Christian Horizons's discrimination case
Adjudicator's ruling. What does
the human rights code require?
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."
Insight, Gottheil referred throughout his ruling to the
principle of "balancing competing rights." In this case, the right of the:
|An employer to require certain behaviors of the employee in private and away
from the workplace, and |
|An employee to freely develop a relationship in her private life with a
person that she loves and to whom she is committed. |
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.
"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."
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
employs only, or gives preference in employment to, persons
identified if the qualification is a reasonable and bona fide qualification
because of the nature of the employment;"
Emphasis added by us.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Deborah Gyapong, Human rights tribunal forces Christian organization to
ditch morality code," Canadian Catholic News, 2008-MAY-08, at:
- "Christian Horizons appeals Ontario HRC ruling," Catholic Insight, 2008-SEP,
- 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
This, of course, includes firing employees because of their private behavior at home.
- "A victory for LGBT human rights or a race to the Supreme Court?, Egale
Canada, 2008-DEC-18, at:
Copyright © 2008 & 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posting: 2009-FEB-25
Latest update: 2009-FEB-25
Author: B.A. Robinson