The B.C. Humanist Association has waded into the controversy over Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd proclaiming next week Protect Human Life Week in the city.
The Vancouver-based association, which says it represents atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers and secular humanists, has sent a letter to Shepherd, asking her to withdraw the proclamation because it is “an affront to women’s legal rights and the separation of church and state.”
The proclamation, issued earlier this month after a routine request by the Kelowna Right To Life Society, uses that group’s wording which says in part: “It is the intention of this proclamation to promote respect and the protection of all human life, especially the aged, the handicapped and the unborn.”
Shepherd, who is on record as being pro-choice, has said issuing a proclamation does not indicate support for a group or cause, but is simply an announcement.
Her office has issued proclamations for Right to Life Week for the last four years.
But the humanist association says the city is crossing a line in proclaiming Right To Life Week here, calling the Kelowna Right To Life Society “religiously motivated.” In the letter to Shepherd, (see page A 11) it points to the society’s web site, noting its history page proclaims God is on its side.
Many of the events to celebrate the week are being held in churches and a movie is being shown as part of the week that is critical of evolution, “a topic only related to the pro-life movement through evangelical Christianity,” the letter says.
“The B.C. Humanists believe that city councils and mayors should avoid using the power of their office to promote one religious viewpoint or another,” wrote Bushfield in the letter.
Noting abortion has been legal in Canada since 1988, Bushfield said maintaining that legality of abortion is critical for women to achieve equality in our society.
Speaking to the Capital News on Thursday, Bushfield said his group posted its concerns on its web site and has been told that several other people have written similar letters to Kelowna’s mayor.
In B.C., abortion is considered a core medical service and is available at Kelowna General Hospital.
Proclamations were made for several years before Shepherd was first elected in 2005, and not issued in Kelowna after former mayor Walter Gray lost a human rights tribunal complaint case against him following his decision to arbitrarily drop the word “pride” from a request for a proclamation promoting Gay Pride Day.