An evangelical group came under scrutiny from the Canadian International Development Agency, after the Canadian Press reported Crossroads Christian Communication Inc. received foreign aid money to help build wells and toilets in Uganda. The article, written by Lina Dib and Fannie Olivie, attempted to link Uganda’s consideration of imposing the death penalty for homosexual acts to the religious organization’s view of homosexuality as a “perversion” and a “sin.” The Harper government has condemned the Uganda plan to make sodomy a capital offense.
CP labeled Crossroads an “anti-gay” group and noted that its website carried a list of “sexual sins” deemed to be “perversion:” “Turning from the true and/or proper purpose of sexual intercourse; misusing or abusing it, such as in pedophilia, homosexuality and lesbianism, sadism, masochism, transvestism, and bestiality.”
Crossroads Communications, which is based in Burlington, Ont. and broadcasts CTS, said in a press release, “Crossroads is not anti-gay,” and “at the heart of the Crossroads organization is a desire to love people unconditionally and to serve them selflessly.” Crossroads also noted that over the past three decades its international relief arm has delivered $35 million in aid in 41 countries, and over the past decade it has received $2.6 million in CIDA grants.
Crossroads said they do not attempt “to influence matters of policy in countries in which we are completing relief or development projects,” said Crossroads spokeswoman Carolyn Innes.
Crossroads Relief and Development, the emergency response and development fund of Crossroads Christian Communications Inc., received a $544,813 grant from CIDA for a project to promote hygiene in the East African country from 2011-2014. After the CP report, Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino said he asked CIDA officials to “review” Crossroads’ grant “before further payments are made.”
Joseph C. Ben-Ami, president of the Meighen Institute, said Crossroads’ views on homosexuality “couldn’t be less relevant” to its aid work. He wondered: “Is the Canadian Press saying that Crossroads is refusing water to homosexual men? Or that Christians can’t be trusted to build wells or supervise the construction of irrigation systems because they’re Christian? That’s certainly the implication.” Ben-Ami challenged CP to “make the accusation clearly” and “be prepared to answer for libel in a court of law.”
Within two days of the original media report, and the agency’s announcement of a review of Crossroads, CIDA said that the review was complete and that it confirmed the grant was going to the stated aims of the clean water and hygiene promotion project.
Despite CIDA’s findings that Crossroads was not proselytizing with taxpayer dollars, the media and opposition MPs continued to criticize the government for funding the group, and the media continued to find fault with the organization.
Hélène Laverdière (Laurier-Sainte-Marie), the NDP’s international cooperation critic, asked during Question Period in the House of Commons, “how did Crossroads, an anti-gay organization, get sign-off from the minister to operate in a country that Canada has strongly criticized for its persecution of its gay citizens?”
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair went even further, saying inside the parliamentary lobby after Question Period, that the government was supporting a group that espoused views at odds with Canadian values. “It’s shocking to hear Minister Fantino defending the indefensible, “ Mulcair said, “standing up today and defending a group that on its website is attacking something that’s recognized and protected by Canadian law.” The NDP leader continued, “it goes against Canadian values, it goes against Canadian law and he can’t defend that.” He reiterated that position the next day.
Brian Lilley, host of Byline on the Sun News Network, said Mulcair seemed to be calling for a “belief test” to partner with the government.
Don Hutchinson, vice president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said in Activate CFPL, “CIDA funds organizations that meet their criteria, religious or otherwise – 100 per cent legal and constitutional in a democratic nation that guarantees religious freedom.” Hutchinson told LifeSiteNews.com that he hoped Mulcair would inform himself about the contribution of Christian charities to international relief and development and reconsider his statement.
The Globe and Mail’s Kim Mackrael and freelancer Justin Ling reported that Crossroads received CIDA funding for an AIDS/HIV project in Zambia and a program working with prostitutes in Kenya. They repeated Crossroads’ views on sexual sin and expressed concern that they might impede the effectiveness of their work. In an interview with Ezra Levant on the Sun News Network, Ling called Crossroads’ view on sexual morality “not mainstream,” and said they should be disqualified from receiving aid money for projects dealing with AIDS patients or prostitutes, saying he was concerned they might use the opportunity to proselytize.
Hutchinson wrote the Globe and Mail, noting that the articles’ “tenor” suggested “there is something wrong with a Christian ministry.”