Defence of reason

Ted MortonI certainly expected no less from Ted Morton than his regressive Bill 208, but I was quite surprised to hear that the federal Conservatives are considering a similar Defence of Religions Act, presumably aimed at keeping their socially conservative supporters and MPs in line by attempting to specifically allow discrimination specifically against same-sex couples.

I dearly hope the title of that act was something salacious cooked up to sell papers over at the G&M, because if that’s the sort of language being tossed around in Ottawa backrooms these days, I will be deeply worried. Defence of religions? Where do they think they are, Battleground Homosexuality? Let’s keep that kind of ignorant hostility on the Internets where it belongs, please. A party in government has no excuse for adopting language which buys into the offensive and wrong characterization of religious persons and gay and lesbian persons as two disctinct, opposing groups. Remember that the first same-sex marriage in Canada took place in a church before a minister. Exactly which religions were the Conservatives planning on defending?

Vic ToewsWhile religion vs. homosexuality is certainly a false dichotomy, there is a line that must be drawn between equality rights and the freedoms of conscience and religion, and it is a tricky business indeed. Your right to equality begins where my right to discriminate ends. Thing is, though, that maintaining or redrawing that border is not what either 208 or the proposed federal act are truly about, at least not in an intellectually honest way.

If the Conservatives truly wished to shift the equality-conscience equilibrium, they would not focus solely on proscribing the rights of gay and lesbian persons. Morton, Harper, and Toews are many things, but they are not stupid, and all are well aware of the broader context of this issue. Their concern is not truly that a Justice of the Peace might be required to marry a couple where the union violated his conscience or religion; they could simply attempt to legislate that general protection. But that would allow not only discrimination against same-sex couples (“good discrimination”, in SoCon-ese), it would also allow discrimination against divorced persons, interracial couples, and many others (“bad discrimination”). They are prepared to defend to the death free speech, but only that speech which is hateful towards gay and lesbian persons; they are silent on curtailing hate speech legislation for the Ernst Zundels out there.

In short, they seek yet again to oppose the rights of gay and lesbian persons, not based on an honest and true support of free speech and freedom of conscience, but based on their socially conservative views that gay and lesbian persons should not be protected from discrimination. They just can’t legitimately bring that view out any more. Progress, I suppose.


1 Comment

  1. Cam said,

    Wednesday, 25 October 2006 at 5:21 pm

    Can’t we all just get along?

    Fact: The United Church of Canada, with around 3 million self-proclaimed members, is the largest protestant denomination in this country.
    Note: this is second in size only to the Roman Catholic Church in Canada

    Fact: Said church publicly and universally supports same-sex marriage

    P.S. – Hey manatee – nice blog.

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