TORONTO, January 28, 2005 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (ccrl.ca) today expressed its support for the Knights of Columbus council in Port Coquitlam, B.C. that is being challenged in a BC human rights tribunal for refusing to rent its hall for a lesbian “wedding” reception in 2003. Two women allege that their booking was cancelled after a deposit had been paid and invitations printed when the council learned that it was for a same sex function. The BC Human Rights Tribunal is now hearing the case.
Speaking to this issue, Catholic Civil Rights League President Phil Hogan noted that the league has said all along that the protection afforded religious groups in the proposed marriage legislation is completely inadequate because it deals with only one element of a group’s religious rights. Under the government’s draft legislation, religious officials would retain the right to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies not in keeping with their beliefs, but no protection is provided to other individuals, or a religious group’s control over the general use of its property.
“As we’ve noted in court interventions and our correspondence with Prime Minister Martin and Justice Minister Cotler, marriage ceremonies are a relatively small part of how religions support the traditional definition of marriage. The rental of facilities owned by church groups was an obvious target for groups pushing the gay rights agenda, since halls are frequently made available for non-religious purposes. But that does not and should not mean that the owner cannot refuse rental requests on religious grounds.
“Regardless of how this particular case is settled, we can be sure there will be more to come, not only in the area of hall rentals but also in such areas as the content of family life education in publicly-funded schools, marriage preparation and counseling programs. Freedom of choice for religious groups is being whittled away at every opportunity. We urge human rights tribunals – and governments – to respect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in the cases brought before them.”
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org