The free society is undermined by the progressive, politically correct claim that the many Canadians who hold traditional or religious views about sexuality are “hateful.”
Diversity is harmed by the notion that only post-modernist beliefs about sexual behaviour can be expressed in the public square.
A real-life example of this is unfolding in New Westminster, BC.
In May of 2018, the City of New Westminster entered into a contract with Grace Chapel, allowing this small church to rent a city facility for a youth conference in July.
Grace Chapel is a multi-ethnic community; most of its members come from Nigeria and other African countries.
Its vision is to build a “diverse church were people of every nation in our community will worship God…” Its conference was titled “LGBT – Let God Be True” and sought to address the topics of pornography, addictions and human sexuality, from a traditional Christian perspective.
In June of 2018, New Westminster suddenly cancelled the conference booking, after learning that one of the conference facilitators was the social conservative activist Kari Simpson.
She and her organization Culture Guard are well-known in BC for opposing the SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) curriculum in public schools.
In a free country like Canada, individuals can agree or disagree with Ms. Simpson’s views. Citizens can attend her events, or not. They can engage in debate with her, or ignore her.
They can call her names, or try to refute her arguments thoughtfully and logically. Individual citizens can discriminate against Ms. Simpson by rejecting her opinions, by boycotting her events, and by socially ostracizing her.
A homeowner has no obligation to allow Ms. Simpson to hold an event on his or her front lawn. Private organizations are free to refuse to provide her a platform.
But governments are entirely different from individual citizens.
Governments at all levels are required by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to respect the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, conscience, association and peaceful assembly.
Under the Charter, public parks, sidewalks and facilities are available to all Canadians, regardless of their political, moral, religious or philosophical opinions.
The moment that a government authority departs from this principle of neutrality, by favouring or restricting an opinion, is the moment we take a significant step away from the free society.
New Westminster claims that Grace Chapel, by including Ms. Simpson in its “Let God Be True” conference, violated a City policy against promoting “racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits.”
One is free to decry Ms. Simpson’s views as dead wrong, but that does not make them racist, hateful, violent, or unfit for the public square. Socially conservative opinions about gender, marriage and sexual morality may have moved from majority status to minority status in Canada, but that does not make them “hateful” any more than post-modernist or hedonist perspectives on sexuality are “hateful.”
When secular progressives marshal the coercive power of the state to impose their views on controversial issues like human sexuality, neither tolerance nor diversity is advanced.
The City’s cancellation of Grace Chapel’s conference affects the freedom of all citizens, not just the members of a small, local, multi-cultural church.
If city hall can ban people who express “unacceptable” views from using public property, then nothing stops this censorship from spreading to other cities, to other levels of government, and to other “unacceptable” views.
Individual elected representatives and individual public servants have their own political biases and religious (or anti-religious) prejudices. That is to be expected.
But government, as the entity that exercises coercive power over citizens and public places, should not try to prohibit or impose any particular opinions in public spaces.
To protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens, government must avoid becoming a well-intentioned censor that bars “incorrect” views from city sidewalks, parks and facilities. These spaces belong to all Canadians, including those with traditional or religious opinions about human sexuality.
Sadly, New Westminster has dug in its heels. The City plans to spend thousands (likely tens of thousands) of tax dollars to defend in court its decision to trample on the fundamental Charterfreedoms of Grace Chapel and its members.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca), which represents Grace Chapel in a court application against the City of New Westminster.