Thursday, August 13, 2009

Keep public services and spaces out of the hands of religious groups

Here's an excerpt from a good article written by's Krishna Rau. In it he discusses why public services and spaces should stay out of the hands of religious groups and for cash-strapped governments to resist the temptation to enter deals with churches.

Krishna Rau writes:
A Saskatchewan court ruled at the end of July that a provincially-appointed marriage commissioner cannot refuse to wed same-sex couples. In 2005, Orville Nichols refused to perform a civil marriage ceremony for two Regina men, who then filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. The HRC ruled Nichols had discriminated, fined him and ordered that he perform same-sex marriages when requested...

I find this ruling important. It confirms that cloaking it in "deeply-held religious beliefs" does not make opposition to same-sex marriage any less an expression of homophobic discrimination...

The Saskatchewan ruling also coincided with a story from Utah. Reportedly, security guards for the Mormon church in Salt Lake City cuffed and detained two men as they walked across the Main Street plaza. The police then charged the men with trespassing. But a police report, released after the charges were dismissed, states that the behaviour that prompted the security guards' actions was the men kissing and hugging. Gay activists held a kiss-in in the square to protest the actions. But what makes the incident stand out to me is not the homophobic actions of police and church, it's the fact that the Mormon church owns a public square in the centre of Salt Lake City. Apparently, in 2003, the city entered into a land swap with the church that left the Mormons with private ownership of a previously publicly-owned plaza that thousands of people walk across every day. The church now has the right to regulate all behaviour on the plaza according to its own religious beliefs. READ MORE