. Instead, Chymyshyn and Smith enlisted the legal services of Barbara Findlay, Canada’s most famous lesbian activist. Findlay pronounced in 1997: “The legal struggle for queer rights will one day be a showdown between freedom of religion versus sexual orientation.”
Findlay insisted she bears no animus against the Catholic Church. She said she does not believe Christian churches should be forced to “marry” homosexuals nor that they should lose their tax exemptions for refusing to do so.
“The conflicts begin to develop when the churches want to assert rights past the traditional sphere of their protected acts, which is the church itself,” she explained. “(The Knights) say they will rent this hall for bingo but not for a same-sex marriage. In that area, I say you can’t do that.”
When asked to explain why, she responded: “Because the human rights code says not. The human rights code says that if you’re going to rent the hall to the general public, you can’t discriminate.”
“Nobody is banning persons who have homosexual attractions from our facilities,” said Paul Schratz, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. “The contention before the tribunal is the use to which the facility is being put. If the use is not consistent with the principles and teachings of our faith, that’s when we run into a problem. I would suggest that the homosexual persons’ argument is a red herring.”
The tribunal’s decision, which may be appealed in the courts, is expected in early spring.
Knights’ lawyer Macintosh pointed out that both the provincial human rights code and Canada’s Bill of Rights protect discrimination under certain circumstances, one of which is religious belief. He said this case is quite similar to that of Scott Brockie, a Toronto printer and evangelical Christian who refused to print materials for a homosexual group.
“The tribunal in the first instance said he had to print stuff for this homosexual group even though he deeply believes that homosexuality is wrong,” Macintosh explained. “The court on review said Brockie had to print innocuous stuff. He had to print letterhead for this homosexual group because that cannot be reasonably said to offend his core religious beliefs.”
The comparison to the Knights’ case, he said, is that “the Catholic Church welcomes [celibate] homosexuals, and the Knights will welcome homosexuals.” But they can’t be forced under the law to “marry” them or to hold “wedding” receptions for them on Church property.
Ian Hunter, professor emeritus of law at the University of Western Ontario, said it is obviously offensive to religious people and institutions to be told by quasi-judicial agencies what counts as “innocuous.” He said Canada suffers under a “new despotism” administered by “a plethora of administrative agencies, boards, commissions and tribunals that mutually reinforce a whole legal system that operates outside the regular courts.”
Hunter is in no doubt as to where this road leads — Canada’s churches will be forced to “marry” homosexuals.
“It’s simply a question of whether this happens tomorrow or two years from now or five years from now,” Hunter said. “The federal government would be just as happy to leave the issue alone, but I don’t think they’ll be allowed to leave it alone; just as they weren’t allowed to leave homosexual ‘marriage’ alone. It will be put to them as a fait accompli.”
However, defenders of traditional marriage point out that homosexual “marriage” is not yet a fait accompli in Canada. The Church is more united on this issue than it has been on any social issue for decades. Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic of Toronto made front-page news last month when he released an open letter to Prime Minister Martin demanding that he reaffirm traditional marriage lest he destroy society.
Member of Parliament Pat O’Brien, a firm opponent of the bid to legalize same-sex “marriage” even though he is a member of Martin’s ruling Liberal Party, charged Feb. 2 that the party was pressuring its members to support the legislation despite having promised that they could vote according to their conscience on the issue. O’Brien, who is Catholic, said the pressure demonstrated that Martin fears the legislation will be defeated if members of Parliament are allowed to vote freely.
“What it tells me is that this vote’s closer than people would like to think and that the government’s a little nervous,” O’Brien said, according to the Canadian Press.
A poll released last month by the National Post is even more cheering for opponents of homosexual “marriage.” It revealed that, despite claims Canada has embraced “progress,” two-thirds of Canadians say they support keeping marriage the union of one man and one woman.
Kevin Michael Grace writes
from Victoria, British Columbia.
- February 20-26, 2005