Bishop Lépine wants to turn gays straight

By Roger-Luc Chayer
with special collaboration Robert Frank

Bishop Christian Lépine, who in the past has claimed that he could convert gays into heterosexuals, faced a major controversy within hours of being named to succeed retired Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte as Archbishop of Montreal. I never fail to be fascinated by those clergymen, imams and rabbis who wrap themselves in their faith and morals in order to get into their flock’s pants.

Turning the gays straight, judging homosexuals and denying them the same rights as the rest of the population, forbidding women who have been raped from having an abortion and misusing their authority to molest our children…these examples fascinate me, because few organizations which embrace a biblical morality seethe with sexuality to the extent that the Roman Catholic church does — a paradox that is attracting more and more attention from a public that values ​​and expects secularism throughout the public sphere.

What do such statements about gays by Bishop Lépine imply? The Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms outlaws all discrimination based on sexual orientation and stipulates that such discrimination is unethical. When the Catholic Church, through its senior Montreal statesman, claims that direct intervention can turn homosexuals into heterosexuals, it directly targets a protected minority indiscriminately and attempts to lend credence to this argument, ducking prosecution by claiming a right to the freedom of religion protection of the Charter.

True, religious freedom also plays a fundamental role in the Quebec Charter. Article 3 states:

“Everyone holds fundamental freedoms, including freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion , freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.”

But the guarantee of religious freedom is directly at odds with Article 5 (Everyone has the right to respect for their privacy), Article 10 (Everyone has the right to recognition and exercise, in full equality of their rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation), Section 10.1 (No one may harass a person based on grounds mentioned in Article 10), and Article 11 (No one may distribute, publish or publicly exhibit a notice, symbol or sign involving discrimination, or an authorization to that effect).

Of course, the Charter seeks to protect the Church, which welcomes converts to its faith and beliefs, but to alter human nature or to try to change people’s sexual orientation is certainly not what the legislature intended when it passed its law to protect freedom of religion.

Anyone who decides not to practice a religion is also protected by the same Charter, because his or her freedom of conscience is recognized in Article 3. It would be interesting to test Montreal’s Catholic Church refusal to recognize this right through a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

Contacted about this issue, the Commission was reluctant — in the absence of formal complaint — to give its opinion. Instead, it advised that, in general, should a complaint be filed against Monsignor Lépine and the Archdiocese of Montreal for discrimination based on sexual orientation, owing to the statements of the Church about the potential to change the orientation of an entire social group, it would certainly be admissible as a prima facie case. Is there someone in the Montreal gay community who has the courage and temerity to bring this case before the Commission? That remains to be seen!

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