Canada legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2005, the fourth country in the world to do so. During the rushed public debate that preceded legalization, the Christian and traditional understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman had strong support. Polls showed a deep split among Canadians, and the majority (52 percent) were actually against legalization at the time that it occurred.
Opponents of same-sex “marriage” were given all kinds of assurances. The preamble to the Civil Marriage Act states that “everyone has the freedom of conscience and religion,” “nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs,” and “it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage.”
But how quickly things change. Since the watershed moment of legalization, Canadian social norms have shifted rapidly, and what was once considered fringe or debateable has become the new normal.
Today, different opinions on “gender identity” and same-sex “marriage” are no longer tolerated. Our society is sweeping away respect for religious faiths that do not accept and celebrate same-sex “marriage,” and the Civil Marriage Act’s assurances seem merely farcical. It is not premature to speak of open discrimination against Christians in Canada.
Christian Lawyers Need Not Apply
The Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms declares that Canadians have a fundamental “freedom of conscience and religion” and “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.” But constitutional guarantees are at the mercy of lawyers, and Canadian lawyers have emerged as among the most fiercely intolerant of anyone, including their own colleagues, who fails to support same-sex “marriage.”
This extreme intolerance became evident last year when Trinity Western University, the largest privately-funded Evangelical Christian university in Canada, set out to establish a law school. TWU’s plans were approved by British Columbia’s Ministry of Education, which seemed like the final green light. But in a truly unprecedented move, the law societies of three provinces, including Ontario, voted to deny accreditation to the law school.
The law societies gave only one reason, and it had nothing to do with sufficiency of the legal training of TWU graduates. The sole sticking point was the fact that TWU has a campus covenant which, among other things, asks students to abstain from same-sex (and heterosexual) sexual relationships outside of marriage, and states that marriage is reserved for man and woman.
The benchers who sit on provincial law societies are some of the most powerful lawyers in the country. In debating the TWU covenant, many of these elite lawyers made comparisons between the opposition to same-sex “marriage” and racism. For instance, one Ontario bencher said: “we can draw a useful analogy between public attitudes towards interracial dating and interracial marriage in 1985 and discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2014.” In British Columbia, one bencher put it this way: “there is no way to avoid asking … what this Law Society would do if the community covenant related to interracial marriage, even if that precept was based on religion as it was in the case of the Bob Jones University.“
The implication could not be more clear: Christians who believe in traditional marriage are the modern-day equivalent of racists, and warrant identical exclusion. Christian lawyers across Canada are now repeating the words of prominent Ontario lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos: “I did not attend TWU, but I share its biblical view of marriage…. Do my religious beliefs, particularly about marriage, somehow disqualify me from ably practicing law? That is the inevitable conclusion and consequence if we endorse barring TWU law graduates from practicing law.”
Not only are Christian lawyers being pushed out by their colleagues, but they are also experiencing ostracism from their clients. As the debate over TWU heated in the media, some of Canada’s most powerful corporations created Legal Leaders for Diversity (LLD), a group that now includes over 70 of Canada’s largest corporations. Through LLD, these companies aim to alter the legal landscape by choosing to do business only with pro-gay law firms. Never before has there been a concerted effort to essentially starve Christian law firms out of business.
Catholics Seen as Opposed to Human Rights
The view that Christians are no longer fit for certain jobs is spreading out beyond the legal profession. In March, Toronto’s city council voted to remove the nomination of a Catholic school trustee to the city’s Board of Health. The trustee had not shown any wrongdoing or incompetence, and city councillors didn’t even try to argue this. Their stated concern was that the trustee had a history of voting in line with Catholic teaching.
In particular, some councillors were concerned that the trustee had consistently opposed gay-straight alliances in schools (a 2012 Ontario law states that these activist gay groups must be permitted inside all publicly-funded schools, including Catholic ones).
As in the case of TWU, councillors used an analogy to racism. The chair of the Board of Health asked: “Would we allow that as a society if it was black-white alliances? That’s what human rights are about….” Another councillor said: “These are actually human rights issues, the right for gays and lesbians to lead an equal life in the city of Toronto.”
The writing is on the wall. A mere decade after same-sex “marriage” was legalized in Canada, citizens who do not support same-sex “marriage” are outside the bounds of social acceptability. It is now considered in the public interest to deny them career opportunities and advancement.
Children as the Next Frontier of Gender Diversity
This coming September, all publicly funded schools in the province of Ontario, whether Catholic or secular, must begin to teach an aggressive new sexual education curriculum which is categorically opposed to Catholic teaching on sexuality and the human person.
Starting in grade three, the curriculum introduces children to the idea that gender is fluid, and that little boys can decide to be girls, or vice versa. The message is that transgender desires are just as perfectly normal as homosexual leanings.
This message is already being propagated by our media. For instance, Canadian public radio recently covered the case of a 12-year-old boy who chose to “come out” as a girl one year earlier. This “heartwarming” story includes details such as the fact that the boy’s puberty has now been chemically stopped, and he may be put through female puberty instead.
Young Canadian children have been “coming out” as transgender, and are being encouraged by officials in schools and government, and by the media. Currently, a Catholic school in Alberta is being pressured to allow a 7-year-old transgender “girl” to use the girls’ bathroom. Last year, the province of Alberta issued a new birth certificate to a 12-year-old “boy” who was born a girl.
Campaign Life Coalition, Canada’s largest pro-life organization, accurately expresses the dilemma that Ontario’s Catholic schools are facing:
It is unclear how Catholic schools can implement teaching on birth control, abortion, the idea that being male or female is a social construct, gender expression, and the 6-gender theory, even if retrofitted with a “Catholic lens.” Catholic moral teaching forbids abortion and the use of artificial contraception as grave evils. The theory of gender identity, gender expression and the idea that there are more genders than just male and female directly contradict Christian anthropology of the human person.
The Dawn of a New Dictatorship?
Canada continues to pioneer through a vast social experiment. The legalization of same-sex “marriage” represented the victory in our laws and public morals of a view of the human person and human sexuality that is seriously incompatible with the Gospel. This is turning out to be a zero-sum situation, and Christians are starting to be seen as public enemies.
Last May at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Princeton professor Robert George spoke precisely of these changes in our Western culture, and of the coming persecution of Catholics and other like-minded Christians. Here in Canada, his predictions are already coming to pass:
The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past…. Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel … ashamed of our faith’s teachings on marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. These forces insist that the Church’s teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted, even hateful … these same forces say you are a homophobe, a bigot, someone who doesn’t believe in equality. You even represent a threat to people’s safety. You ought to be ashamed!
…One may in consequence of one’s public witness be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one’s witness may even cost one treasured friendships…. Yes, there are costs of discipleship—heavy costs.
Trinity Western University is now fighting expensive court battles in three provinces, and will likely wind up at the Supreme Court. The Toronto Catholic school trustee is considering an appeal to a human rights tribunal. Thousands of parents have protested against the new sexual education curriculum in Ontario, pulling 15,000 kids out of school to demonstrate their outrage.
But Ontario’s premier, who is herself a lesbian in a same-sex “marriage,” has announced her resolve to introduce the curriculum despite the protests. The tsunami of gender identity politics is only gathering speed, bringing ever more pressure upon those who dare stand in its way.
May the Canadian experiment serve as a warning to America.