Sasketchewan Court Considers Legislation Protecting Conscience Rights of Marriage Commissioners

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) will appear before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Thursday, May 13 and Friday, May 14 in a case involving proposed legislation that would allow the province’s marriage commissioners to refuse to perform same-sex “marriages” because of sincerely held religious beliefs.

In July, 2009, Justice Minister of Saskatchewan, Don Morgan, asked the Court of Appeal for an opinion on the constitutionality of the potential legislation. Morgan told the media that his government intends to fulfill its promise to provide a religious exemption to marriage commissioners, and to settle the issue with legislation. This is intended to resolve the situation that has seen marriage commissioners sue the provincial government over its insistence that they perform homosexual “marriages.”

One version of the legislation would provide complete freedom of conscience and religious objection to officiating at same-sex “marriages” for all commissioners. The other legislative option would introduce a grandfather clause providing a religious exemption from performing same-sex “marriages” for individuals who were commissioners before homosexual “marriage” was legalized in 2004.

The EFC has filed written arguments after being granted intervener status by the court. Other interveners include EFC affiliates Christian Legal Fellowship and the Canadian Fellowship of Churches and Ministers, as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Egale Canada Inc.

A press release from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada states that the EFC will present argument in favor of legislation that would protect and ensure the religious and conscience freedoms of all marriage commissioners, not just those appointed prior to November 2004.

“If neither of the proposed options is found to be constitutional, the limitations on religious freedom will not only affect marriage commissioners but could well impact any Canadians working in the public service,” explained EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson. “It would mean that government employees would be expected to check their beliefs, religious or otherwise, at the door, if inconsistent with their government employer.”

“Some have argued that the state’s duty to accommodate only applies in private settings,” stated Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel for the EFC.

“Somehow, they perceive the right to freedom of conscience and religion doesn’t apply to an employee in a public role. That position is inconsistent with the Charter and Canadian jurisprudence. Human rights and employment law jurisprudence has well established that a Canadian, whether working in the private or public sector, may object to performing a task if it is contrary to their conscience or religious beliefs. To strip all Canadians who choose to serve the public in a government accredited role of their Charter rights is ludicrous.”

The full text of the EFC’s submission to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal is available here.

To express your opinion to the Saskatchewan government:

The Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
226 Legislative Building
Regina, Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 787-9433
Fax: (306) 787-0885

To contact members of the Saskatchewan Legislature:

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