In the news:
The body that oversees accreditation for universities in Canada is proposing a new non-discrimination policy which could have a chilling effect on Christian higher learning. The policy could have the effect of stripping universities with specific codes of student conduct from membership in the organization. Click here to read the story.
The Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled that secular judges may – in certain instances – have jurisdiction in cases of church discipline. The case involves a Calgary realtor who was kicked out of his Jehovah’s Witness community, and then sued for monetary damages because his business was being “shunned” by members of that community. The full court ruling is here. Click here to read the story.
Another protest is planned against Ontario’s controversial sex education program. It will happen at the Ontario legislature tomorrow, and we speak with one of the organizers. More details on the protest are available here. Click here to read the story.
And WeNeedaLAW helped to sponsor another pro-life flag display last week in Calgary. WeNeedaLAW director Mike Schouten talks about why it’s consistently been difficult to get municipal permits to hold these events. Click here to read the story.
Faith-based universities in Canada could be under the threat of losing their accreditation and standing in the country’s academic community. A group called Universities Canada is looking at a policy change to mandate a “non-discrimination policy” for all of its 97 member universities across the country.
ARPA lawyer André Schutten says the proposal is very concerning, because part of the policy “goes so far as to say (that) notwithstanding protections that these institutions might otherwise have through our Human Rights Codes and through the Charter – notwithstanding those rights – we’re still going to make them sign this, and if they don’t sign this non-discrimination policy, they’re booted from Universities Canada.” Schutten says the practical impact of the policy change means that “any Christian university that holds to a Statement of Faith or a Code of Conduct would lose all kinds of things necessary for a good and reputable university in Canada to survive, (including) accreditation and athletic scholarships.”
Universities Canada was established by Parliament in the 1960s as a self-regulating body for higher education in Canada. As such, the group is not subject to any government oversight. Schutten is hoping the group will still respond to public pressure. “Their idea of diversity and tolerance is not very diverse at all. It looks much more like uniformity and intolerance.” He says while many Canadians might not support every Code of Conduct proscribed by Christian universities, the notion of specifically exempting those schools from the Charter and Human Rights Act is “a step too far.”
The board of Universities Canada is due to debate the policy change behind closed doors next month.
Should secular courts have a say in church discipline cases? The Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled in the affirmative on that question, saying people who’ve been subjected to church discipline can appeal that discipline in a secular court. The case involved a man named Randy Wall, a Calgary realtor who was kicked out of his local Jehovah’s Witness community. Excommunication from that community also involves the notion of “shunning” the individual involved, and Wall says the decision actually cost him money, because close to half of the clients of his Real Estate firm were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and those people complied with the church’s ruling by refusing to do business with him.
Central to his case is the notion of procedural fairness; Wall claims he was not provided with the details of the allegations against him, he wasn’t told how the discipline process works, and he wasn’t told whether he could have legal counsel or whether there would be a record of the process.
Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench had ruled that there was no ground for secular courts to get involved in cases like this, but the Alberta Court of Appeal disagreed with that last week. The case may go to the Supreme Court of Canada before there’s a final decision on this. If the Supreme Court agrees with Mr. Wall, his claim would likely return to a lower court for an adjudication on the economic damages that he is suing for.
The Court of appeal ruling is here.
There’s a big protest against Ontario’s controversial sex education program scheduled for Toronto on Wednesday, September 21. ARPA Niagara is involved in organizing the event. The group’s Aaron Oosterhoff says they spearheaded some of the initial protests against the curriculum when it was first introduced. He concedes they weren’t too optimistic about having the curriculum rescinded when it was first introduced, but the focus now has shifted to the upcoming provincial election. “We have a long-term plan in mind,” Oosterhoff says, “and we hope to hold Kathleen Wynne’s feet to the fire and really challenge her, especially on this curriculum.”
Details on the protest can be found here.
We Need a Law sponsored another flag display earlier this month, this time in a park in downtown Calgary. But the display wasn’t easy to set up. We Need a Law Director Mike Schouten says when the organizers applied to the City of Calgary for a permit to hold the display, the application was denied within half a day. The City instead suggested a park that was far removed from the downtown area, which would defeat the purpose of engaging with passersby. The organizer engaged a lawyer, who sent some emails to the City protesting the decision, based on the pro-lifers’ right to be there and to advocate for pre-born human beings. The City of Calgary eventually granted the permit.
Schouten says there have been regulatory hurdles virtually every time they’ve tried to do these displays. “At the root of this is the reality that those who are advocating for the status quo in Canada – and that is abortion on demand for any reason – these people are finding it more and more difficult to actually provide a proper apologetic for their worldview. So rather than try and defend their position, they just want to shut us up.” Schouten says that’s clearly a Charter violation, and that’s why as soon as lawyers get involved, local governments invariably “change their tune”.
Jonathon Van Maren from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is our feature interview guest this week.
Jonathon has recently written a book called “The Culture War.” A snippet from the cover reads that the book “examines the adverse effects of hook-up culture, pornography, abortion, euthanasia, and religious liberty from a Christian perspective.”
LN: First of all, Jonathon, welcome to the program.
JVM: Thanks for having me on, Al.
LN: The obvious first question: “Why did you write the book?”
JVM: I wrote the book I wish I would have had going into University. When you go into University as a Christian you sort of think that there’s a long list of issues that you either oppose or support. But you don’t really understand that all of these issues really tie together, and most essentially for me, I didn’t understand that most of what I would be taught at University while taking my history degree was in fact not true; that I was going to be given a certain version of history that wasn’t simply just not the Christian version of history, but was simply false. The history of the sexual revolution, for example, is taught in University from a perspective that is wildly dishonest and often has already been disproven. And when I began to do my own research through my pro-life work and discovered these connections and I discovered the truth about the sexual revolution and how so many things in our culture actually tie together, it was enormously enlightening for me and gave me a lot of confidence in my worldview. And the more I tried to encourage people to read different books – and as you can image, a lot of these are dry history books that are a few hundred pages long – I realized that if somebody were to put all this information in one place, in one book, in a very readable way with a very narrative style, then maybe would actually pick it up and would start to realize the same things that I realized, which is simply that the sexual revolution has been a devastating experiment, and Christians have been right about all these issues all along.
LN: It’s interesting, because one of the things you write in the introduction – and I’m going to quote here – is that “too often, we look at the different battles in the culture war as if they are disconnected. The hook-up culture, pornography, abortion, euthanasia, rape culture, the decline of marriage – they are all connected.” Draw that thought out for me a little bit.
JVM: So some connections are more obvious, right? When you decide that sexuality can be removed from the safe harbour of life-long marriage with a partner, then obviously children are going to be (an) inconvenience. Children are no longer gifts, they’re consequences. And those consequences must be avoided at all costs. If contraception and birth control doesn’t work, then we’re going to have to hire abortionists to kill the child after it arrives in this world. So those connections are more obvious. But there’s also more subtle connections, I think, that people haven’t noticed. Such as the fact that one of the reasons it’s so difficult doing pro-life work at times – to convince people not to objectify other human beings like the pre-born baby in the womb – is because so many people are looking at pornography. You can imagine that talking to a young man who’s been looking a pornography since age 11, (which is the average age people first look at it), trying to explain to him that the baby is a human when he doesn’t even view girls as humans – when he objectifies them – is a much more difficult task. And then of course there’s the underlying truth that if God does not exist, if we are simply clumps of cells that came into being by complete accident, then it’s easy to commodify people; that we’re the sum value of our parts. So all of these things actually tie together, and those are just two examples of the connections that I really try to draw out in the book and illustrate for people why all of these things are fundamentally connected.
LN: OK. You’re with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. You’ve talked about why you wrote the book, but really, what are you trying to achieve here? Is this to motivate the “social conservative troops” or is this to educate those outside the circle?
JVM: I’m trying to do a number of things with the book. The first is the one I mentioned earlier, which is to simply give people a tool that they can utilize to better understand the world around them. So that the non-stop barrage of anti-Christian propaganda, of pro-abortion propaganda, of pro-gay propaganda, that they’ll have a context for understanding those things and to realize that the arguments that we’re being sold on a cultural level are false and that in many cases the people who are selling them actually know that they’re false. Second of all is to arm people, not just with the education that I hope the book provides, but also with the tools to protect themselves from, for example, Internet pornography. For them to understand the real consequences of unfettered sexuality removed from the safe harbour of life-long marriage. So I hope that people will avoid a lot of mistakes by realizing that we’ve made these mistakes before. Our culture has made this mistake, and the report card has come in since the sexual revolution began, and the marks are absolutely abysmal. I always say that if pain and heartbreak could be measured the same way that physical pain could be, we would have realized a long time ago that the sexual revolution has been a thoroughly devastating experiment. So I’m really hoping that this book will just educate, equip, and empower people.
LN: The final chapter of the book is entitled “The Way Forward”. You go through the various things you’ve addressed in the preceding eight chapters; everything from the sexual revolution to abortion, porn, and religious liberty. Is there a single unifying theme there in terms of planning that “way forward”?
JVM: There are a number of things. Obviously, the first way forward is to simply educate ourselves so that we can understand the culture that we live in, and then know the way forward from there. If we don’t know where we came from, we can’t possibly know where we’re going. That’s step one. Step two is that I really tried to show that things that people tend to think aren’t really a big deal are a big deal. You and I have discussed pornography before, for example. We’ve also discussed things like hook-up culture. The problem in a lot of Christian circles is not that they don’t see these things as sins, but that they don’t realize the full impact that these sins have on their lives, their families, their churches, and then of course the culture at large. So I really wanted to drive home the seriousness of these issues. And then, finally, I wanted to point out that we should be responding to things happening in the culture better than we have been. So, for example, when the secular government (in the form of a public school system) tries to force sex education on us, tries to force a certain version of sexuality on us and on our children, the response to that is also an opportunity. We can respond by highlighting for the culture what a beautiful Biblical sexuality looks like. We can put together our own sex education that reflects the truth about sexuality rather than simply being against things. So that’s one of the things that I hope people take from the book, that we really need to be very proactive and that we really need to ensure that we’re not simply saying “no” to the culture, but also saying “yes” to the truth that we believe in.
LN: OK, so how do people get a copy of this book? Christmas is coming, and this will be on the (wish) list for some folks.
JVM: If you go to “thebridgehead.ca”, there’ll be a big button that says “Buy the Book”. Click on it, and you can order a copy, and we’ll mail one to you.
LN: The book is called “The Culture War.” Jonathon, thank you very much.
JVM: Thanks so much Al.
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