Marriage commissioners' conflict in Saskatchewan, Canada
An activist court legislating from
the bench? Various comments (Cont'd)
Reactions by newspaper readers (Cont'd):
The article "Same-sex nuptials can’t be refused on religious grounds, Saskatchewan court rules," 1 in The Globe and Mail, on 2011-JAN-10, received 502 comments by the end of the month.
- Mark Vicoria: "A teacher, paid by the government to do her job, cannot refuse to teach evolution because of her religious beliefs. There is no difference with this case. Good decision."
And one more quote that is out of order, but one I cannot resist:
- Bendygirl: "I just love this line of thinking - Tiger Woods and Jesse James are out there boinking everything in a skirt...the Vatican has a pedophile priest problem...you have drive thru weddings, and drive thru divorces in Vegas, there is more free porn on the internet than there are free cartoons, you can walk into any corner store in North America and find Hustler Magazine before you can find the Bible (and I'm a pagan Buddhist, not a Christian btw...) -- and yet the Saskatchewan government still thinks that GAYS are a threat to the institution of marriage.
My stomach hurts from laughing."
I scanned the first 40 postings and could not find a single comment that was opposed to the court decision. That is surprising, because the Globe and Mail is a conservative newspaper.
A subsequent article: "Saskatchewan says marriage commissioners must wed same-sex couples," 2 in The Globe and Mail, on 2011-JAN-18, received 109 comments by the end of the month. The first ten were:
- just as good as you: "... Sorry, but Marriage Commissioners do not HAVE the "right" to selectively administer civil services to only the people they happen to like or agree with. They bloody well SHOULD be fired if they refuse to do their job."
- K: "Won't do your job? You're fired. Move on."
- Metasphere: "Just like with kirpans -- check your superstitions and prejudices at the door please." [A kirpan is a ritual knife worn by adult Sikh males.]
- Ella Emma: "... The marriage commissioners are confusing marriage with matrimony. Once understood, they can perform their professional responsibilities with no personal qualms. There is no fear here, no 'phobia' -- just clarity over the civil contract. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's."
- rottenralph: "what a queer way for the courts to act..the rights of one can over rule the rights of the other"
- Bromelia: "Can this same rule please be applied to taxi drivers at YVR [Vancouver International Airport] who refuse to drive clients with (crated) dogs and/or bottles of liquor because of their alleged religious beliefs?"
- Able Bodied Man: "... I was always taught to respect the religious beliefs of others. I guess that idea has gone out the window."
- DLe5: "Good decision and I hope they seek court costs from this guy as well. He knew what he was supposed to do and if he believes his religion is above the laws of the land then he should happily pay all fines knowing he is 'right' in the end."
- cooperanderson: "amen"
- Carson Cames: "If a marriage commissioner's job is to perform a service for the citizens by virtue of authority conferred by the government of those citizens, then he or she ought to perform that service for all citizens, regardless of his or her own predilections. What's this "rights of marriage commissioners" business? One doesn't get to work at some other government job and refuse to provide service to a citizen who may be gay, or some other minority. If one has "religious" beliefs that preclude him or her from treating people equally, perhaps a job that isn't connected to authority conferred by the government would be a suitable option."
Comments by Daniel Bohan, Archbishop of Regina:
Archbishop Bohan issued a letter to his parishioners on 2011-JAN-11. 3 It mentioned:
- An encyclical from Pope Paul VI on 1965-DEC-07 titled "Gaudium et Spec" 4 which condemned "every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language or religion."
Unfortunately, that encyclical did not include sexual orientation in its list of factors to which discrimination is not permitted. Further, in 1992 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect for the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). and now Pope Benedict XVI, sent a secret letter to the Bishops of the church that contradicted the earlier papal encyclical. 5 It said in part that:
- Discrimination against homosexuals is justifiable in areas of adoption, foster care, and
employment of teachers, athletic coaches, and soldiers. Sexual orientation "does
not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to
- Homosexual relationships jeopardize the rights of traditional (heterosexual, married)
[He did not explain why he believes that same-sex marriages negatively affects opposite-sex marriages.]
- Some discrimination against gays and lesbians is morally permissible and is justified,
because of the threat that homosexuals may pose to "genuine families",
and to "protect the common good"
Presumably the list of permissible and justified discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons (LGBT) includes the right to marry the person that they love and to whom they have made a lifetime commitment.
- Archbishop Bohan discussed religious freedom in Canada and concluded that:
"... of supreme importance in the necessity of guaranteeing a Canadian freedom to act in accord with his or her conscience. ... Nor must anyone be prevented from acting according to one's conscience, especially in religious matters. ... Catholic people have the freedom to witness to the truth as they believe it and to speak publicly of their beliefs, in particularly those which touch upon the well being of our Canadian society. ... We have the freedom to speak our minds; to promote what we believe is good for our society and our country." 3
Presumably, he means that a marriage commissioner -- who was hired to marry any presenting couple with a valid marriage license -- can promote his own beliefs concerning sexual orientation and refuse to marry any couple that he feels should not be married because of their sexual orientation or gender.
Comments by Fr. Paul Donlevy of Saskatoon, SK:
Fr. Donlevy is the Diocesan Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saskatoon. He raises the question: "What is the role of conscience
-– private conscience, secular or religious -– in the public square?"
Communications editor of the Diocese, Kiply Lukan Yaworski, wrote that Fr. Donlevy:
"... noted that it was a 'very narrow question' that the Court of Appeal was asked to address: 'Concerning the issue of marriage commissioners who refused to officiate a same-sex marriage because of religious beliefs, does the charter of rights protect them? And could that also protect other marriage commissioners hired after the law on same sex marriage had
"The judges were asked to consider the conflict between a marriage commissioner’s right to freedom of religion (Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and a same sex couple’s right to equal treatment before the law, without discrimination (Section 15 of the charter)."
" 'There are several rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but all of them are equal, and one does not trump another,' said Donlevy. 'When there is a conflict, the court is called upon to find a way for the least egregious damage to be done to either of the parties'."
"In the end, the unanimous court decision ruled that giving marriage commissioners the right to opt out of ceremonies would unconstitutionally discriminate against same sex couples. ..."
" 'The reason we were interveners was because of a bigger issue than that facing marriage
commissioners," he stressed. 'The heart of the issue is: where does the conscience or the free practice of religion fit for those who are in public service? Do they leave their conscience at the door when they enter into public service? What are the protections for the rights of conscience, whether a religious conscience or a secular conscience, for that employee'?"
"The question is particularly pertinent when it comes to life issues -- for instance for all those in the medical field who must deal with issues related to abortion, the 'morning after pill', and sterilization."
" 'We can see it just looking down the road as we question ourselves as to where
we will be going with assisted suicide and euthanasia,' Donlevy added. 'This is a hugely important question'."
" 'The ruling is an added impetus to all those working in support of life to continue working in a proactive way to educate the public about protecting life at all stages, and drawing upon both 'hearts and heads' to recognize the dignity of life, he said." 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Jennifer Graham, "Same-sex nuptials can’t be refused on religious grounds, Saskatchewan court rules," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 2011-JAN-10, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
- Jennifer Graham, "Saskatchewan says marriage commissioners must wed same-sex couples," The Canadian Press, 2011-JAN-18, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
- Daniel J. Bohan, Letter to parishioners, 2011-JAN-11, at: http://www.archregina.sk.ca This is a PDF file.
- Pope Paul VI, "Pastoral constitution on the church in the modern world: Gaudium et spes," The Vatican, 1965-DEC-07, at; http://www.vatican.va/
- "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual
Persons,", written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1986)
- Kiply Lukan Yaworski, "Diocesan Chancellor Fr. Paul Donlevy reflects on implications of Appeal Court
decision about marriage commissioners refusing to perform same-sex ceremonies," Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, undated, at: http://www.saskatoonrcdiocese.com/
"SSM" means "same-sex marriage"
Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2011-JAN-30
Latest update: 2011-FEB-28
Author: B.A. Robinson