Canadian court hands Christians a religious freedom setback

By August 10, 2009

Canada (MNN) — A court decision in western Canada reveals
the tenuous state of religious liberty in Canada.

Adele Konyndyk with Voice of the Martyrs Canada explains.
"Saskatchewan's Court of Queen's Bench upheld the ruling that said
marriage commissioner Orville Nichols did not have the right to refuse to
marry a same-sex couple in April 2004 on the basis of his Christian
beliefs."

The tribunal had also ordered Nichols to pay the complainant $2,500 in
compensation. According to Voice of the Martyrs Canada sources, Nichols appealed
the May 23 ruling, arguing that his religious beliefs should be protected under
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Justice Janet McMurty dismissed his argument, however, in her 39-page ruling
dated July 17, concluding that the human rights tribunal was "correct in
its finding that the commission had established discrimination and that
accommodation of Mr. Nichols' religious beliefs was not required." Nichols
has 30 days to appeal the decision. He has not indicated whether he will do so.

There is hope that the Saskatchewan government will introduce legislation
allowing marriage commissioners to refuse to perform same-sex marriages for
religious reasons. The government has referred two versions of new legislation
containing a religious exemption to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to rule on
their constitutionality.

In the meantime, Konyndyk notes that the ruling sets a
chilling precedent for evangelical Christians. "Essentially the message
that this sends is that his religious beliefs are to be kept private, and that
he cannot make a decision in line with his religious beliefs."

Could it be a legal precedent under hate crimes? It's the
beginning of a slippery slope. "There is a concern that Christians could
be forced to stay silent and not be able to share publicly their beliefs on
Scripture and their religious convictions." 

It's also a wake-up call. Konyndyk says, "Pray that Christians in Canada will recognize when their
religious rights are being violated and rely on the Lord to guide them as to
how to respond to such challenges." 

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