LifeSite Daily News

The legal counsel for both the Catholic church in Canada and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada were asked to be present at a meeting with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency in early March. Janet Buckingham, legal counsel for the EFC, and Jennifer Leddy, legal counsel for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, were warned by revenue officials that should their churches have become involved in “partisan” political activity during the then-upcoming 2004 federal election, they would have risked losing their tax-exempt status.

According to the federal agency, to avoid being partisan means to not address issues on which competing political parties have opposing views. Dawna Lynn Labonté, a media relations officer for the federal minister of national revenue, told that not only would churches be penalized for telling congregants to vote for a certain party or candidate, they would also be penalized for coming out strongly on issues such as abortion and same-sex “marriage.” In fact, it was specifically on same-sex marriage that the CCRA addressed Leddy and Buckingham.

Speaking of issues such as same-sex marriage, where the parties have significant differences, Labonté said, “The best thing for a charity to do, especially during an election, is to stay away from those issues.” She added, “There are certain issues, especially during election times, are very political.” All moral issues, including even poverty, seem to be covered by the election time gag-order on religions. Giving an example, Labonté said, “Taking out a full-page ad before Christmas on homelessness might not be considered political, but doing the same thing the week of an election might be considered political.”

The EFC’s Buckingham told that at the meeting the CCRA asked the CCCB and EFC to spread the word on the restrictions. Buckingham said the guidelines have been in place at least since last September, when the CCRA issued an update.

Deacon William Kokesch, director of the communications service for the CCCB, said he had not heard about the meeting. Leddy was out of the office and not available for comment.