Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Voice of the Martyrs joins in fight for religious freedom in Canada

“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.


Bene D said...

Like your member clarifications.:^)

Why do you call Boissoin 'pastor'?

By his own admission he is not.

And why in laying out the Christian Horizon arguments do you not mention the millions of dollars in tax payer money CH takes for what they do?

Are you saying the CCCC and the EFC are asking it's members to fork out money for them to take this to court? I don't understand the funding here...

Glenn Penner said...

I call him a pastor because I have seen him referred to as such many times and never have I seen him say he is not. I can easily correct that.

I did not mention CH tax funding because the ruling made it clear that such funding had no relevance in the decision. The issue is their identity as a Christian organization. The tx funding is not the issue here and was made very clear in the ruling.

CCCC and EFC are member funded. Yes, that is how they get their funding and so it is appropriate that they ask their members for help. Where else are they to get them?

Anonymous said...

I read the OHRT ruling and background and was aware this was being appealed. 1992 all over again.
Thanks for the dates, will be interesting, look forward to your updates.

I had honestly never thought about where the money for interveners came from.

Christian Horizons is a service provider, and I assumed (wrongly) they paid legal fees.

Duty of membership hadn't occurred to me.

It's also interesting this is perceived as a religious freedom case.
Given the tax payer funding CH accepts for delivery of services, I see this as a labour issue, and understand it doesn't matter what I think.

To compare VotM with CH isn't a leap I'd make, that's a night/day comparison, I know my perception doesn't matter.

If people wish to refer to Steven Boissoin as pastor, that's up to them, I was curious as to why you did.

I asked him about his case, his reasoning for going the route he was going and his credentials.
He is not a minister(pastor) under my understanding of training, calling, ordination and licencing.


("A) Yes, I resigned as a licensed minister and parted ways with my denomination due to doctrinal issues mainly eschatological.

(B) I interned and went to Bible College in Calgary in 1993 & 94, interned and studied in England in 97 and through the my denominations affiliate school received a degree in Christian Ministry and commenced my Masters which I may or may not complete. Without doubt I have a passion for Theology, Apologetics and Philosophy.

(C) As far as I know I was the first ordained minister to be taken before the Human Rights Commission for propagating their religious views."

As someone who has done the work, has the call, been ordained and licenced, and works in the field, you tell me.
Given Boisson's response to the direct question, I don't see 'pastor' any more than I see 'Dr.' Charles McVety.;^)


AP said...

Ok BD, I'm trying to follow your reasoning re: Boissoin:

You say: "He is not a minister(pastor) under my understanding of training, calling, ordination and licencing."

Then you go on to quote him saying (1) He has a bachelor's degree in Christian Ministry -- plenty of training for many churches.
(2) He has a passion for ministry and has and is involved in ministry. Perhaps there's a difference between your definition of "calling" and that of him and I
(3) ordaination -- He refers to himself as the first ordained minister to be taken before the HRC. Obviously he believes he has been ordained.
(4) Licensing -- ok, he pulled that from the denomination and since the licensing is predominantly a provincial matter in Alberta, given permission to marry, etc., I don't see how that affects the definition of him as a "pastor" or "minister."

Your quotes from Boissoin directly answer each of your objections to him being called "pastor." You are simply looking at the term from a different ecclesiastical perspective than Boissoin (and I).

So, enough straining out gnats ... can we agree that Mr. Boissoin (by whatever title you do or don't want to tack on the front of his name) has a right to express his religious views?

Bene D said...

I don't know what Boisson's 'church' is, don't care.
I didn't ask.

He isn't in a denomination, isn't licenced.

Hardly a gnat and hardly an answer.
A made up episcopal leadership model doesn't make a minister.

'Pastor' Boisson does not exist.
It's a construct for his political issues.

CHRC says Section 13 is a Charter violation. I agree, HRC's are not an appropriate speech issue venue.

Boisson has the right to express his religious views.

Tim Bloedow said...

Stephen Boissoin has indicated that he surrendered his ordination with whoever ordained him, regardless of the legitimacy anyone else may place in that institution or denomination. He made that clear to the ECP Centre ( when we were organizing 3 fundraising dinners for him earlier this year in Alberta. Bene's dishonest allegation that it is a construct for his political issues is unwarranted.

I am the author of the only book on the CH case, "No Sacred Ground: 'Human Rights' Thought Police Clamping Down on Christians" ( and a follower of the illegitimate HRCs for years. The OHRT adjudicator said tax funding of CH was not an issue, so we should in some respects take him at his word, as Glenn did, but we shouldn't go so far as to say it really didn't have any bearing on the decision. The convoluted, self-serving and anti-rational nature of HR arguments, are thoroughly offensive to reason.

CH chose not to challenge the order not to use their Lifestyle and Morality statement in their appeal, which in my view was a tragedy and huge mistake.

Steve said...

Stephen Boissoin here.

Not sure why there is so much concern over this issue. It seems foolish and petty but let me see if I can put it to rest.

Upon my ordination in 1998 in London England, the title Reverend was conferred to me. Upon returning to Canada, I affiliated with a Canadian denomination and was licensed by the Alberta Government to solemnize marriages. Even they recognized the title Reverend.

I have been on staff in three churches (where I pastored) and was the E.D. for a Christian charitable organization where I pastored through para-church ministry.

Through God’s work in me, I have had the opportunity to minister to literally thousands of young people about the love of God, His plan of salvation through Christ and Christian living. I spent a decade of my life in youth work and youth evangelism and have minister in the UK, Canada and the US. I have witnessed His word not return void.

As I have made clear many times, today I am simply Steve the Christian. According to the truest sense of the word (shepherd) I still pastor today by devoting myself to the Gospel message through intentional relational evangelism and the mentoring of those who respond.

Since I resigned, the media often states that I am a Rev, a pastor and formerly both. There is no political agenda some just assume that I am still operating as a Minister according to their own understanding of what one is. At the time of the letter and the onset of the complaint, I was accepted as a Reverend by my own denomination, my province, my local ministerial association, Revenue Canada and a Pastor by those who knew me, those who asked for me to perform their marriages or a loved ones funeral and sought guidance from me.

Titles have no bearing on the work God chooses to do in one's life. Had I thought such, I would have kept the paperwork. This I know from both having them and relinquishing them. For me, the title was about responsibility, not status.

What is God doing through you?

Stephen Boissoin

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit... That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 14-15, 16-18 NLT)

Glenn Penner said...

Thanks, Stephen, for clarifying that. I have the same "problem". While I have not pastored for many years, I still get called a pastor from time to time. Is everyone satisfied now??