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Christian Horizons's discrimination case

Adjudicator's ruling. What does
the human rights code require?

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About the adjudicator's ruling:

The $23,000 award by the Ontario Human Rights Commission includes $10,000 for general damages and $5,000 for mental anguish due to a poisoned work environment. 1

The Catholic Insight website describes adjudicator Michael Gottheil first as "The OHRC's anti-Christian atheist adjudicator," and later as an "agnostic partisan adjudicator" 2 They describe Connie Heintz, the employee involved, simply as "a fornicator."

According to Catholic Insight, Gottheil referred throughout his ruling to the principle of "balancing competing rights." In this case, the right of the:

bulletAn employer to require certain behaviors of the employee in private and away from the workplace, and
bulletAn employee to freely develop a relationship in her private life with a person that she loves and to whom she is committed.

He determined in this case that if Christian Horizons served only other evangelical Christians, then the agency might be able to legally discriminate against their employee for not meeting their religiously motivated standards of behavior. However, Christian Horizons serves persons of all religious faiths and none. Thus, he concluded that the organization had no right to require employees to meet those standards.

Gottheil wrote:

"The primary object and mission of Christian Horizons is to provide care and support for individuals who have developmental disabilities, without regard to their creed. Christian Horizons is not a religious institution whose purpose is to form the hearts and minds of its residents in the ways of faith of the organization."

He noted that for a lesbian, when anti-homosexual evangelical beliefs on human sexuality "... form the fundamental, core ethic that all employees are required to live out on a daily basis [there is] ... a serious risk of [the agency] being a poisoned work environment.

He commented: "The attempt of "restoration" for persons who are gay or lesbian is profoundly disrespectful and oppressive."

By "restoration" he apparently is referring to a person with a homosexual or bisexual orientation entering reparative therapy or transformational ministry counseling in order to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual. Presumably the adjudicator believes that a homosexual orientation is a normal, natural, and unchangeable orientation for a minority of adults. He may have been aware of the high risks of these therapies and the abysmally low success rates. However Christian Horizons' now discontinued  Lifestyle and Morality statement refers to homosexual behavior as "unnatural," "immoral," and "contrary to the Scriptures." 4 Personnel at Christian Horizons probably also believe that a homosexual activity is abnormal, changeable, and hated by God. To them, "restoration" would be a perfectly logical suggestion. They might not be aware of the risk and success rates of the therapy.

His ruling concluded:

"Christian Horizon's policy is discriminatory. While some elements of Canadian society may continue to debate whether gays and lesbians should be treated equally and entitled to equal rights and opportunity, from a legal perspective that debate has ended."

"Its policy, based on the belief that homosexuality was unnatural and immoral, engendered fear, ignorance, hatred and suspicion." 1

What does the Human Rights Code require?

Two sections of the Code may be applicable in this case.

The first section guarantees freedom from discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation and same-sex partnership status:

s.5(1): "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, same-sex partnership status, family status or disability."

Section 24(1) allows religious and some other groups to discriminate in some instances. Conservative Christian interveners in the appeal in this case believe that it might apply in the case of Christian Horizons because the group is religious in nature, it serves disabled persons, and that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows it to freely apply its homophobic 3 beliefs in employment.

s.24(1): "The right under section 5 to equal treatment with respect to employment is not infringed where,
(a) a religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization that is primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by their race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, creed, sex, age, marital status, same-sex partnership status or disability employs only, or gives preference in employment to, persons similarly identified if the qualification is a reasonable and bona fide qualification because of the nature of the employment;"

Emphasis added by us.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Deborah Gyapong, Human rights tribunal forces Christian organization to ditch morality code," Canadian Catholic News, 2008-MAY-08, at: http://www.canadianchristianity.com
  2. "Christian Horizons appeals Ontario HRC ruling," Catholic Insight, 2008-SEP, at: http://catholicinsight.com/
  3. Unfortunately, the terms "homophobic" and "homophobia" have multiple definitions. On this site we define "homophobia" as:

    "engaging in a behavior aimed at denigrating or restricting the human rights of persons who have a homosexual orientation and/or who engages in homosexual behavior."

    This, of course, includes firing employees because of their private behavior at home.

  4. "A victory for LGBT human rights or a race to the Supreme Court?, Egale Canada, 2008-DEC-18, at: http://www.egale.ca/

Site navigation:

Home> Religious info> Basic info> Canada> Discrimination> Chr. Horizons>here

Copyright © 2008 & 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posting: 2009-FEB-25
Latest update: 2009-FEB-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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