The Lynch List, 26-Oct-2011

Wow. What a firestorm started in a Tim Horton’s outlet in Blenheim, Ontario this week. Though the human rights racket isn’t involved yet, this incident is right in its wheelhouse.

First: The initial reports made it sound like a slam-dunk: a Christian pastor objected to having two affectionate lesbians on the premises of the Tim Horton’s at which he was a customer. The manager obliged, asking the women to leave the premises. The women were irate, believing that they were being asked to leave because they were lesbians. Shortly after, a church group held a prayer session in the parking lot, “praying for the souls” of the two women. The lesbians proceeded to look into human rights complaints and begun to organize a protest at the restaurant. Fits the narrative, doesn’t it? No doubt it elicited squeals of indignation from the perpetually aggrieved.

What followed was a barrage of angry e-mails and threatening phone calls aimed at both the restaurant and the pastor’s church.

The truth is a little more complicated. The pastor indeed objected to inappropriate public displays of affection (corroborated by a gay man in the restaurant) in front of his three-year-old, but it so happens to be that he is pastor of a notable gay-friendly church in the area. He even thought that they were a heterosexual couple. Local gay activist groups sided with the pastor and recommended that the lesbian couple move on. The prayer vigil? Simply a few parents from the church standing around and chatting.

There is so much to learn from this incident. It spells the need to check your facts. It illustrates that thin-skinned inviduals can do a lot of damage when they jump to conclusions. It highlights the need for restaurants to have the legal freedom to police their premises without fear of a human rights complaint.

But it also demonstrates that community engagement generally leads to the best outcomes. The planned protest brought many others to examine the situation and make their own conclusions, fostering understanding between everyone – this wouldn’t happen if/when a human rights tribunal stuck its nose into the mix.

And finally, there was a poignant moment when a gay activist identified with the pastor in that both were bullied in school – one for being gay and the other for having red hair. The take-home message here is that the artificial boundaries between groups set up by the human rights legislation (and the Charter) are doing a disservice to its goal.

Second: The Calgary Herald posted an editorial on the Tim Horton’s incident – then subsequently removed it from their website. I found it here.

Had the couple actually been heterosexual, Revie would have complained, the story would never have made headlines, and the words “human rights commission” would never have been uttered.

Third: The Winnipeg Free Press explains why BC employers will never be able to read the riot act to the Stanley Cup rioters – because of the BCHRT:

Even if she was lawfully dismissed, and even if she is convicted of a crime, she or any other rioter has recourse to B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal to compel an employer to hire her, or face prosecution and penalties, including an award of monetary damages payable to her by the employer.

Under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, a person can’t be denied employment if convicted of a crime not related to that employment.

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