Commentary by Ian Hunter
My brief is to give the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry, some unsolicited legal advice concerning his upcoming dealings with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Before the advice, here is what has happened to date.
In January 2005 Bishop Henry issued a pastoral letter on the oxymoron that has come to be known as same-sex “marriage.” The bishop’s letter outlined Catholic teaching on marriage, a teaching once common to the universal Christian church, but now largely abandoned by Canada’s Protestant denominations.
Bishop Henry told his parishioners that the goal of the homosexual movement is not simply marriage, but rather “to change society’s rejection of homosexual activity and lifestyle.” And, in the most controversial sentence, he added: “Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution, and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the state must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them to the common good.”
Two complaints were then filed with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
One of the complaints alleges that Bishop Henry’s pastoral letter exposes homosexuals to “hatred or contempt.” If so, then the matter is clearly beyond provincial jurisdiction, because inciting hatred is a Criminal Code offence. On this basis alone, one might have expected the complaint to be summarily dismissed. Unfortunately, considerations of jurisdiction, and even legality, seldom deter the zealots who inhabit human rights commissions. These commissions operate as a species of roving star chamber, beyond the rule of law.
On March 30, 2005, Bishop Henry told a news conference: “Those (who) support same sex ‘marriage’ want to shut the churches out of this important debate. Those who favour same sex ‘marriage’ have full opportunity to state their views … but anyone who speaks out against same sex ‘marriage’ (is silenced.)”
Mary Riddle, a spokesperson for the Alberta Human Rights Commission, confirmed that the complaints against Bishop Henry are under investigation, and this process could take up to a year.
Why? It is clear what Bishop Henry wrote; he neither denies nor retracts it. So what is there to investigate?
When the investigation is complete, an attempt will be made to settle the complaints through what Riddle calls “conciliation.” Conciliation is human rights newspeak for the complainant groveling, apologizing and promising never again to think a thought or utter a word against prevailing liberal orthodoxy.
If conciliation proves unavailing – and so far Bishop Henry has proved a tough nut to crack – then the complaint is taken before a “human rights tribunal,” a kangaroo court composed of individuals whose ideology is acceptable to the human rights commission, which then appears before the tribunal as a party litigant. Needless to say, such tribunals do not disappoint their masters. Bishop Henry is unlikely to find justice at a human rights tribunal.
So, what should Bishop Henry do now?
First, he should stick to his guns, repeating at every opportunity that the Charter of Rights – which contains not a word explicitly about gay rights – does explicitly guarantee him the right to freedom of religion and speech. Alas, though, he will soon discover that what the Charter says is less important than what judges say it says.
Second, Bishop Henry should keep his expectations low. Canadian courts no longer decide cases on law, but on ideology; in fact, the two have become indistinguishable. Courts are now creatures of the zeitgeist, no less than human rights commissions, and the bishop will find that the current is fierce and runs against him.
Third, Bishop Henry should use the councils of the church to try to rally other denominations to his side. The United and Anglican churches are a lost cause, partly because they have long since abandoned creedal orthodoxy and partly because, as dying institutions, they wish only to expire in quiet, offending no one. But Bishop Henry might find allies in some evangelical churches.
Fourth, Bishop Henry should get the personal imprimatur of Pope Benedict XVI on his struggle. This is why: human rights commissions are bullies. They push around those who cannot push back. But the Roman Catholic church has resources, power and worldwide connections. Bishop Henry should prepare to strike back with all the resources of the most powerful church on earth.
Finally, there is the practical alternative. To anyone unlucky enough to have become ensnared in our legal quagmire, I recommend emigration.
As long as one lives here, one is subject to what Paul Martin so often, so odiously and unctuously, calls “Canadian values.” Such “values,” which are really just watered-down liberal values, are repugnant to certain Christian doctrine, but they have become, for all practical purposes, state dictates. However, nothing requires one to stay.
“I just live here” has become my mantra. But, while I chant it daily, I keep an eye on possible escape routes and destinations, places that just might provide a sanctuary from the madness to come.