Americans are not the only ones facing an election this fall. Their neighbors to the north also head to the polls on October 14 as Canada holds its federal election. Yet one of the biggest issues of the past year — the right to practice one’s Christian faith unmolested by the state — remains untouched by Canadian politicians from all parties. And the persecution is spreading to the United States, as seen in several instances noted below. Sound like exaggeration? Think religious persecution is not possible right next door to America? Well think again. Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals, originally founded to help socially-disadvantaged minorities seek redress against racism in government housing and services, have now turned their sights on Christians and pro-lifers. All this is done in the name of being nice and tolerant. Hence the title of my new book co-authored with Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle in which we document many of these cases: The Tyranny of Nice.
In the name of nice, Canada’s government is silencing Christians and pro-lifers from voicing opinions that others might find offensive. This prohibition applies even when one’s opinion is grounded in Christian truth and charity. Stating that the child in the womb is a human being is one such opinion being floated as potentially hateful. And now that Canadian law has redefined marriage to include same-sex couplings, to state publicly that marriage is between a man and a woman can lead to thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail sentences.
And Americans are not immune from this tyranny of nice. Similar cases are popping up south of the border as well. For instance, Christian photographer Elaine Huguenin was fined $6,500 by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission for crimes of conscience. Mrs. Huguenin declined, for reasons of faith, to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony between two lesbians. Since photography is an art form that requires a certain photographic eye, the New Mexico government agency was essentially compelling speech in violation of a private citizen’s conscience and First Amendment protections. In so doing the New Mexico Human Rights Commission used language similar to that of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Another case involves Marcia Walden, a licensed associate counselor in Georgia and an African-American Christian. She was fired from a government contract for following her profession’s code of ethics. When she sensed a personal conflict between her religious convictions and an individual seeking same-sex relationship counseling — a conflict that would prevent Ms. Walden from giving the potential client the best treatment possible — the counselor politely referred the client to another counselor in her office who did not share her religious convictions, and who could see the client the same day. Despite admitting that the counseling from this second counselor had been superb, Ms. Walden needed to be fired because her religious convictions as a Christian were deemed ‘not nice’.
Yet the tyranny of nice is even more entrenched in Canada. Many CE readers have heard of the case against Fr. Alphonse de Valk, a founder of Canada’s pro-life movement and the publisher of Catholic Insight magazine. For the past year Father has been fighting a human rights complaint because he dared uphold the teachings of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church during Canada’s contentious debate over same-sex marriage. Not content with having won the political war to re-define the world’s oldest and most sacred institution, homosexual activists are now attempting to silence the 76-year-old Basilian priest from the pulpit. What’s more, Father has been forced to pay $20,000 in legal expenses to defend himself, while the costs incurred by the government in its persecution of this priest are picked up by the taxpayer.
Yet Father is still fighting the good fight. Pastor Stephen Boissoin, Fr. de Valk’s evangelical counterpart, lost his case after publishing a letter to his local newspaper critical of homosexual activists who promote their lifestyle in schools among children as young as six. The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal ordered the pastor to pay $7,000 in various fines, publicly apologize to homosexual activists for having offended them, cease all private and public communication concerning Biblical teaching on homosexuality, and refrain from any criticism of the government process to which he was subjected. Should Boissoin fail to abide by this ruling, he could face time in jail.
Another case documented in Tyranny of Nice concerns Scott Brockie, an evangelical protestant who owns a small print shop in Toronto. In 1996 a homosexual organization asked him to print stationary promoting their lifestyle. Mr. Brockie declined for reasons of conscience. The activist in charge of the organization denounced Mr. Brockie to the Ontario Human Rights Board of Inquiry. In February of 2000, the board ordered Mr. Brockie to pay the complainant $5,000, despite acknowledging Mr. Brockie’s religious convictions in its decision.
“In fact nothing in [the] order will prevent Brockie from continuing to hold and practice his religious beliefs,” the ruling states. “Brockie remains free to hold his religious beliefs and to practice them in his Christian community.”
Notice how Canada’s tyrants of nice have restricted Mr. Brockie’s practice of his Christian faith to his local community. So long as he remains within the confines of his Protestant church, he may act upon his Christian convictions. However, he must bow to Moloch upon exiting his Protestant chapel or the tyranny of nice will fine him thousands of dollars for observing the Sixth Commandment.
Now some may object that Mr. Brockie and Mrs. Huguenin engage in business of a secular nature with the general public. What about a specifically religious organization? In 2003, a Knights of Columbus council in Canada declined to rent its hall to a lesbian couple, who wanted to marry in the hall. The couple complained to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.
Two years later, the tribunal ruled that the Knights of Columbus had ‘discriminated’ against the lesbian couple and ordered the Knights to pay the couple approximately $450 in expenses, interest, and $1,000 each for “injury to their feelings, dignity and self-respect.” The tribunal further prohibited the organization “from committing the same or similar contravention” in the future. Despite previous government assurances that no religion would be affected by passage of same-sex marriage into Canadian law, the tyranny of nice took over once the bill passed, deeming that hurt feelings of those who reject Church teaching trumps the right of Catholics to adhere to their beliefs in their own facilities.
G.K. Chesterton once warned that where orthodoxy is optional it soon becomes proscribed. The tyranny of nice is an example of how orthodoxy has been proscribed within Canadian society. What began as tolerance for heterodoxy has now metamorphed into a full-fledged persecution of orthodox Christians. By law, same-sex marriage is taught as equal to traditional marriage in Canada’s public schools. And the same law prohibits parents from removing their children from the classroom when this is taught. To do so is considered a hate crime for which parents can be charged and their children removed from the home.
Such is the twisted thinking of Canada’s tyrants of nice. Numerous studies show that children perform best in stable, two-parent families, especially when the parents are their own. In Canada, however, niceness trumps the welfare of children. Better to break up good Christian families, ripping young children away from their loving parents, than to ignore the hurt feelings of sexual activists.
And thus I can only agree with Mark Steyn, who in the introduction to Tyranny of Nice, wrote:
Canada, one of the oldest continuous constitutional democracies on the planet, is no longer a free society… [In] its determination to enforce a dubious government-mandated ‘niceness’, key elements of the Canadian state have taken a jackhammer to the cornerstone of a free society: freedom of expression, freedom of ideas, freedom of belief, freedom to engage in the whole messy rough’n’tumble of vigorous debate that distinguishes open societies from lesser, stunted, insecure ones. In Canada, in the cause of promoting a bunch of pseudo-‘human rights’, a huge federal and provincial bureaucracy has declared war on real human rights — not least the presumption of innocence, the right to a free and fair trial, and the other pillars of our legal system.