Jim Corcoran at the OHRC: Unconstitutional

[ ED NOTE: Scary Fundamentalist, from the Scary Fundamentalist blog, was kind enough to allow me to cross-post this article from his ( I’m assuming, but correct me if I’m wrong ) blog. You can read the original here. You can also read some of Scary Fundamentalist’s previous thoughts on Jim Corcoran’s complaint here and here. ]
As I continue my self-taught crash course in rights and freedoms, it becomes readily apparent to me that Jim Corcoran’s complaint against Bishop DeAngelis and fellow parishioners doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. If the Ontario Human Rights Commission would go so far as to rule in favour of the plaintiff, this one should be appealed and quashed in short order. That would further erode the reputation of Barbara Hall’s inquisition, and Canada’s HRCs in general. Knowing that, I would expect the OHRC to drop this like a hot potato but, strangely, as yet they have not.

Considering that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is Constitutional Law, while the Human Rights Code and provincial versions of it are Statute Law, the Code is subservient to the Charter. Front and center in the charter is what it calls “fundamental freedoms”, including:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

A ruling from the tribunal against the defendants would transgress all four of these. Freedom of religion would obviously be relegated to nominal lip service. The 12 parishioners would be punished for expressing their opinion. The peaceful assembly of the church would be disrupted by a government agency who would force upon it both membership and leadership. And freedom of association would be subject to the approval of the likes of Barbara Hall.

But what about equality in the Charter? Indeed, the only part of the Charter that forbids discrimination does so in just one important aspect: equality before the law (section 15).

A few cheerleaders have emerged in support of Corcoran’s position. A column by Russell Moore in the Northumberland News, sputters:

This is open and blatant discrimination. Mr. Corcoran is well justified in approaching the Human Rights Tribunal rather than allowing the church to deal with this matter internally… What is right and proper is that the essential goodness of Mr. Corcoran be recognized and that his sexual orientation should carry absolutely no weight in this matter.

So Mr. Moore claims the following:

1) The Human Rights Tribunal has the mandate to recognize “essential goodness”, and therefore the power to enforce that opinion on religious bodies.

2) Mr. Moore’s opinion of what is right and proper is enforceable by government agents, but the twelve parishioners’ opinion of what is right and proper is invalid.

3) Sexual orientation carries absolutely no weight in an internal matter involving a religion that expressly forbids homosexual acts.

Mr Moore ends with the ironic statement, “Some questions are best left to God and that will be dealt with in due course.” Maybe he should read his own words.

Another letter, in the Northumberland Today, states,

“No institution, public or private, should be exempt from honouring the human rights of all people.

For too long, our churches have exempted themselves from the improving human rights standards of our broader society. It is time for accountability on their part. These institutions are the only ones we have, they are those of the whole community and must not continue to serve only fragments thereof.”

Here’s a hint – look up the concept of “freedom of association”. Any association retains the freedom to define the beliefs necessary for membership. This was made clear in the US (Democratic Party v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 450 U.S. 107 (1981)):

…this freedom to gather in association for the purpose of advancing shared beliefs is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from infringement by any State, and necessarily presupposes the freedom to identify the people who constitute the association and to limit the association to those people only.

This has also been confirmed in Canadian law, ostensibly on appeal after the BC Human Rights Tribunal first erred in a case involving the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. Indeed, in Trinity Western University vs British Columbia College of Teachers, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that equality rights on the basis of sexual orientation do not trump freedom of religion and association.

As enticing as it is for Barbara Hall to use her Human Rights Commission to declare herself the ultimate authority in every religion, I still can’t believe she is so daft as to proceed with this.


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