Back in 1215, England’s King John made legal history when he bowed to the will of his barons and signed the Magna Carta. John bound himself and his “heirs forever” to grant “to all freemen of our kingdom” the rights and liberties the charter described, including the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, and the right to not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

In August of this year, a group of Christian conservatives met in the small northern British Columbia town of Tumbler Ridge, and drafted what they call “a new Magna Carta for Canada.” The 10-day “Wilderness Conference” was led by three individuals: Arne Bryan, the founder and national director of Prayer Canada; Ron Gray, the leader of Canada’s Christian Heritage Party; and Reverend Ken Campbell, the national director of Canada’s Civilized Majority.

The document is ambitious in scope. It calls on elected representatives to remove all judges who reject the theistic principles and moral values upon which Canada was founded, and replace them with judges who affirm without moral or mental reservations their commitment to theistic and moral principles. It also calls for the daily recitation of prayers in all public school classrooms, and the enforcement of “theistic principles in the administration of all publicly funded educational institutions in Canada, from kindergarten through university.” A copy has been sent to Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Gray told reporters at a press conference, “It’s time for Canadians to re-assert their most fundamental rights: freedom of speech and thought, freedom of religion and the corresponding right to raise our children according to our beliefs, the right to life and liberty, and freedom from being assaulted in public by displays of indecency.”

He added: “We hope that a new set of barons will rise up. I’m not advocating that we do it at sword point, but that we demand of government the restoration and the defence of our rights.”

Bryan, Gray and Campbell all agree a new Magna Carta is needed to challenge what they see as a tyranny of unelected, unaccountable judges who have usurped power from elected representatives through the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Writing recently in Report newsmagazine, columnist Paul Bunner argued, “The cornerstone of modern Western civilization, legal marriage between men and women,” was attacked by Ontario Justice Henry LaForme, who found that the exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage is in fact a violation of equality rights for gays and lesbians. Bunner added that “marriage is only the latest legal or social convention targeted by the network of political activists, lawyers, academics and judges who inhabit the aptly named Court Party.”

The Court Party has, according to Bunner, “succeeded in substantially boosting the legal rights of the criminally accused, doing away with all legal restrictions on abortion, entrenching a uniquely Canadian form of apartheid for Indians, and expanding the rights of pornographers and pedophiles. Along the way, they have diminished the ‘fundamental freedoms’ of thought, belief, conscience, religion, opinion and expression.”

Speaking to The Interim, Campbell calls himself an “irrepressible optimist,” saying: “After 50 years of ministry, I’ve come to realize that the God in Heaven often breaks into the consciousness of nations in small, out-of-the-way places like right here in Tumbler Ridge.” As evidence of hope, he points out that B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell recently abolished his province’s Human Rights Commission, and that the town of Tumbler Ridge now has a weekly prayer service in the town hall, whereas such a result would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. “There’s something really special happening in this town,” said Campbell, adding a quotation from the Book of Isaiah: “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the West, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”

Asked why the public has not become upset by rampant judicial activism, Campbell puts some of the blame on mainline Christian churches.