Chris Selley: Canada’s secret ‘values’ debate
“I … find it regrettable that [Mr. Harper’s] delegation includes someone who is homophobic,” Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau said. “Homophobia doesn’t represent Canada,” said his NDP counterpart Paul Dewar.
Stephen Harper’s critics had a busy few days researching the 200-plus Canadians who accompanied the Prime Minister to Israel last week. It turns out that some hold views on Middle Eastern affairs that, like Mr. Harper’s, are insufficiently nuanced for soft-power sensibilities. No surprise there.
But regional politics wasn’t the only bone of contention back home. The Globe and Mail considered it news that junketeer Shawn Ketcheson, a pastor at Trinity Bible Church in Ottawa, was invited to Israel despite his negative views of homosexuality and its acceptance in public schools. (“Anti-gay pastor is travelling with Harper’s delegation in Israel,” read the online headline.)
“The word of God is very clear in Romans 1:26 on same-sex relations,” Mr. Ketcheson argued in a sermon posted online. “Lesbianism, woman lying with a woman. Word of God says it’s wrong. The Scripture that we … read says that the world exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”
As “anti-gay” rhetoric goes, it’s not especially vitriolic. But it was enough to give opposition politicians the vapours. “I … find it regrettable that [Mr. Harper’s] delegation includes someone who is homophobic,” Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau told the Globe. “Homophobia doesn’t represent Canada,” said his NDP counterpart Paul Dewar. “It represents discrimination that the government must condemn at home and abroad.”
That seems clear enough: All homophobia must actively be condemned as such, even if it derives from Charter-protected religious beliefs. All such homophobes must be publicly denounced and shunned. But if politicians applied those principles consistently, they would lead us to some interesting places.
Not all Catholics believe homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “of great depravity” — pace the Catechism — but the clergy certainly do. Just ask them. “Even our priests sometimes do not feel free to preach on homosexuality and sexual morality because they are accused of homophobia,” Cardinal Marc Ouellet complained in 2005, in the midst of the same-sex marriage debate. “This is an insane atmosphere in our country and our communities and it is not good for religious freedom if you cannot express your views and you cannot teach your beliefs.”
The leaders of Mr. Dewar’s and Mr. Garneau’s parties are both Catholic. Justin Trudeau got married in a Catholic church — right in the middle of the same-sex marriage debate, in fact. Did he do something wrong? Must Catholic politicians stop going to church or consorting with the devout?
It’s pretty clear, for whatever reason, that evangelical Christians get a rougher ride on these issues than other faith communities.
Next time Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic school system creates controversy over its treatment of gay students, will Liberal and New Democrat politicians hurl their H-bombs at the bishops, at the school boards, at particularly devout parents and students? It seems unlikely, when they can’t even bring themselves to say a bad word against the bizarrely anachronistic system itself. Similarly, I don’t recall politicians throwing invective around when an imam dropped by the publicly funded Edmonton Islamic Academy to give a talk comparing gays to those afflicted with diabetes, cancer and AIDS.
It’s pretty clear, for whatever reason, that evangelical Christians get a rougher ride on these issues than other faith communities. But there’s more to it than that, I think. We saw with the recent furor at York University — where a professor denied a student’s request not to work with women, but the administration allowed it — that a great many of us are simply not content to accommodate Charter-protected religious rights where that would compromise Charter-protected gender rights. Similarly, comments like Mr. Dewar’s and Mr. Garneau’s suggest they are unwilling even to tolerate Charter-protected religious opinions where they involve negative views of Charter-protected sexual orientation.
It’s one thing to argue for change, as politicians in Quebec are: One of the less offensive elements of the proposed secularism charter is that it would privilege gender equality over religion — all religion — in provincial human rights legislation. It would certainly be no surprise if such an idea took hold in the modern Rest of Canada as well, with respect to gender and sexual orientation as well.
Yet in the Rest of Canada, politicians aren’t advocating legal changes. They seem to have started simply proclaiming certain opinions unpresentable, or even un-Canadian — ”This is Canada, pure and simple,” a scandalized Liberal MP Judy Sgro said of York’s position — while ignoring the obvious ramifications of their positions were they consistently applied. Worse, they’re not consistently applying them and they show no signs of starting. As ever, many on the Canadian centre-left seem to be indulging a paranoid obsession with evangelicals, and it’s just as discreditable as Quebec politicians’ paranoid obsession with Muslims. Ugly as it is, at least Quebec’s “values” debate is playing out in the light of day.
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