“Imagine that Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity had been told that their ministry in the streets of Calcutta was, in essence, not ministry but ‘social work.’ In order for the sisters to continue in their work, they would no longer be permitted to require that staff members share their beliefs and ministry commitment.
As bizarre as this may sound, this is essentially what a single adjudicator acting as an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently decided in the case of Heintz vs. Christian Horizons.”
So notes, Don Hutchison, legal counsel for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (of which The Voice of the Martyrs is an Affiliate). On December 15-17, Christian Horizons, a Christian organization that focuses on helping individuals with developmental disabilities, will be appealing a decision by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT) that that it violated the rights of a former worker, Connie Heintz, by terminating her employment when she revealed that she was a lesbian in 2000. The ruling ordered Christian Horizons to compensate Heintz $23,000 in lost wages and to stop requiring its staff to sign an explicitly Christian morality code (VOMC requires its staff to sign a similar statement each year).
This ruling by the OHRT is concerning in a number of ways. If the decision is left unchallenged, potentially:
• a Christian charity that is engaged in evangelizing those who are not members of the sponsoring church would not be permitted to restrict hiring to believers;
• a Christian charity that serves the broader community would be seen as not primarily serving a Christian community and therefore not be able to impose faith-based requirements on employment, including use of a Lifestyle and Morality Statement;
• holding to values similar to the CH Lifestyle and Morality Statement could mean a charity "runs a serious risk of being a poisoned work environment";
• an offer of Christian pastoral counselling could violate the Code and contribute to a poisoned work environment;
• a Christian charity could be forced to amend all its human resource policies in consultation with a human rights Commission;
• the decision negatively affects freedom of religion in that it strictly curtails the ability of religious groups to define themselves; and
• the decision negatively affects freedom of association in that it limits the freedom of religious groups to have their members associate freely with each other without challenge from others not affiliated with the group.
The EFC and the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (of which The Voice of the Martyrs is a member) have applied and been granted as intervener status in this vital case, which is expected to proceed through the courts and will likely reach the Supreme Court of Canada. Together they hope to defend the rights of Canadian ministries to require biblical ethical behaviour from its employees. This process will be long and expensive. The EFC and CCCC (who will be sharing resources and efforts) estimate that the final cost for this intervention through to the Supreme Court could near the $300,000 mark.
Because of donations to VOMC’s Legal Defence Fund, The Voice of the Martyrs is joining in this fight by contributing $15,000 towards these legal costs. We believe that this is the least we can do in the face of this dangerous ruling by the OHRT. Please remember this case in your prayers and especially the upcoming trial in mid-December.
In a similar case, In late November 2007, the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) ruled that Pastor Stephen Boissoin and the Concerned Christian Coalition (CCC) violated Alberta's human rights law by publishing a letter in a local newspaper that was "likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt because of their sexual preference". On May 30, in the penalty phase of the proceedings, the AHRC ruled that Boissoin and CCC must pay damages equivalent to $7,000 as a result of the tribunal's decision to side with the complainant, homosexual activist Darren Lund (to view the full ruling, click here).
The ruling also ordered Boissoin and CCC to cease publishing "disparaging remarks" about homosexuals in the future in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet forever! Furthermore, Boissoin was ordered to publicly apologize to Lund in a local newspaper statement.
Boissoin has publicly stated that he "will never offer an apology" and has appealed the ruling. His court appearance was scheduled for September 16-17. As is to be expected in a case that has dragged on for seven years, his court costs have accumulated to over $150,000. VOMC has publicized his case and contributed $3,000 to his legal defence fund. Pray that his appeal will be successful and that the rights of Canadians to speak their convictions freely will be upheld.