Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In religious freedom, Canada slides from a 1 to a 2 ... why?

Regular readers will recall that I said I’d ask Paul Marshall of Freedom House why FH downgraded Canada from a 1 to a 2 in religious freedom:

He replied:
Re Canada’s score—it reflects the answers to the two questionnaires filled out by the country author.
I think those reflect

-discriminatory school funding

-repression of religious views on homosexuality

-anti-Semitic and occasional anti-Muslim acts

-recent move of Mennonites from Quebec

These are comparatively mild but still merit a 2 (still a very high score)

Of course, when you’re used to being #1, you just don’t like #2, and I agree that the issues Marshall mentions are problematic.

Marshall also kindly sent me the document on which the rating was based. On political and civil liberties Canada rates a 1, but with respect to religious freedom, there ar some concerns:
There is growing concern about repression of religious beliefs about homosexuality. Scott Brockie, a Christian printer, refused to print material for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, contending that he would be abetting sin if he did so. In February 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that he had violated a ban on “sexual orientation” discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code and he was ordered to pay $5,000 in damages to the president of the Archives and to “henceforth print materials for any homosexual individual or group on the same basis as all other clients.” In 1997, Hugh Owens took out an ad in a Saskatchewan newspaper in 1997 listing Bible verses on homosexuality. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal ruled on June 15, 2001, that both Owens and the newspaper owner must pay $4,500 in damages to three people offended by the ad.

I gather that the problem that justly concerns Freedom House is the local obsession with the question of whether people FEEL offended, as opposed to whether anything objectively bad has happened to them.

Law can’t really take into account everyone’s feelings about everything so, apart from a desire to oppress a minority, law has traditionally focused on objective harm rather than feelings of hurt.

(For example: If you think my kid is stupid compared with your kid, does that make you a criminal because I am really, really upset with you?)

I hope the trend toward making feelings a key issue in contentious social situations does NOT spread. It’s just too subjective. We cannot live in each others’ minds, after all.

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