Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 13, 2005
Henry warns of growth in religious intolerance
Calgary bishop rips off his collar to reassure Bloc MP
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Calgary Bishop Fred Henry warned of a growing religious intolerance in Canada when he appeared as a witness before the legislative committee studying same-sex marriage June 6.
"We're into a changed social reality that is hostile to religious belief," Henry said, citing a threatening phone call from Revenue Canada and two recent human rights complaints against him as threats to his freedom of expression and religion belief.
"These complaints are an attempt to intimidate and silence me and are without any foundation in fact," Henry said.
Henry began his presentation with a critique of Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew's recent statement about the separation of Church and state that was interpreted by journalists to mean the Church should "butt out" of the debate about civil marriage.
He pointed out that a Freudian psychiatrist, or a tradesman or a businessman are not asked to set their beliefs and experience aside when they enter into political debate. "I don't want to be told I can't participate because I'm a religious believer," he said.
A state religion?
Henry deliberately left out any religious arguments or appeal to Scripture in his defence of traditional marriage, and, in a dramatic move, tore off his Roman collar in response to questions from openly gay Bloc MP Réal Ménard, who was asking if Canada had a state religion.
"If it makes you more comfortable, I'll take my collar off," Henry said.
He said while he was not in favour of theocracy, Canada was swinging to the opposite pole, and developing an anti-religious bias.
Later in the evening, Henry quipped that Canada did have a new state religion and it was secularism.
Henry warned that same-sex marriage legislation would "open Pandora's box" and lead to a proliferation of court cases that Henry said have already started to intimidate and shut down dissent from leaders of smaller religious denominations.
"You are seeking to blow up the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said, having pointed out in his presentation that same-sex marriage is not a right.
"The so-called 'marriage act is not possible in same sex relations," he said.
"The acts in these relations are vastly different in origin, in real experience and in goals."
Henry noted that even the federal government was not respecting conscience rights by demanding that cabinet ministers vote for the bill, despite their beliefs.
While Henry admitted that so far the Catholic Church had not been compelled to marry divorced people or ordain women, should the bill pass, marriage might be interpreted as a public service and lawsuits might result in pressure for the Church to marry same-sex couples.
Earlier that day, B.C. school counsellor Chris Kempling testified about how his writing letters to the editor about marriage and homosexuality resulted in a suspension without pay, even though there was no evidence that he ever discriminated against any students.
Kempling said he was told his views were "considered discriminatory" and was told by his school board that he may not express his opinion about homosexuality, even outside of work, on his own time.
"I could be fired for talking to you today," Kempling said.
Kempling, who has also fought charges of discrimination laid by the B.C. College of Teachers, warned about the dangers to all professionals who, outside the workplace, might publicly express religious or personal beliefs.
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