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Judicial Activism: A Threat to Democracy and Religion
Edited by Alphonse de Valk
Life Ethics Information Centre, Toronto
PB, C$19.95
ISBN: 1-8955-9914-8

Christians and the constitutional landscape

By Kathy Shaidle
web posted October 27, 2003

Judicial Activism: A Threat to Democracy and ReligionJudicial Activism: A Threat to Democracy and Religion is a timely essay collection surveys the bleak Charter-crazy culture in which Canadian Christians are presently obliged to exist. Distinguished lawyers, activists and academics revisit recent notorious court cases that illustrate Chief Justice Antonio Lamer's chilling, matter-of-fact observation that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had effectively rendered Canada a secular society.

To many of us, this litany of decisions is depressingly familiar, and the details never fail to raise the blood pressure. We look once again at the Vriend case:

"Vriend was a chemistry teacher at King's University College in Edmonton. The school, citing a conflict between his flaunted homosexuality and its Christian principles, dismissed him. His subsequent human rights suit seemed to have a critical defect: the Alberta Human Rights Code did not protect homosexuality..." No matter: "Thereupon an Alberta judge read 'sexual orientation' into the provincial code..."

And at that of Scott Brockie, the Toronto printer who refused to print materials for the Gay and Lesbian Archives, and who finally conceded defeat, $100,000 poorer.

"What next?" asks contributor Rory Lieshman. "Will some court contrive to find some pretence under the Charter for a ruling that a faithful Christian has no right to refuse a print order from an organization dedicated to destroying innocent human life?"

We read again about the Marc Hall "gay prom" case and Chamberlain vs. Surrey, in which a judge sided against a group of parents who objected to the gay-themed picture books on their children's kindergarten curriculum.

And we're reminded that the Saskatchewan Human Rights tribunal ordered, "Evangelical Protestant Hugh Owens to Pay $4,500 in damages to three gay men who were offended by an advertisement he took out in The Saskatoon Star Phoenix that contained a pictograph of two men holding hands superimposed with a circle and a slash -- as well as a list of Bible verses condemning the practice of homosexuality."

"The same fate," Lieshman warns, "threatens all Canadians who uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality: anyone who so much as prints or publishes a statement opposing gay marriage now runs the risk of harassment by Canada's human rights police and their enforcers in the courts.

"Ultimately, though, it's our cynical and craven politicians who are responsible for this travesty of justice. It is they who are allowing our masters in the courts to invoke Canada's so-called human rights codes and the misconceived Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms..."

Lieshman's is characteristic of the book's outraged, occasionally high-handed tone. That's not necessarily a bad thing; we Canadians could stand a bit of the hyperbolic political rhetoric that thrives south of the border. Better to be hot or cold than lukewarm, as Christ told St. John.

But such books (like The Death of Right and Wrong, by U.S. author Tammy Bruce) proffer outrage with one hand and solutions with the other: people to complain to, companies to boycott. One gleans a little hope that a sort of Christian counterculture is thriving out there, somewhere.

Now, Judicial Activism is a valuable book for anyone looking for the facts about these historic Canadian cases, and other debate ammunition. Political science professor emeritus Edward J. McBride emerges as a fine phrase-maker and Ian Hunter is always a joy to read, but ultimately, Judicial Activism is disheartening, perhaps unavoidably. Scripture is quoted wisely throughout, and readers are left to wonder whether the only response left for us, as we watch the culture wars rumble on, is to hunker down in our closets and pray.

To order a copy contact the Life Ethics Information Centre at 416-204-9601 or email Catholic@catholicinsight.com.

Kathy Shaidle is a writer / author / blogger whose web site can be found at http://www.relapsedcatholic.blogspot.com/.

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