Canadian Christian charity fined $23,000

by Jim on 14 May 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a Canadian news story, but this one is really worth a mention, if you haven’t heard about it already.

It’s all about one of Canada’s largest Christian ministries, known as Christian Horizons.  It’s been around for almost 45 years, working with special needs people in the province of Ontario.

A column in the National Post introduces the recent ruling of an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal:

Imagine that Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity had been told that their ministry in the streets of Calcutta was, in essence, not ministry but “social work.” In order for the sisters to continue in their work, they would no longer be permitted to require that staff members share their beliefs and ministry commitment.

As bizarre as this may sound, this is essentially what a single adjudicator acting as an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently decided in the case of Heintz v Christian Horizons.

What happened was this.  Like many (most?) Christian ministries in Canada, employees are required to share the commitments and beliefs of the faith to work there.  They sign a document called a Lifestyle and Morality Statement as well as a statement of belief.  Connie Heintz was one of these employees.  For 5 years she worked under this understanding.

Eventually, when she decided to enter a lesbian relationship, she went against the agreement she had signed.  She decided to resign, and her employer at Christian Horizons even helped her find another job.  Four months later she filed a human rights complaint.

The decision went against the organization.  As a Christian organization it apparently has no right to hire persons who are in agreement with its Christian commitments.  Instead, it has to pay $2300, ditch its lifestyle agreement, and agree to train its managers and employees in a pro-homosexual program.  (You can read the ruling here)

The tribunal defends the decision by saying that this is an organization that provides services to the public.  But what does that mean, exactly?  As Brian Rushfeldt, Co-Founder & Executive Director of the Canada Family Action Coalition pointed out, this ruling "could be used against any Christian school, church or other organization that serves the public."

Christian Horizons is appealing this decision, although they have agreed to drop their lifestyle and morality statement.  Meanwhile, the Ontario opposition party is saying that funding should be dropped for organizations like this, who have human right complaints.

The direction of this ruling is reason to think.  What if an atheist organization was required to hire people that believed in God?  Or if a Muslim charity was required to hire people that were planning to speak out against Mohammad?  What is it that makes a Christian organization Christian, anyway?  What would happen if rulings like this expanded and continued?

I’ll tell you – it would be (very likely will be, if rulings like this are allowed to stand) the end of a lot of Christian organizations.

Now, all political and legal issues aside, this is a great time to stop and think.  What if it were no longer legal to have "official" Christian organizations?  What if the law of the land simply no longer allowed any kind of charity that was officially Christian in nature?

What if the organization or agency you knew had to hire people that were completely opposed to the Christian faith?

Talk about this with your friends who are believers, because it’s going to focus on you.  Christians in an area would be the ones responsible to unofficially organize, and help those society forgets (the disabled, the poor, those with mental illness).  You might have to give money to a missionary without getting a receipt.  You might not get funding for your project, and might have to make some major sacrifices.  What would you and your friends do to fill the gap?

Kind of makes you wonder what you would do, doesn’t it?  Kind of makes you wonder what we should be doing now.  Yes, an official agency has its place – we use them to accomplish things that would be difficult to accomplish without the same resources and multi-generational planning.

But in the end, it’s the body of Christ – the group of believers – that is responsible to do His work on the earth, whether through something with a budget and a vision statement, or through something spontaneous you do for the widow down the street.

Without charities and mission agencies that were Bible believing, how would we help the helpless?  How would we get the Gospel to all nations?  How would we obey the Lord?

Over 2000 years, the Spirit has made it happen before – yes, without accountants and memos and boards and vision statements.  Whatever the world’s governments decide, we need to take the responsibility God has given us and move forward.

If you think this couldn’t happen, you can read more about this decision.  Here’s a news article from the USA (with reference to similar issues in that country, and the rest of the article I quoted above Re: Human Rights Commission Decision About Christian Horizons.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan May 14, 2008 at 8:41 pm

This reminds me of something SBC (Steinbach Bible College) went through in the early 90s.

They had hired a lady to work in accounting. She signed the statement of belief. And then later on they found out she was Mormon. She was terminated, and she filed suit after that. However, the courts ruled in favour of the college. Of note from the ruling:

“I find that the action of SBC was, in fact, bona fide. I could find nothing in the evidence presented before me that would indicate that their actions or intentions were anything but bona fide in coming to the conclusion that they could not have Ms. Schroen, a person of the Mormon faith, and belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, employed at their institution as the accounting clerk.”

and

“I find that the mechanical, technical and simplistically described job function duties of the accounting clerk at SBC could not be separated from the religious environment and the atmosphere of the Christian understanding and rationale and feeling that lies at the very heart and root of all the functions, activities and programs at SBC.”

Of course, that’s not what’s at the heart of what you’re saying. What you’re saying is, ‘If and when this does happen, what will be do?’ good question. Hard question, but good question…

http://www.gov.mb.ca/hrc/english/publications/schroen.html

d. miller May 14, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Great thought-provoking post, Jim!

Sean B May 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm

wow, this truly amazes me. The enemy is working hard in our day to make it more difficult for Christians to be Christians. We can’t talk about Jesus at school, we can’t talk about Jesus at work, and now we can’t talk about Jesus in Christian organizations? Is it going to get to a point where we can’t talk about Jesus in churches? because non-believers go there and feel its against their human rights?

but a very good point how we should not even require ‘organizations’ to go out and spread the word. and we should expect persecution, and ‘blessed are you when you are persecuted for preaching in Jesus’ name’!

Alan May 16, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Hey. I posted a comment. Where is it?

Crystal May 16, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Hey, I am a worker of CH. I got to thank you for this posting. CH has been bashed on. Yet you did state what was right. The fact that every other reglion in Canada is allowed to state their beliefs but Christian cannot. We do not preach God to the residents. If they bothered to ask the workers they would see different. I got to say that Connie was fighting for her rights but she did not in anyway think about the 2500 others workers and the residents. The moral code I am not sorry they dropped that. I was told I was not allowed to do this or that outside of work. Yet we hired there are to be christians and are we not to be christians at all times? So suing somebody is christian? If CH goes down 2500 people are out of work. Many residnets where do they go? I guess this was not thought of at the time. Isn’t my human rights effected here to? Should I sue nah I am going to pray and know God has this all handled. He is the way the truth and the light and I am so happy he will come back and every eye will see he is real. I know he is real I see it in my residents. I stated this before and now I will again we in noway and I repeat NOWAY force God on any of the residents. I do not force my belief on others so why am I told I have to follow this other belief or be sued for offending somebody seems wrong does it not? God did not say it will be fair in the end days and now I know with this all he is coming back full force. Thanks for the blog it was great to get asked these questions and be asked. What will I do without a job.. some people do not think about that kind of stuff when they want to act so fast. I hope it does not lead to us being out of job that is unfair to punish 2500 people for one persons actions. I pray that these people making the choices stumbles across your blog. Well written and thank you.

Jim May 19, 2008 at 7:18 am

Thanks, everyone, for your comments! It’s great to hear from someone from Christian Horizons. We will watch to see what happens in the appeal.

Jim May 21, 2008 at 8:29 am

Hey Alan,

As you can see, I found your comment! Thanks for that. Very interesting ruling, especially in comparison!

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