In December of last year the Federal Government announced that it would require all applicants to the Canada Summer Jobs Program to agree to a formal attestation that:
Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights, and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.(link)
Applicant who are unwilling to attest to this statement are automatically rejected.
The first problem problem is that the statement is vague. Of course, a church supports the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our right to peaceful assembly, our protection against unlawful search and seizure, our right vote and our right to religious freedom are all part of the Charter. It’s against the law to deny someone their basic human rights. The ambiguity comes with the statement of “values.” What are the values behind the charter? That is unfortunately unclear.
Where this becomes increasingly difficult is when this ambiguity is applied to reproductive rights and the rights to identification with a sexual orientation. Both rights are guaranteed within the charter and both are hot button items for most conservative churches.
As a result, inflammatory articles on the issue are now beginning to raise people’s awareness of the issue. Does this new policy represent a “ideological purity test,” as one major network has suggested, to churches who are seeking federal funding for their summer programs?
Another news network provocatively suggested that the Federal government “will no longer fund anti-gay groups.” “Does that apply to me?” I wondered. Am I “anti-gay” if I check the “no” box on this attestation? It seems like we are being forced into a false dichotomy, an oversimplification of a complicated real life situation. I think there is a third way here that the Federal government and the popular media is failing to see. Can I oppose a certain practice while at the same time allowing someone the right to choose that practice? Can I support a lifestyle choice while at the same time leave room for others to choose otherwise?
God grants all people the right to choose good or evil, right or wrong. No matter what your opinion on abortion, gender identity, or any other moral issue, God has granted all people the right to choose. I believe that God has created a world where God is the moral authority and yet God allows people to choose things that violate God’s principles. God does not force anyone to choose good, whatever that good might be, and so neither can I.
For example, I support the definition of life provided by the Christian Medical and Dental Association (https://www.cmda.org/…/beginning-of-human-life-ethics…). At the same time, I also respect a person’s right to choose to do something that I believe is wrong. It grieves me that someone would choose to end a pregnancy but I believe that people have the right to self determine, and that means that they may choose to do something that I believe is wrong. I don’t agree with their choice but I agree they have the right to choose. At the same time I reserve the right to hold my own convictions and I oppose anyone’s efforts to coerce my own opinion.
What bothers me about most of the discussion I’ve read online on this topic is that it makes it sound like there are two options: Do you respect people’s charter rights OR do you oppose abortion. I think there is a third option. I respect people’s charter rights AND I oppose abortion. At the same time, I respect people’s right to choose; even to choose things that I think are wrong.
It’s clear that the federal government needs to clarify the values statement (“What does it mean to support the values behind charter rights”) but I do not believe that Christian freedoms are being curbed here. Christians are free to apply for federal funding here (whether they are willing to attest or not) and Christians are also free to not apply for federal funding.