The end game for public Christianity

A decision by Saskatchewan's top court ruling that the province's marriage commissioners cannot refuse to wed same-sex couples is a step toward equality rights for all Canadians–or is it?

Justice Robert Richards of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that province's proposed legislation, which would accommodate a marriage commissioner's religious views (allowing them to refuse to marry a same-sex couple if it is contrary to their religious beliefs), is unconstitutional. By doing so, the court not only brushed aside the role of elected members of the legislature in passing laws, but effectively declared that some rights trump others.

Activist courts are a fact of political life in Canada. But judges deciding that some rights supersede other rights inevitably makes winners and losers of Canadians. Are we surprised that people of faith are inevitably getting the short end of the stick in this judicial mess?

In the Saskatchewan case, provincial government lawyers argued that marriage commissioners were entitled to their religious beliefs and that same-sex couples seeking to be married were not being denied the opportunity, just the service of a particular commissioner. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, in its submission to the court, pointed out that most provinces in Canada accommodate marriage commissioners and their religious beliefs one way or another.

This is all very reasonable. Government services to same-sex couples are available while respecting the deeply held beliefs of commissioners. Not good enough, according to ever vigilant gay and lesbian activists. “Discriminatory" religious beliefs are bad and our politically correct witch hunters will not rest until the religiously-inclined commissioners are dragged out and communally shamed for the bad beliefs.

This decision should also make it clear to religious groups that secular governments and especially the courts will not tolerate anyone on the public payroll deviating from the politically correct true faith when it comes to “discrimination." The fact that marriage commissioners are paid by governments makes it inevitable that they will be made to abide by secular rules–personal beliefs be damned.

Religious organizations have been challenged on policies that require employees or students to adhere to faith-based code of conduct which sometimes prohibits same-sex relations. Recently, a Catholic school board in Ontario overturned its ban on gay-straight alliance groups in schools after intense media-driven pressure. Maybe such policies should be overturned. But the message here is if you are on the public payroll, you will adhere to secular beliefs–religious beliefs be damned.

People and organizations who hold to traditional religious beliefs that run counter to the secular world view–especially Christians–have come to expect to be treated like pariahs or second-class citizens by the courts, politicians and the media. But the Saskatchewan case raises the attack on religious beliefs to a new and uglier level.

Richards not only ruled that marriage commissioners need to leave their beliefs at home when they go to work, but actually linked declining to wed same-sex marriages with racial bigotry: “It is not difficult for most people to imagine the personal hurt involved in a situation where an individual is told by a government officer, 'I won't help you because you are black (or Asian or First Nations) but someone else will.'"

There you have it. The government-appointed Christian commissioner–or the clerk who processes my driver's licence renewal who just happens to be a follower of Christ–might turn into a White Supremacist or anti-Semite if not watched closely.
Let's understand that we're not talking about getting a driver's licence or ordering new plates for your car when it comes to the services provided by a marriage commissioner. The driver's licence employee is not being asked to solemnize my licence plate. There is no religious belief involved in giving me my driver's licence so I can drive my Toyota. But asking a marriage commissioner to marry a couple whose union is in conflict with deeply held personal beliefs on an issue of significant importance to most faiths–matrimony–is another matter.

But the pain caused by having personal religious beliefs rubbed in the dirt does not matter compared to the “hurt" same-sex couples will face if a marriage commissioner refers them to a colleague who will be only too willing to share in their particular marital joy.

It is “end game" for public Christianity.

The next step in this obsession activist groups have over the institution of marriage will be to outlaw ministers, imams or rabbis who refuse to marry same-sex couples. After all, aren't clerics benefiting from the state through the tax system? Aren't places of worship benefiting from generous property tax systems?

Watch for other provinces to follow Saskatchewan's lead.

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