Praise the law


“The hatred, contempt and vilification of God’s gay and lesbian children that claims the name of orthodoxy today is not condoned nor blessed by Jesus Christ. It has more to do with those forces of religious fearfulness that crucified Jesus than with the love for which he gave up his life.”

So said Bishop Michael Ingham, head of the Anglican diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia, at a conference in England last month organized by the British Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement.

Whether you agree or disagree with his words, you cannot deny that Bishop Ingham, whose diocese permits the blessing of same-sex marriages within its member parishes, now speaks for millions of people who call themselves “Christian.”

Pause for a moment and think about that.

Then consider these words, from the Rt. Rev. Andrew Atagotaaluk, head of the Anglican diocese of the Arctic. They’re taken from a letter written to Paul Okalik, the premier of Nunavut, and tabled in the Nunavut legislative assembly Nov. 3, the day before MLAs were to debate Nunavut’s human rights bill. They express his thoughts on same-sex marriage.

“There are many people within our jurisdiction, including myself, who see this as another step toward increasing disobedience to God’s holy ordinances. It is encouraging and paving the way for increasing immoral behaviour and it goes against the traditional and doctrinal teachings of our Christian faith and the Word of God.”

Whether you agree or disagree with those words, you cannot deny that Bishop Atagotaaluk also speaks for millions of people who call themselves “Christian.”

Ingham and Atagotaaluk are both Anglican and Christian. Yet they hold diametrically opposing views on same-sex marriage.

It’s worth noting that Canada’s largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Canada, with three million members and 3,677 congregations, has allowed individual ministers to bless same-sex marriages since 1990. The United Church officially affirmed its support for same-sex unions in 2000, and is now campaigning for same-sex marriage to be recognized in federal law.

Other denominations, especially the Roman Catholic church and various fundamentalist groupings, are on the other side.

Our purpose here is not to endorse one Christian position over another. It’s simply to show you that there is little agreement on the recognition of gay and lesbian rights, or same-sex marriage, among Christians. The Christian world is as divided on those issues as the rest of society.

That’s how religious freedom is supposed to work. The right to religious freedom lets churches hold their own internal debates and adopt their own internal positions on doctrinal matters without interference from government, or other churches. At the same time, churches must not interfere with the work of government.

But try telling that to Manitok Thompson, the MLA for Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove, who seems to think and act as if the Nunavut legislative assembly is a branch of her particular church, and not a secular institution.

This is what she had to say in the Nunavut legislative assembly last week, while explaining why she is opposed to protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in Nunavut’s human rights bill:

“Are we going to change the laws of God? That we are going to accept the same-sex marriages and give it a blessing? Is that what we want? I do not think that we are going to change the laws of the Bible.”

Nanulik MLA Patterk Netser, who put up a sign in his office window saying “Jesus is Lord over the Kivallig” went one step further in confusing the issue. He suggested that the views of one narrow Christian tendency are supported by “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.”

“I believe that the laws we pass in Nunavut must also reflect our values and to include Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit in the process as people feel that it is an important tool. We are proud and we are happy with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit,” he said.

So there was a huge amount of confused garbage spouted in the legislative assembly last week about religious values, Inuit culture, and so on. And a lot of clear thinking too, led by MLAs like Jack Anawak, Ed Picco, Kelvin Ng and Hunter Tootoo.

But at the end of the day, all that is irrelevant.

There is only one reason why any person would oppose a law that makes it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians. And that reason is simple: they want the freedom to continue practising such discrimination.

They want the freedom to deny jobs, promotions and accommodations to gay and lesbian people whenever they feel like it. They want the freedom to practise the “hatred, contempt and vilification” that Bishop Ingham described in his speech last month.

Some fundamentalist denominations now active in Nunavut, as well as many Nunavut Anglicans, simply don’t want the law to change. They are prepared to manipulate and intimidate legislatures into ensuring that the power of the government is used to force their values upon all of us. Thankfully, though, the law did change in Nunavut last week, and the forces of hatred, fear and superstition were defeated.

They will be back, however. When they are, right-thinking people must remind them that we live in a secular state, not a theocracy. Praise the law.


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