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Religious right challenges LGBTQ rights and freedom of abortion choice

REFOCUS by Gerard Veldhoven

The religious right is once again challenging the federal government to fund their programs believing they have their biblical beliefs to counteract any government ruling.

The human right to practise one’s religious beliefs is not in question, but to ostracize others who are, by birth, or any other influence, members of the LGBTQ community, or to challenge a woman’s right to choose, is totally absurd and wrong.

Summer youth programs initiated by religious communities are sponsored by government but, as is fair and right, one’s rights must be protected. The Liberal government has made it clear that any organization or individual may apply for grants to operate summer youth camps, but also insists that all applicants attest to their respect for sexual and reproductive rights, including the “right to access for safe and legal abortions.”

This is as it should be. The government had received complaints last year that summer job funding had been given to summer camps that refuse to hire LGBTQ staff and groups that distribute graphic and anti-abortion pamphlets. Employment Minister, Patty Hajdu said that, “We took those complaints seriously and this is the decision that we’ve taken, that in order to receive funding they have to affirm that they will not work to undermine the rights of Canadians.” This information is available on the government website.

Legal challenges may be in the future and, according to Minister Hajdu, the government is prepared to defend its decision in the courts to protect citizens from discrimination. We live in an age where more individuals and groups are making serious attempts to reconcile all of humanity, bringing people together to have discussions on how to sit at the table and reach some positive conclusions. Many questions remain unanswered, except to say that discrimination is alive and well in all corners.

On a daily basis many do not consider how people are affected negatively because of what is being said, or some action that is hurtful and contributes to anger between people. Why must we be so careless and why do we not accept people for who they are, and accept the individuality of a person? To discriminate is to alienate, and regardless of the source it goes against efforts to unite.

There are people of faith who do not, and will not accept those who are a member of the LGBTQ community in our country and beyond, and who do not recognize a woman’s right to choose, which allows for discrimination. This is reminiscent of private schools, colleges and universities that would request funding from governments and in doing so receive monies to keep the doors open. Unfortunately, many are faith-based institutions and that funding, if approved, would give the green light for future assistance.

The fact is, these places of learning generally speak out against the LGBTQ community, and do not give women the right to choose their own destiny. Abortion rights are women’s rights. We are who we are, and that must be respected by all. If we are not allowed that freedom, then society will forever be divided with no end in sight.

Those who follow a faith must also be allowed to practise that belief, but would it not be wonderful if they embrace our differences, regardless of sexual orientation, transgender issues or women’s equality? Each one of us is unique and each of us deserves respect, love and our rightful place in this world. After all, these are human rights.

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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

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