Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why can't Canadians speak against same-sex marriage?

Two views of homosexuality are creating tensions in Canada. Some believe, on the basis of equality, that there should be no distinction drawn in any way by society between homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Others are opposed to homosexuality for practical, medical, moral and/or religious reasons. The "no distinction" approach has dominated primarily because of the decisions of appointed judges and human rights panellists. It was on this basis that the legalization of same-sex marriages was made.

Even within the parliamentary process, the decision on same-sex marriage has been made by a very few individuals. When same-sex marriage was first debated in Parliament in June 2005, 19 NDP MPs and the 39 Liberal Cabinet members were ordered by their leaders to vote in support of it. The Liberals then rammed through the legislation by disallowing any amendments and imposing closure to cut off debate. In debate last week, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties again excluded the public from the same-sex marriage debate by requiring its MPs vote along party lines. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion was not much better. He begrudgingly allowed a free vote, although making the claim that same-sex marriage is a "fundamental" right under the Charter of Rights.

He was wrong. The Supreme Court of Canada has never ruled on whether the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional. The Ontario Court of Appeal decision on same-sex marriage, which assumed the leadership role among the provincial courts on this issue, is now under a cloud, due to a complaint laid against Chief Justice Roy McMurtry before the Canadian Judicial Council for serious judicial impropriety and the apprehension of bias for his part in that case.

Same-sex marriage is now public policy and has already triggered some significant changes. This new definition of marriage has a profound impact on the welfare of children. A large body of social scientific research indicates that children thrive best with a mother and father who teach them gender identity and sex role expectations. This was the conclusion of a committee of the French National Assembly, which recommended, in January 2006, that France not accept same-sex marriage due to its detrimental effect on children. The French committee criticized studies on same-sex parenting that claimed it had no ill effects on children, on the basis that these studies lacked scientific rigour, included inadequate sampling, and showed a lack of objectivity.

The Court of Appeal of New York and the Supreme Court of Washington last July also rejected same-sex marriage because of concern for the welfare of children. Same-sex marriages are not functionally equivalent to opposite-sex marriages, but are different in structure, values and practice. It is widely acknowledged that these differences include the fact that sexual faithfulness is not usually regarded as a requirement in same-sex relationships, but is of vital importance in a heterosexual marriage.

Same-sex partners experience a higher incidence of health problems resulting in shorter life spans. The duration of same-sex marriages is shorter than that of opposite-sex relationships: on average, the former last only two to three years. These factors are detrimental to children who require stability in their lives.

A trend resulting from same-sex marriage is evident in the Netherlands, which has allowed homosexual couples to register their partnerships since 1997 and which legalized same-sex marriages in 2000. Statistics show that the out-of-wedlock birthrate there has increased by an average of 2 per cent a year -- more than in any other country in western Europe. This indicates a marked decrease in a desire for legal marriage and an increase in cohabitation.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada has put law and religion on a collision course. The Catholic organization, the Knights of Columbus, in Port Coquitlam, B.C., was required to pay a fine for causing "hurt feelings" when it denied the use of the organization's hall to a lesbian couple to celebrate their wedding. Religion-based social services, such as counselling and adoption services, are now required to conform to the same-sex marriage law. The tax-exempt status of churches has become the subject of intimidation and harassment. Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary was threatened by the Canada Revenue Agency with removal of the Roman Catholic Church's tax-exempt status if he persisted in speaking against same-sex marriage during a federal election.

Those who favour same-sex marriages are free to speak their views, but those opposed to them are being harassed and coerced into refraining from doing so. This was evident at Ryerson University in June when a respected professor of ethics from McGill University, Dr. Margaret Somerville, who opposes same-sex marriage, was subjected to public attack, including picketing when she received an honorary degree there.

Within school boards, teachers and other individuals are being forced to deny their religious beliefs and freedom of speech by being required to promote same-sex marriage, and publicly refraining from expressing any opposition to it. A teacher and school counsellor in British Columbia, Chris Kempling, submitted a letter to his local newspaper objecting to homosexuality. This resulted in his suspension for one month without pay by the B.C. College of Teachers, which alleged that Kempling's letters "poisoned the school environment." Subsequently, Kempling was a candidate for the Christian Heritage Party and, in that capacity, had a letter to the editor published in his local newspaper opposing same-sex marriage. He received a further suspension of three months without pay.

School boards in Quebec and Ontario, especially in Toronto, Hamilton and London, now require homosexual "education" in their school systems. Such programs do not provide balanced instruction on the issue, and the medical, psychological and legal impact of homosexuality are not mentioned. As these examples show, these are monumental consequences to same-sex marriage. Are these the changes that Canadians want? Who knows? We've never been given the opportunity to express our views. A referendum on the issue is clearly required.


No Christmas play at British school

It is the time of year when parents and grandparents look forward to seeing their children dressed up as Mary and Joseph or the Three Wise Men. But the traditional Nativity play at Knowland Grove Community First School in Norwich has been axed in favour of a celebration of a range of different faiths.

Yesterday pupils' families branded the politically-correct move "disgusting", while leaders of other religious communities said they were just as disappointed by the continuing erosion of the Christmas festivities. Instead of a Nativity play, the school's 100 children aged four to eight are presenting pieces about the origins of Christmas, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and the Hindu festival of Diwali. It is entitled the "Festival of Lights", a phrase commonly used for Diwali, held in October.

Housewife Beverley Browne, 49, whose four-year-old grandson is at the school, said: "The Nativity is a very important story and I think it's disgusting not to do it. "Christmas should be all about the little ones learning about Jesus - that's the story they should learn about. This school's idea is rubbish. I think this is political correctness gone crazy. "I just can't believe what's happening in this country. We're supposed to be a Christian country and all our little ones should learn all about Jesus and Christmas."

Another mother said: "I'm very angry and upset about this because the Nativity play's been a tradition at the school since I was a pupil there. "A lot of parents feel so strongly about this that they're threatening not to send their children to school on the day of the new show. "At Christmas we always have a nativity play and invite parents and grandparents along. This is what Christmas is all about - Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus being born."

Byron Simmonds, chairman of the Progressive Jewish Community of East Anglia, said the school's move was well-intentioned but misguided. "It's a good thing to study different religions, but it is Christmas after all, and we certainly don't have anything against schools organising Nativity plays. "I can see why parents would be upset - Norwich is hardly the most cosmopolitan place, and yet the play sounds as if it's been watered down until it won't really be about Christmas at all."

The move comes as Christmas traditions come under attack as never before. Last week the Daily Mail told how schools across the country were replacing Nativity plays with secular productions featuring such characters as reindeer, eskimos and even Elvis Presley, while only one in 100 High Street Christmas cards now has religious theme. And Chancellor Gordon Brown has attacked Government-funded playgroups for replacing Christmas parties with politically-correct "winter celebrations".

However Knowland Grove headteacher Trudi Sharred insisted that Christmas was "alive and well" at the school. "Our children have been singing carols and songs in the mall, our Christmas tree is up, and we will be sitting down to our Christmas meal this week," she said. "We decided this year to take a slightly different approach with our end of term production to include a look at some of the other great cultural festivals of the world while maintaining the traditional Christmas message."

The younger two age-groups will present pieces on Christmas and Christingles while Year Two will perform a poem about Hanukkah and Year Three will explain Diwali. "All the children I know are looking forward to taking part in our Festival of Lights," added Mrs Sharred.

Norwich has one of the least ethnically-diverse populations in England, with just 587 Jews and Hindus at the time of the 2001 census, and Ofsted said "virtually all" pupils at Knowland Grove are "white British".


Dishonest Words

Consider first the case of "homophobia." In current usage, it is applied to any negative view of homsexuals or homosexuality, whatever its source. Thus, for instance, someone who is opposed to homosexual activity because his minister told him that the bible says it is wicked would routinely be labelled homophobic.

A phobia is an irrational fear. It is occasionally argued that the source of negative views of homosexuality is the fear that one might have homosexual inclinations, but it is a considerable stretch to claim that source for all negative views. It seems obvious that some people are opposed to homsexuality because they think their religion condemns it, some because they think it has bad consequences, and some for any of a variety of other reasons. Labelling all of them "homophobic" is a way of (falsely) implying a single cause for the conclusion--and, by doing so, attempting to stigmatize all those who hold it and dismiss all possible reasons they might have.

A second example is the term "racism." In a recent exchange here, Mike Huben referred to "racist science" in a context where it meant "(hypothetically) correct scientific research that demonstrated the existence of differences among the races" (if this is not a fair summary, I expect Mike to correct it). That was a striking definition of the way "racist" is used to mean, not "hating or despising other people because of their race" but "holding beliefs on racial subjects other than those of the person using the word." Again, that usage is an implicit argument and a dishonest one, since the implication again is that the only possible reasons for disagreeing with the speaker's views on the subject are bad ones.

The pattern is not limited to people whose politics I disagree with. Libertarians do the same thing. In our context, the question is how to label people who disagree with libertarian views, on particular subjects or more generally. The two popular choices are "statist" and "collectivist."

Both are wrong. There are lots of reasons why someone might favor the draft, or minimum wage laws, or price controls, or the war on drugs. Worship of the state is no doubt one possible reason, but certainly not the only one. Belief that what really matters is the collective and not the individual is one possible reason but not the only one. Each of those views could readily be held by someone who agreed on the whole with libertarians about values, outcomes they wanted, but disagreed about the consequences of particular policies. Most obviously, someone might favor the draft because he believed it was necessary in order to defend the U.S., and want to defend the U.S. precisely because he was in favor of freedom and thought the U.S. was much freer now than it would be if someone else conquered it.

In each of these cases, the pattern is the same. We have a conclusion that might be reached for any of a variety of reasons. Someone who wants to attack the conclusion does it by picking one reason he considers particularly unattractive and indefensible, using that reason to label the conclusion, and thus (dishonestly) implying that anyone holding the conclusion does it for that reason.


State interference that jeopardises free speech

The letter to the editor reproduced below refers to the prosecution of a British man who remarked that homosexuals are sometimes pedophiles. I have further comments on the case on today's TONGUE-TIED

I rarely write to newspapers, but I was so incensed to see a front page headline (December 13) devoted to a crass remark made by a 75-year-old Tory councillor, Peter Willows. I am not a Tory nor am I gay, but I agree with all and sundry that the remarks were indeed offensive and homophobic in the same way any comment in a derogatory manner towards a particular section of society would rightly be condemned if based on race, creed, religion or sexual orientation.

What, however, beggars belief is not only political correctness gone absolutely barmy but also the fact that police and court time, not to mention the cost at taxpayers' expense, is wasted on the ignorant comments of this councillor. Does this mean we are to assign a section of the police force as TAFSS (The anti-free speech stormtroopers)?

Peter Willows was no doubt wrong but to vilify and castigate him over these comments is also entirely wrong. What next? Quislings employed the length and breadth of the country listening for comments that can be reported to the TAFFS, so the wrongdoer can be hauled before the courts to be punished for his/her comments at a party, barbeque, Henley Regatta or football match?

Jay Nemes and Johnny Core, two gay men, who have every right to be offended, speak for I am sure the overwhelming majority of all sections of society when they say "freedom of speech in England ended on December 12, 2006".

Although some of my comments may sound over the top, we should look around at many other countries today and cast our minds back only a relatively few years and take stock. If we go down the road that this court case could lead us, what next? Book burning?

We have seen political correctness gone haywire over recent years, affecting everything from nursery rhymes, children's toys, poetry, job descriptions and food on our supermarket shelves.

Don't think this is a one-off; everything is cyclical as history has proven, from the debauchery in ancient Rome and again during the Renaissance, to the Puritanical regime under Cromwell, through to the Brownshirts of Oswald Mosley. It may be a long fuse but once the blue touch paper of State interference is ignited, usually the result is catastrophic.

Tony Bingham, South Coast Road, Peacehaven


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