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“He who pays the piper calls the tune,” goes the old saying. The person who pays for something has the right to decide how that thing operates and what it does. This also holds true for the government, as Canada’s religious minorities are finding out the hard way.
Mill Stream Bible Camp, a 90-minute drive north-east of Toronto, welcomes all children to its summer camps, where they enjoy swimming, archery, canoeing, basketball and other ways to experience fun, recreation and hope.
The same goes for Mount Traber Bible Camp in Nova Scotia, whose stated aim is “to show the love of Jesus Christ to boys and girls in a wholesome and fun way in the great outdoors.”
Both camps rely heavily on volunteer labour and donations.
Both camps provide generous financial assistance to families who lack the means to pay the regular registration costs. Many underprivileged children are, therefore, able to enjoy summer camps.
In 2018, both camps were denied Canada Summer Jobs grants because they refused to check off an “attestation” expressing their agreement with Justin Trudeau’s belief that abortion is a Charter right.
After the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and others fought court actions against this compelled speech, the federal government toned down its attestation for 2019. Canada Summer Jobs now requires that non-profits and businesses agree to refrain from undermining or restricting “the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” Both Mill Stream Bible Camp and Mount Traber Bible Camp could and did, in good conscience, agree with this rather vague attestation. This should have been the end of the matter.
But the federal government found another way to prevent Christian organizations from receiving Canada Summer Job grants.
With the direct involvement of Prime Minister Trudeau, the government created an excessive list of new “ineligibility” rules for the Canada Summer Jobs program. Federal bureaucrats now scour the web looking for “offensive” religious teachings that run counter to the woke gospel of identity politics. The intolerant, judgmental slogans of “inclusion,” “equity,” and “diversity” now run government policy.
In 2019 both camps were denied grants due to “controversial church doctrines” and “discriminatory” hiring practices based on church beliefs. These “controversial” beliefs have been taught for thousands of years by many Christian churches, for example: people are sinful and have separated themselves from a righteous and holy God; our immortal souls will eventually spend all eternity in heaven with God, or in hell apart from God; Jesus alone offers salvation; an authentic Christian lifestyle includes sexual purity.
These teachings are pure heresy to those who deny the existence of God, or those who reject the idea of a perfect and demanding God who does not tolerate sin. The very idea of the existence of hell, or any need to be saved from it, is distasteful to the secular progressives who run Canada. Any suggestion of sexual restraint generates intense and even rabid opposition from most atheists, agnostics, relativists, progressives and other secularists.
However, secular progressives, as well as traditional religious believers, have developed answers to the moral and philosophical questions of why we exist, and how we should live our lives. Secular and religious beliefs about compassion, kindness and honesty cannot be measured or described scientifically, and fall into the realms of philosophy and metaphysics.
In a free and democratic society, the government should be neutral on metaphysical beliefs. Further, a free country is supposed to tolerate authentic diversity, such that individuals and groups can access government programs without holding to the “correct” metaphysical beliefs. Practically speaking, diversity and neutrality should mean that when theists are in charge of government, they do not seek to punish atheists for adhering to the “wrong” beliefs. Likewise, when atheists or other secularists are in power, they should not seek to punish Christians or other theists for living by the “wrong” beliefs.
In violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canada Summer Jobs program has been used by the Trudeau government to punish Christian summer children’s camps, purely for not following the “correct” beliefs about God, morality, eternity and sin. This deliberate exclusion of Christian ministries from Canada Summer Jobs grants has been carried out in the name of “inclusion,” “diversity,” and “non-discrimination.” How our courts will deal with this state-mandated secularist intolerance remains to be seen.
Apart from the performance of Canadian courts in upholding (or negating) our Charter freedoms, many religious believers need to re-think their decades-old love affair with big government. From the 1930s through to the 1960s and beyond, Christians embraced, or at least did not oppose, the government’s gradual takeover of health care, education, and numerous social services and charitable activities that used to be operated primarily by religious organizations. What started out as “free” money for religious charities has now turned into an aggressive intolerance of the very mission, character and purpose of these charities.
If Christian schools, hospitals, orphanages, adoption agencies and summer camps had not become dependent on money coerced from citizens through high rates of taxation, then government would not be in a position to violate fundamental Charter freedoms by distributing grant money on the basis of holding to the “correct” beliefs about life’s ultimate questions.
A government that has the power to provide everything for you also has the power to take everything away from you. In other words, were it not for big government, Christian summer camps would be able to receive more donations from citizens, who would be able to give more because they pay less tax. In a low-tax, small-government country, Christian charities could teach and promote the doctrines of their choice, without needing government approval.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca), which acts for Mount Traber Bible Camp and Mill Stream Bible Camp in their court actions against the federal government.