Below is the text of a letter submitted to Economic and Social Development Canada accompanying our church’s application for Canada Summer Jobs program funding. It explains why we cannot in good conscience express the words of the attestation imposed as a requirement by the Trudeau government on organizations applying for this funding. It is our belief that the attestation requirement infringes on the Charter rights of Canadians who hold to pro-life views and to a biblical definition of sexuality and marriage. The letter includes wording helpfully supplied by the Canadian Council of Christian Charities here, but expands and elaborates on Calvary Grace Church’s particular concerns.
Letter of Attestation for the 2018 Summer Jobs Program Application
To whom it may concern,
On behalf of Calvary Grace Church of Calgary, I can wholeheartedly affirm and assent to the first, second, and fourth bullet points of the 2018 Summer Jobs Application attestation. First, I have read and understood the Canada Summer Jobs Articles of Agreement and referred to the Applicant Guide as needed. Second, the job would not be created without the financial assistance provided under a potential contribution agreement. And fourth, I have all the necessary authorities, permissions and approvals to submit this application on behalf of myself and the organization.
Regarding the third point of the attestation, both I and the organization I represent can wholeheartedly affirm and assent to the wording of the first sentence of that point, which reads: “both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.”
It is our belief that the core mandate of our organization is consistent with the Charter. After all, we have been granted charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency under the auspices of that same Charter. Recently, the core mandate of local Christian churches was helpfully and accurately described by the Minister, Patty Hajdu, as “administering the word of God.” Or, to use the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charity Directorate’s terminology, we exist for the charitable purpose of the “advancement of religion.” Furthermore, we are able to attest that we are committed to upholding our obligations under all Canadian law, including human rights law.
However, on the basis of conscience, I (in both my capacity as a representative of Calvary Grace Church of Calgary and as an individual follower of Jesus Christ) am unable, and Calvary Grace Church of Calgary is unable, to express the words the Minister has required in the Applicant’s Guide—specifically, the second sentence of that third point of the Attestation. Along with many other Canadians, we believe the Minister does not have the jurisdiction under law to compel someone to make a statement or adopt a belief that conflicts with our religious conscience under the Charter, as a condition for receipt of funding. We respectfully decline to make a statement that is inconsistent with our fundamental constitutionally protected personal beliefs including those about the value of life and the right to life under section 7 of the Charter, and about the freedom of religion as guaranteed in s. 2(a).
The problem with the second sentence of the third point of the attestation is its ambiguity. What is meant by “respect” in the attestation?
If by “respect” it is intended to mean that we will peacefully abide by Canadian law and the democratic process, then yes, we will and do. To use the Minister’s words again, the very “word of God” that we are “administering” compels us to “strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14), and commands us to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). We respect the government of Canada, regardless of its political commitments and irrespective of its platform, as having been appointed by God for our good and for the good of society (cf. Romans 13:1-7).
And, if by “respect” it is intended to mean that we respect all our fellow Canadians (and non-Canadians, for that matter), even if they exercise their legal and Charter rights in ways we disagree with, or if they hold religious, political, moral, or cultural views that differ from our own, then yes, again, we do. We understand all human beings to be fellow image-bearers of God (cf. Genesis 1:27) like ourselves. Because every person bears God’s image, we believe they are worthy of life, love, and honor.
And furthermore, if by “respect” for the “right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression,” it is intended to mean that people of all of these groups are welcome to participate in, and benefit from, the services our organization provides to the community (including, but not limited to, our worship services, Sunday Schools, conferences, Bible studies, backyard Bible clubs, sports camps, Vacation Bible Schools, concerts, pastoral counseling, pastoral visitation, mercy ministries, and other activities), then yes, absolutely. Anyone and everyone is invited to attend Calvary Grace Church and benefit from its ministries, regardless of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, or sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. As Christians, we are commanded to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19). We are commanded by Jesus Christ to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15 KJV) freely and without discrimination. Even more than that, we love them and pray for them, and invite and long for all humanity, every individual regardless of background or belief, to be reconciled God the Father by faith in Jesus Christ alone (cf. John 3:16) and to become, with us, fellow partakers of God’s grace.
However, if by “respect” it is intended to mean that we are being required to endorse, commend, or celebrate practices and beliefs that we believe to be moral wrongs or to be inconsistent with our religious beliefs, we must respectfully dissent. To use the Minister’s own words again, the very “word of God” that we are “administering” requires that we, as individuals and as a church, be committed to and advocate for the sanctity and protection of unborn life (cf. Psalm 139:13-15; Exodus 21:22-25) and for God’s prescribed pattern for human sexuality and marriage (cf. Genesis 1:26-28; 2:20-25). We cannot in good conscience express that we endorse, commend, or celebrate the denial or negation of those commitments in Canadian law.
Furthermore, if by “respect” it is intended to mean that we must concede or accept that the legal, political, cultural, moral, and religious debate over those commitments is over, or that we promise or commit to refrain from expression, teaching, preaching, or activism that is intended to convince others of the rightness of our beliefs regarding those issues and so effect democratic change in Canadian laws and institutions that would be in keeping with our commitments, these things we cannot do. We can make no such concession, promise, commitment, or communicate such acceptance. Christians do not have the luxury of confining the expression of their faith to private belief or verbal discussion only, but are required to live in light of them—that is, the Christian religion consists not only in internal belief but outward practice (cf. James 1:22). We are commanded to “preach the Word…in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2), regardless of cultural or political pressure. In these commitments, we uphold and stand in a tradition of nearly two thousand years of consistent Christian teaching. If we are being “charged” by the government “not to teach” in accordance with our convictions (cf. Acts 5:28), we must with the Apostles Peter and John reply, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
And finally, if by “respect” for “the right to be free from discrimination” it is intended to mean that we waive our right to establish, or will refrain from establishing, a bona fide occupational requirement for staff members employed at Calvary Grace Church to subscribe to the evangelical Christian religion and affirm our confessional and doctrinal statements, this we cannot do. Christians are commanded not to appoint leaders or servants to positions or offices in the church who do not meet biblical qualifications for faith and practice (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Timothy 5:22). Furthermore, we believe that under the Charter it would be a violation of our rights and freedoms to require us to do so.
With the great Christian Reformer and pastor, Martin Luther, we can only say:
“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
Please accept our application with the above-noted statement in substitution for the statement set forth in the online application process and in the Applicant’s Guide.
Elder & Executive Pastor
Calvary Grace Church of Calgary