Outgoing Letters and Public Statements

2006

December 14, 2006
Re: T.O. Judge Orders Christmas Tree Out of Lobby
Letter submitted to Premier McGuinty's website - CTV.ca and elsewhere

Premier McGuinty,

Thank you for expressing a reasonable and inclusive response in regard to the Christmas Tree in the courthouse issue.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Don Hutchinson, General Legal Counsel
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


November 17, 2006
Re: South Africa's Smart Line on Gay Marriage
Editorial - Globe and Mail

In relation to the marriage debate, I am hesitant to agree with the Globe and Mail’s editorial which stated, “It is time to let the issue go.” All religions, who believe sincerely and deeply that marriage is between a man and a woman, may now be negatively impacted by the decision to change the definition of marriage, if they are inappropriately viewed as being bigoted (as John Ibbitson suggested) or intolerant.

For instance, the editorial criticizes the Prime Minister for feeling “beholden” to religious conservatives. Following this statement is a quote from the South African Court decision that, “The hallmark of an open and democratic society is its capacity to accommodate and manage difference of intensely held world views and lifestyles in a reasonable and fair manner.” Surely, religious adherents have every right to freedom of expression and access to government that is enjoyed by the rest of society, do they not? One would hope that believing that marriage is between a man and a woman is a legitimate viewpoint in public debate and does not equate to a belief in apartheid.

So far, the courts have interpreted the Charter so that, “the logic behind gay marriage [might be viewed as] unassailable.” From the viewpoint of many of the world’s religions, that marriage is between a man and a woman is unassailable. When defending minorities’ Charter Rights, there can be unintended consequences for other minority groups. Increasingly in Canada, the unintended consequences are on freedom of religion, some of which are already being felt.

Douglas Cryer, Director, Public Policy
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


October 8, 2006
Re: Using Religion to Spread Hate is Repugnant, Says Linda McQuaig
Letter published Oct. 12 - Toronto Star

Linda McQuaig’s vitriolic rant against Evangelicals and other religions and her distortion for the reasoning behind why the government might want to introduce a Defence of Religion Act only helps make the case for such legislation being necessary.

Her argument that Evangelicals would use this freedom to promote hatred towards homosexuals, to the point of calling for their death, is irresponsible and unfairly maligns all Christians, whose actual highest calling is love of God and love for our neighbours. McQuaig’s unfair distortion of the true nature of Evangelicals actually reinforces the concern that people who hold religious views might very well need protection from unfair commentary such as hers.

McQuaig is critical that Catholic women or Evangelicals might want to meet with the Prime Minister. Why not? Would she exclude Christians of the right to meet with their elected representatives?

If you don’t mind me borrowing from the title from McQuaig’s article, “Using editorial comment to spread hate is repugnant.”

Douglas Cryer, Director, Public Policy
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


October 7, 2006
Re: Editorial: Enough with the Ideological Tribalism, by David Asper
Letter published Oct. 12 - National Post

The spirited defence of the legitimacy of Evangelicals participating in public office such as that offered recently in the pages of The National Post is both welcome and important to sustaining a free and democratic society. To suggest that someone is unfit for public office by virtue of belonging to a religious tradition - one that affirms human dignity and the rule of law - contributes to marginalization and mistrust rather than civility and mutual respect. While favouring the redefinition of marriage seems to be the emerging McCarthy-like litmus test for the suitability of a person to hold public office or receive honorary degrees, it is important to note that most liberal democracies, including France, have decided not to redefine marriage. This should give pause to those who presume to corner the market on tolerance and reason. The very concept of tolerance emerged as a means of mediating and accommodating religious diversity; it is abused and distorted when invoked to silence the diversity it was intended to protect. Tolerance is better practised than asserted.

Meanwhile, Evangelicals, who reflect the ethnic, linguistic, cultural and political diversity of Canada, will continue to make positive contributions in all walks of life, be a vital part of the charitable and voluntary sector, and be active in politics and the public life of our country – for this is what good citizenship entails.

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


September 30, 2006
Re: Can God Build Bridges?, by Stuart Laidlaw
Letter published on Oct. 7 - Toronto Star

The use of the word “fundamentalist” to describe evangelical Christians by the Toronto Star and its writers shows a troubling misunderstanding of a significant segment of the Canadian population. Fundamentalists would not attend the Anne Graham Lotz events or Billy Graham events for that matter, nor would they join, let alone lead, a mainstream political party. We don’t label the Dali Lama, Gandhi, Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King fundamentalists despite their strong adherence to the core elements of their faith. The word fundamentalist has become a pejorative term with connotations of extremism and coercion and using it to describe a segment of the population serves only to marginalize and promote prejudice towards those who are constructive participants in Canadian society.

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


September 6, 2006
Re: Canada's Tolerance Conundrum
Letter - The Globe and Mail

Ibbitson’s characterization of evangelical Christians as intolerant and standing in opposition to human rights not only false, but an expression of an astounding ignorance of a significant religious community in Canada. Evangelicals are not fundamentalists in the modern pejorative sense; religious zealots seeking to impose their will on others. Evangelicals are strong adherents to the rule of law and have strict guidelines on when civil disobedience is warranted – Martin Luther King is a good example. Today Evangelicals are one of the most persecuted religious minorities, being imprisoned, tortured and subjected to forced labour for their religious beliefs. Evangelicals have a high regard for human rights and tolerance of religious diversity.

Ibbitson asks whether evangelical Christian and secular society can co-exist. A strange question since Evangelicals have been an integral part, and indeed helped to shape, modern secular societies. Ibbitson would prefer that everyone be like him, assuming we would all be better off if we were secularized. It seems he is the one who wants to diminish diversity and limit tolerance in order to preserve it.  

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


August 31, 2006
Re: Give Up on the Anti-gay Rant
Letter - The Calgary Herald

Naomi Lakritz's article "Give Up on the Anti-gay Rant" recites the typical response of those who oppose religious freedom. Canada is said to be a tolerant nation. We are pluralistic. There is room in our national psyche for a wide variety of views. Yet, Lakritz espouses a decidedly intolerant view of certain religious views of marriage. She believes that devout believers should be forced to recant their religious views of marriage.

During the parliamentary debates on Bill C-38, the bill that redefined marriage, gay rights organizations consistently testified that civil officials would not be forced to solemnize same-sex marriage. Laurie Aaron, spokesman for EGALE, made this promise in a commentary in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

Yet now that marriage has been redefined in legislation, the tables have turned and Christians, Muslims, Jews and other believers are being forced to recognize, support, solemnize and affirm marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

As for the red-herring comparison to inter-racial marriage, there is not a shred of evidence that a civil marriage official has ever raised this issue.

To Naomi Lakritz and those who think as she does, please respect the identity and deeply held beliefs of religious minorities in Canada. 

Janet Epp Buckingham
EFC Director, Law and Public Policy


July 10, 2006
Re: Abortion: Ensuring Access
Letter - Canadian Medical Association Journal

Sandra Rodgers and Jocelyn Downie, “Abortion: Ensuring Access,” imply that there is a constitutional right to abortion. The Supreme Court of Canada, in the 1988 Morgentaler decision, ruled that the Criminal Code provision violated women’s rights. However, all the judges agreed that Parliament has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn fetus. Parliament considered a bill in 1990 that would have restricted abortion, particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy. Abortion, its regulation and restriction, continue to be hotly debated in Canada. It is unquestionably, highly ethically charged. It is not simply “another medical procedure.”

It is also inaccurate to portray a physician who exercises a right of conscientious objection to participating in abortion as violating CMA Policy. The 1988 CMA Policy on Induced Abortion specifically allows for a right of conscientious objection.

It is unconscionable that those seen as experts in the law would publish such a misleading editorial in the CMAJ.

Janet Epp Buckingham
EFC Director, Law and Public Policy


June 28, 2006
Re: Maclean's Poll 2006: Praise the Lord and Call the Psychic
Letter - Maclean's

According to Brian Bethune’s article, a 2005 survey shows that while 66% of Canadians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, 31% of Canadians feel uneasy around born again Christians. As an Evangelical, I wonder then what would make some Canadians feel uneasy. Bethune offers some possible explanations like the George Bush factor.

Perhaps there is another reason. Who are our society’s models of being born again? Frankly, there are few examples in pop culture. One of the best known and most respected is Billy Graham. And his message? We are all sinners and are in need of salvation through Jesus Christ. Not necessarily a popular message in a culture that believes “when it comes to lifestyle choices, there are no absolutes.”

And there is the rub. In the survey we learn that police officers make 24% of Canadians uneasy. I think it is because police officers make us feel self conscious about whether we are obeying the law. In the same way, perhaps a minority of Canadians may feel uneasy around some Christians, because they too remind them of certain moral standards – a code that challenges our own behaviour.

So then, if the reason for the unease is that born again believers, in some way, serve as a reminder of these moral standards, then they should not be surprised if they make people feel uneasy - if they are truly living out the message of Jesus.

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


June 13, 2006
Re: The Need to Belong
Letter - The Toronto Star

In “The Need to Belong,” Stuart Laidlaw seems to equate serious Christians and terrorists. Protestant Christians who base their faith on a high view of the Bible usually prefer the term “Evangelicals” to refer to ourselves precisely because the term “fundamentalist” has come to be used for extremists. While David Reed is quoted as pointing out that the term “fundamentalist” is often used too broadly, the overall impression of this article is that serious Christians and terrorists are all the same.

Please show some respect to Evangelicals and don’t try to make us out to be the same as terrorists.

Janet Epp Buckingham
EFC Director, Law and Public Policy


September 6, 2006
Re: Canada's Tolerance Conundrum
Letter - The Globe and Mail

Ibbitson’s characterization of evangelical Christians as intolerant and standing in opposition to human rights not only false, but an expression of an astounding ignorance of a significant religious community in Canada. Evangelicals are not fundamentalists in the modern pejorative sense; religious zealots seeking to impose their will on others. Evangelicals are strong adherents to the rule of law and have strict guidelines on when civil disobedience is warranted – Martin Luther King is a good example. Today Evangelicals are one of the most persecuted religious minorities, being imprisoned, tortured and subjected to forced labour for their religious beliefs. Evangelicals have a high regard for human rights and tolerance of religious diversity.

Ibbitson asks whether evangelical Christian and secular society can co-exist. A strange question since Evangelicals have been an integral part, and indeed helped to shape, modern secular societies. Ibbitson would prefer that everyone be like him, assuming we would all be better off if we were secularized. It seems he is the one who wants to diminish diversity and limit tolerance in order to preserve it.  

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


June 7, 2006
Re: Generation Jihad: angry, young born again believers, by Margaret Wente
Letter - The Globe and Mail

Whether knowingly or not, Margaret Wente in her column, “Generation Jihad: angry, young born again believers,” manages to link young Jihadists directly with evangelical Christians, assigning them both with qualities such as radical, emotional and anti-intellectual. 

While Christians do not have exclusive ownership of the term “born again,” it was first used by Jesus Christ in the Bible to explain the need to and experience of people coming alive by welcoming God’s Spirit into their lives.  His words described a spiritual empowerment that would change an individual's perception and behaviour for good.  Unlike the Jihadist culture, Christ’s call was to live out radical love not radical harm. 

Are all people of sincere evangelical faith now assumed to be radical, emotional and anti-intellectual?  Is sincere religious belief to be suspect? This is a dangerous and shallow alignment of religious commitment and terrorism and can only breed suspicion and contempt towards evangelical Christians and indeed all people of devout faith.

By using a term from sacred Christian text and carelessly applying it, Wente’s article promotes the intolerance she seems to want to understand?

Gail Reid
EFC Director, Communications


May 11, 2006
Re: Editorial Stance on Vellacott
Letter - The Globe and Mail

It is rather amusing to see you take such a strong editorial stance against MP Maurice Vellacott when he got into hot water for echoing the sentiments, and headline, of Gordon Gibson’s commentary in the Globe and Mail Gods – or Nine Well-paid Lawyers with Jobs for Life (Dec. 16, 2005). Gibson got it wrong in his assessment of Chief Justice McLachlin’s speech – she never claimed to have “god-like powers.” But it's ironic to see the Globe and Mail castigating an MP for relying in its own commentaries.

Janet Epp Buckingham
EFC Director, Law and Public Policy


February 21, 2006
Re: "Tory's Funding Impulse" Editorial
Letter - The Globe and Mail

Your editorial suggests that religious minorities send their children to private, religious schools “because they can afford it.” For many of these parents, education in conformity with the tenets of their religion is part of their religious beliefs and practices. In addition, they have felt alienated from a “melting pot” public system that tends to ignore or even denigrate their religious beliefs.

The constitutional compromise in 1867 protected the denominational system. It did not create a “public” system and a “Roman Catholic” system, which is what we currently have in Ontario.

John Tory’s pledge to fund faith-based schools is a response to a UN Human Rights Committee ruling in 1999 that Ontario was in violation on international human rights standards.

Janet Epp Buckingham
EFC Director, Law and Public Policy


February 21, 2006
Cartoon Controversy: Western Standard Reprinting
Letter - The Western Standard

I am deeply disappointed in your decision to reprint the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons are deeply offensive to Muslims, and tragically some have responded with violence and threats of further violence. I affirm freedom of speech and religious freedom and believe we should not allow threats of violence to censor these freedoms. Threats and intimidation do not justify a decision not to publish the cartoons. However I believe that respect for the deep beliefs of others and an intention not to offend do. No right is absolute and with a right comes the responsibility to exercise a right prudently. Choosing not to publish material based on principle is a mark of civility. Choosing to publish based on principle in the face of threats defends cherished freedoms. At issue is the principles used to decide what to publish.

As a Christian I understand the hurt Muslims feel when the Prophet Muhammad is mocked – for Christ too has been mocked. Producing or distributing pictures of Muhammad while blasphemy to some is not a necessary expression of my faith, or of any other faith of which I am aware – including liberalism. I support the decision of those media outlets who have decided not to publish the cartoons so as not to offend Muslims.  I will also challenge their ethics if they choose to publish or air something offensive to Christians. That other media outlets are inconsistent is not itself a justification for publishing offensive material. Neither is newsworthiness.

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Note: Additional commentary on the cartoon controversy by Bruce J. Clemenger is available HERE on the EFC website. You may also want to consult the statement made by the European Evangelical Alliance.


February 4, 2006
Cartoon Controversy: Star Editorial
Re: Feb. 4 editorial "Free, Even to Offend" - The Toronto Star

Yes, Christians have been deeply offended and have not responded with violence to art that denigrates Jesus; and yes, freedom of expression is a right we enjoy in Canada. However, a claim to freedom in itself does not justify the mocking or scorning of what others consider sacred. Likewise violence and threats of violence are not justified when what is sacred to one is scorned by another.

The irony is that the denigrating “art” portraying Christ appears more like an adolescent rebellion against that which profoundly shaped our Canadian culture and provided the very foundation for the affirmation of the equal dignity of all persons upon which freedom of religion, expression and conscience are rooted. We need a more mature liberty.

While the Toronto Star insists they would not publish what they call gratuitously offensive, they defend the right of the Danish paper to do so, insisting whether it was wise to publish them is another matter. Yet the affirmation of a right is directly related to its exercise.

Our freedoms in Canada are not unlimited and they require an apologetic. Simply asserting them is to revert to a form of dogmatism that is challenged when it surfaces in other assertions of certainty. In a society that claims to be respectful of diversity, freedom must include self-restraint and openness to understanding what is sacred to others.

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


February 3, 2006
Cartoon Controversy: Globe Opinion
Re: What Would Prophet Mohammed Have Done? by Tarek Fatah - The Toronto Star

Tarek Fatah represents the reaction of many people of deep religious conviction when confronted with statements or images that mock or scorn one’s faith and marginalize and deride one’s community. He says he had to restrain his anger and ask what the founder of his faith would have him do. The answer from Islam, he says, is to turn away from the ignorant. In similar situations, Christians are to turn the other cheek.

Yet it is still important to explain to others what it means to be slandered and Fatah has done this. It is also important for others to denounce scorn and slander of another’s faith and I do.

While freedom of speech may include offensive speech, freedom is not strengthened by slandering others. And those that preach a liberal version of tolerance and respect; they should join other people of faith and denounce such practices rather than simply judging the reaction of the offended. News reports indicate that European leaders began denouncing the actions of the newspapers when boycotts were launched. It is sad when wealth rather than principle determine what is condoned.

Bruce J. Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada


January 12, 2006
Please Research Before Spreading Mistaken Stereotypes
Re: American-style Evangelicalism in Canada, by Maude Barlow - Macleans magazine

Ms. Barlow, you will be interested to know that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is far from a new organization. We celebrated our 40th anniversary last year. We are in our tenth year in our Ottawa office. You may be interested to learn more about our organization at www.evangelicalfellowship.ca. We are not an American organization, nor an American-style organization. We are a Canadian, church-based organization. Our mission is to develop unity and shared ministry amongst evangelical Christian denominations and organizations. Part of that involves articulating biblical principles in the public square. You appear to be stereotyping and dismissing organizations without actually looking into who they are and who they represent.

Just out of interest, you may be interested to know that the latest polls show Evangelicals voting 35% Conservative, 30% Liberal and 20% NDP. This looks very close the national polls. In fact, they are perhaps slightly skewed towards NDP.

Your fear-mongering is flawed.

Janet Epp Buckingham
EFC Director, Law and Public Policy

 

Outgoing Letters

2011-present
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005

EFC President Bruce J. Clemenger writes regular commentaries about public policy issues. The EFC magazine Faith Today often publishes articles and essays that examine such issues.

   
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