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.