Resurrection Lutheran Church : News
CALC Response to Summer Jobs Program
January 25, 2018
Canadian Association of Lutheran Congregations (CALC)
Reverend Edward P. Skutshek, President

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
Grace and peace to you.

I am writing to you in reference to serious concerns CALC and its member congregations have with a provision of the 2018 Canada Summer Jobs Application/Agreement. The Government of Canada’s official website specifically states that employers eligible to apply for a grant under the subject program include entities under the “not-for-profit” category, which specifically includes: Churches, religious and faith-based  organizations.1 The application for a grant under the subject program, specifically, Section 12.1(i),  requires that: both the job and the organization's core mandate respect individual human rights in  Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other  rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex,  religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or  gender  identity or expression. Many churches and faith based organizations have interpreted Section  12.1(i) to require them to publicly declare that they respect and even affirm the right of a woman or girl to terminate a pregnancy through a safe and legal abortion. For the reasons set forth below, we believe that when an application is received from a church or other faith-based organization, our federal government must adopt a specific interpretation of Section 12.1(i) which is consistent with our rights and freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, natural justice and the rule of law.

The first part of Section 12.1(i) demands that the core mandate of the organization seeking the Summer Jobs grant respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying Canadian Charter and other rights. The next sentence provides examples of the rights and freedoms contemplated. The list provided by the Minister is not exhaustive, thorough and/or complete. The examples actually cited in Section 12.1(i) represent Canadians on the margins of our society who have been denied rights and freedoms and have sought and received judicial and legislative protection of their rights and freedoms. In each example, Canada’s highest court and Parliament have intervened to protect the rights and freedoms of our fellow Canadians who are at risk of harm and discrimination.

The Government of Canada’s official website declares that “Canada works to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in order to empower women and girls and to contribute to gender equality. …… Canada supports the goal of ensuring that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every girl and woman is treated with the dignity and respect she deserves. … Canada is committed to supporting access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services and information. This funding will support the full range of sexual and reproductive health services and information. This includes comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, safe and legal abortion, and postabortion care.”

Like the federal government, many churches and other faith based organizations, are committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in order to empower women and girls. We too strive to ensure that every  pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every girl and woman is treated with the dignity and respect she deserves. Churches and other Christian organizations fulfill their mandate through the provision of information; pastoral care; aid and support during pregnancy and after birth; and, adoption services. We live in an imperfect world. Women and girls must often bear the consequences of intimate sexual relationships. Some may find themselves pregnant, alone, isolated and yearning for answers and guidance during a difficult period in their lives. Christian Churches and organizations emphasize that human beings are created in the image of God. God’s breath is in each human being. As a consequence the mother to be and the child growing within her are precious to God and worthy of nurture and protection. Our most passionate desire is to convince the mother to be that she and her child are precious to God. We strive to turn the heart of the mother to the child so that in the end she believes with all her heart and soul that her pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy. We want to strive with the mother to ensure a safe birth and provide a way forward for the mother and the child, which may include the adoption of the child by a family. Churches and other Christian organizations also provide post abortion care for women and girls. The care offered is pastoral care, which includes repentance, contrition, confession and absolution. Its aim is reconciliation of the woman or girl touched by abortion with our Triune God and Christ’s church.

The church and other faith based organizations part company with the Government of Canada by reason of the government’s provision of and funding of abortion services. We oppose the provision of abortion services for two predominant reasons. We take seriously the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law." While secular Canadian society may grant certain rights and freedoms, including the legal right for a mother to terminate a pregnancy, in the end we are all subject to God’s laws. God abhors and prohibits the taking of a life without just cause. We believe, teach and confess that abortion is the taking of a life without just cause. Christians see unborn children as vulnerable and valuable Canadian Citizens whose right to life may be in jeopardy. We are advocates for the unborn.

The Canadian government states that it is committed to providing a full range of information on reproductive rights. The full range of information and provision of services relating to reproductive rights cannot be narrowly construed by the government to include only the information the government is able or willing to provide. In a healthy democracy, the full range of information includes the information from Churches and other faith based organizations. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience and religion; and the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.
Canadian Christians, churches and Christian organizations have a constitutionally protected right to practice and to propagate their faith; therefore, the Federal Government cannot penalize Canadian citizens for peacefully and legally practicing their faith and the propagation of the same as it relates to issues around reproductive rights.

Many churches and other faith based organizations could be accused of violating Section 12.1(i) by virtue of their beliefs and practices with respect to marriage. Many Canadian church bodies will not solemnize marriages between same gender couples. Bill C-38, the bill that changed the definition of marriage, recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. The same Bill C-38 provides: For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom. The Federal Government could not withhold funding under the Summer Jobs Program by virtue of a church or other faith based organization refusing to marry same gender couples; based on the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Principals of natural justice, and the rule of law, demand that the Federal Government treat protected beliefs and activities around the issue of reproductive rights in the same way that the government has protected beliefs and activities around marriage. The attitude of the federal government with respect to Section 12.1(i) should be that, while Canadian law permits safe and legal abortion, religious groups are free to take a position on abortion that is in accordance with their religious beliefs and peacefully and legally advocate for the sanctity of human life. Consequently, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect to the advocacy for the sanctity of life of unborn children, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs on that guaranteed freedom.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of our concerns. The Apostle Paul admonished his disciple Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) We shall endeavor to hold you up in prayer as our leader. We shall ask God to endow you with wisdom and courage as you govern us, so that, all Canadians may lead peaceful and quiet lives, virtue and useful knowledge may be nourished, the wholesome fruits of life may abound, and godly lives may be lived.

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Edward P. Skutshek, President
Cc: National Council
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