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Same-sex marriages (SSMs) in Canada

Complaints before the Alberta Human Rights
re: Bishop Henry's pastoral letter. Part 1

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Human rights complaints filed against Roman Catholic bishop:

Two complaints were filed with the Alberta Human Rights Commission during 2005-MAR. Both object to the passages in Bishop Henry's initial letter of 2005-JAN that:

bullet Groups together "homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography..."

bullet Calls for governments to use "its coercive power to proscribe or curtail" homosexuality.

Carol Johnson filed the first complaint. She wrote in her letter:

"I believe the publication of Bishop Henry's letter is likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt. These remarks are particularly dangerous when made by a person in a position of trust and authority."

She has been widely identified on the Internet as a lesbian. In reality, she is a heterosexual mother and wife.

Norman Greenfield filed a personal complaint with the Commission on MAR-29. 1 He was allegedly shocked when he found that Bishop Henry had released his name to the press. Complaints to the commission are supposed to be confidential. Greenfield said:

"I'm not doing this because anybody in my family is gay, I'm just doing it because what Bishop Henry seems to think he can get away with saying in public against an identifiable group. I think the debate over same-sex marriage has gotten way out of hand, and we need to bring it back to some level of civility."

Storm Front, a white nationalist organization, claimed that the "Homosexual lobby seeks to silence Calgary bishop." 2 But in reality nobody is trying to silence Bishop Henry. It is two individuals, both heterosexuals, who merely want to limit his attacks on sexual minorities in which he referred them as evil and called for governments to oppress them.

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Some reactions to the complaints before the Commission:

Religious conservatives were unified in their position that a religious leader should have unlimited freedom of speech and be able to attack any group --including a minority group defined by their sexual orientation -- with impunity:


Bishop Henry held a news conference on 2005-MAR-30. He expressed concern that his freedom of religion and free speech have been violated. He said:

"Those that support same-sex marriage want to shut the churches out of this important debate. Those who favor same-sex marriage have been given a full opportunity to state their views on the issue. But now they are saying anyone who speaks out against same-sex marriage is discriminating against homosexuals."

Henry was disappointed that the Commission didn't dismiss the two complaints without further study. He said:

"I assumed that the one who fields this would have looked at this and said this doesn't stand. This is not an Ernst Zundel case by any means. We cannot give credence to this." [Zundel is a holocaust denier who lived in Canada and was recently deported to Germany where he was arrested.]


Bishop Henry, in an interview with LifeSiteNews, said:

"If the Human Rights Complaint is successful, it will prevent me from expressing my views and the position of the Roman Catholic Church. It prevents me and other Church leaders from speaking out freely in opposition to same-sex marriage. It also prevents me from outlining the position of the Roman Catholic Church to those who attend church in my Diocese." 3


Egale Canada is a gay-positive group, Its regional director, Stephen Lock, acknowledged that Bishop Henry has an obligation to represent the views of his church. But he said that grouping homosexuality together with pornography and prostitution is going too far. He also said:

"When anyone starts calling for the coercive power of the State to suppress or curtail any legal activity, that's really oppressive to be saying stuff like that."


Focus on the Family Canada is an evangegical Christian group Their spokesperson, Derek Rogusky, felt that churches and other religious groups should enjoy freedom of speech on matters like homosexuality and same-sex marriage. He commented:

"We're talking about changing something that's a foundational institution of our society, we're not talking about changing the speed limit on the street. If anyone is successful in bringing charges against Bishop Henry, they would come after other organizations. It shows that religious freedom protections that the government talks about really aren't there." 1


Catholic World News reported that:

"A supporter of same-sex marriage is using the human rights process in Canada to take away Bishop Frederick Henry's right to freedom of religion and free speech, supporters of the bishop said...They said proponents of same-sex marriage want to use intimidation to silence the Catholic Church on the issue." 4


According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Bishop Henry stated:

"I stand by the letter, I wouldn't change one comma. Why should I apologize? I think I'm owed an apology for putting me through this rigmarole of harassment, intimidation and attempt to silence me.....Right now, I find myself in the very interesting position of, having been an advocate of social justice all of my life, I'm cast in the victim position right now, where I must defend myself. Defend the freedom of religion and the freedom of the right to speak on this particular issue." 5


David Mainse of Marriage Canada -- a group promoting the exclusion of loving, committed same-sex couples from marriage -- wrote:

"There is legal action now underway against a Roman Catholic Bishop for simply writing to his priests calling homosexual acts sin." 6


The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada wrote:

"Putting sanctions or restrictions on Bishop Henry is nothing short of censorship of religious expression." 7


Lorne Gunter of the National Post wrote:

"...the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, being hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for having the audacity to tell Calgary Catholics, in an open letter last January, that homosexual marriage is contrary to Catholic teaching, and that the government should act aggressively on that teaching." 8


In an article subtitled: "Calgary Bishop Fred Henry Defends Religious Freedom,", a conservative Christian web site, wrote:

"A supporter of same-sex marriage is using the human rights process to take away Bishop Frederick Henry's right to freedom of religion and free speech.  Despite the Catholic Church's established role in preparing men and women for marriage and conducting religious marriage ceremonies between men and women, it appears that supporters of same-sex marriage do not want religious leaders to be part of the debate on this issue." 3

bullet The Catholic Civil Rights League supported Bishop Henry. President Phil Horgan said:

"This action strikes at the core of freedom of speech and freedom of religion guaranteed to all Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bishop Henry's remarks were completely consistent with a Church leader fulfilling his teaching function. Homosexual practices, adultery, prostitution, and pornography are all sinful acts in the teachings of the Church. It has always been recognized that with all serious sins, the state has a responsibility in exercising its authority to promote the common good whether through the Criminal Code, tax policy, education standards or the other broad areas of its jurisdiction. Bishop Henry raises legitimate questions of what impact current policies will have on the understanding of the family.

"In fact, Bishop Henry has personally been the subject of the state's coercive power, starting when an official of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency threatened to challenge the charitable status of the Diocese. (The bishop had spoken out on the apparent moral incoherence of the Prime Minister, who continues to make reference to his standing in the Catholic Church..."

“A bishop has every right to raise concerns on matters directly related to the teachings of the Catholic Church, as many of our bishops are currently doing in the public debate on marriage and family" 9


The Calgary Herald is reported to have quoted the Very Reverend Bill Phipps, former Moderator of the United Church of Canada, as saying:

"If you're going to use freedom of speech, you've got to take the consequences of what you are saying...He portrays himself as a victim. Well, please. Why are we focusing on one bishop who loves the spotlight?...This is about a group who have been maligned, who have been beaten up physically, mentally and spiritually." 10

Phipps is also quoted as saying:

"If you're going to use freedom of speech, you've got to take the consequences of what you are saying." 11

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This topic is continued in the next essay.

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References used:

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

  1. Bill Graveland, "Position on same-sex marriage prompts complaints against Calgary bishop," Canadian Press, 2005-MAR-30, at:
  2. "Homosexual loggy seeks to silence Calgary bishop - Stormfront,: 2005-APR--11, at:  We were unable to load this page on 2012-JUL-14.
  3. "Human Rights Complaint Filed Against Catholic Bishop for Defence of Traditional Marriage
    Calgary Bishop Fred Henry Defends Religious Freedom
    ," LifeSiteNews, 2005-MAR-30, at:
  4. "Human rights complaint filed against Canadian bishop," Catholic World News, 2005-MAR-31, at:
  5. "Bishop defends anti-gay remarks," CBC Calgary, 2005-MAR-31, at:
  6. "David Mainse' Letter to the Queen," Marriage Canada, at:
  7. ":: Defending Marriage," The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, at:
  8. Lorne Gunter, "Gay? Cool. Christian? Not so much," National Post, 2005-APR-11, Page A16.
  9. "CCRL supports Bishop in human rights filing," Catholic Civil Rights League, 2005-MAR-31, at:
  10. "Bill Phipps,", at:
  11. "Frederick Henry,", at:

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Copyright © 2005 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2005-NOV-03
Latest update: 2012-JUL-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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