TORONTO, Ont. Dec. 7, 2005 – The Catholic Civil Rights League ( is pleased that a BC Human Rights Tribunal has upheld a Knights of Columbus council’s right to cancel a hall rental when the council learned the rental was for a lesbian “wedding” reception. The League notes, however, that the tribunal’s award of some costs to the women could itself be precedent-setting, and illustrates the extreme caution with which Church groups now must approach the exercise of their religious rights in
similar circumstances.  
More importantly, the case illustrates the extreme costs to which respondents in human rights cases will be exposed in defending their constitutionally protected rights, despite assurances of federal politicians that such religious rights would be respected at the time of passage of Canada’s same sex “marriage” law.
“The fact that the women are appealing this decision just shows they aren’t prepared to accord the Knights the right to uphold their own constitutional freedoms that they demand for themselves,” said League President Phil Horgan. “In fact, a monetary award for “hurt feelings” or “affronts to dignity” should never have been made. The tribunal found in favour of the Knights on the key element of the case.  It is remarkable that the Knights are still expected to pay costs for the alleged feelings of the couple in question.”
In a decision issued November 29, 2005, the tribunal noted that while the council was entitled to cancel a rental that would be inconsistent with core teachings of the Catholic Church, the Knights were required to do so in way that would minimize hardship to the complainants, who, in the panel’s view, had also suffered an affront to their “dignity, feelings and self-respect.” The women were therefore awarded $1,000 each, plus $444.59 to cover costs incurred for reprinting and mailing new invitations and renting a new hall.
“The legalization of same sex “marriage” has left many Church groups wondering what further intrusions they can expect in areas of property rights or charitable status,” said Mr. Horgan. “While we’re glad that the right to refuse or cancel such a rental has been upheld, we remain concerned that courts and tribunals have so much latitude in determining how and even if the right can be exercised. Of perhaps even greater concern is the tribunal ruling on the payment for affronts to dignity and self-respect, which are highly subjective, in circumstances where a number of efforts were made by the Knights to accommodate the couple in question with other options.
“In addition, the statement of facts states clearly that the complainants did not notice the surrounding church properties and Catholic school, the crucifix in the hall, or a picture of the Pope.  In fact, it was the couple themselves who alerted the media to their situation within two days of being informed of the cancellation of the contract,” Mr. Horgan added. “It’s reasonable to assume that, in taking this step, they knew that their personal lives would become public, with all the potential for “hurt feelings” that that might entail.”
As reported in previous press releases and editions of the League’s newsletter, the case relates to events in Port Coquitlam, BC in the fall of 2003 when the two women paid a deposit for the hall rental but were told three weeks later that the Knights would have to cancel because of Church teaching opposing same sex marriage. Their deposit was returned. The Knights later offered to pay the costs of a new rental and re-printing of invitations.   In defending themselves, the Knights have now incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses, monies that are now not available for charitable works.  In responding to a future appeal, more money will be diverted from the good works that the Knights perform. 
About CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League ( 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;