Letter: Faith-based groups have to respect human rights

Kelowna letter-writer says taxpayer funds not be used to undermine the rights of fellow citizens

To the editor:

Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists (KASHA) applauds the recent efforts of the federal government to restrict funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program to those groups who agree to respect human rights, including reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

Freedom of religion and belief are fundamental freedoms in Canada that KASHA fully supports, but that support does not include approval of taxpayer funding for organizations whose core mandate and practices fail to respect human rights.

This is not merely an esoteric debate about the balancing of conflicting rights. Intolerant attitudes towards marginalized groups have real world consequences. For example, according to Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, 33 per cent of LGB youth have attempted suicide in comparison to seven per cent of youth in general. A program that does not recognize and respect the rights of LGBTQ youth, as some religious organizations are claiming they cannot do, would only exacerbate this serious problem.

KASHA has no desire to restrict the many valuable services provided by faith organizations. However, faith organizations — like other organizations — must respect human rights legislation if they are to receive taxpayer support. Some religious leaders are claiming that they cannot attest to being able to run their programs while respecting the rights of others. In which case, they should not receive government funding.

Insisting that taxpayer funds not be used to undermine the rights of fellow citizens should not be a controversial position. Canadians would rightly be outraged at the government funding a secular organization running a student jobs program that undermines respect for Canadian law. Why should we treat faith organizations any differently?

Nina George,

Kelowna Atheists, Humanists, and Skeptics Association Board member

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