Monday, January 01, 2007

An example of greater honour in defeat

Catholic Insight
By Rory Leishman

Truly, there is sometimes more honour in defeat than in victory. A case in point is the loss of Dianne Haskett in the November 27 federal byelection in London North Centre.
Liberal Glen Pearson won the riding with 35 per cent of the votes, while Haskett, running for the Conservatives, finished third with 24 per cent, behind Green Party leader Elizabeth May who garnered 25 per cent. Megan Walker of the NDP ended up fourth with just 14 per cent of the votes.
Throughout the election campaign, Haskett’s opponents reminded voters that during her first term as mayor of London in 1997, she was convicted and fined by an Ontario human rights board of inquiry for refusing on religious grounds to issue a gay pride proclamation at the request of the Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO). In a letter to the editor published in The London Free Press two days before the vote, Clarence Crossman stated: “The gay community offered Haskett accommodation at every point in our dispute with her, trying to find a way to live together in a diverse community. Haskett's response was deception and ducking her legal and moral obligations.”
Crossman is the pastor of London’s Holy Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church, a congregation that describes itself as rooted in the city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community. It’s he, Crossman, not Haskett, who is the practitioner of deception.
Consider the evidence. On May 12, 1995, Richard Hudler, president of HALO, and Crossman wrote a joint letter to mayor Haskett in which they suggested that if her religious beliefs as an Evangelical Christian motivated her decision to refuse to issue a gay pride proclamation, she should consider delegating her discretion to make proclamations to a vote of City Council. Hudler and Crossman added: “We agree that it is not fair to force you to make a proclamation about something you believe to be wrong.”
Haskett concurred. The issue was referred to City Council, which promptly joined Haskett in refusing to issue a gay pride proclamation by a vote of 15 to four.
Meanwhile, Crossman has hardened his position. Despite what he wrote 11 years ago, he now denounces Haskett for having refused as mayor to issue a gay pride proclamation which she as an evangelical Christian believed to be wrong.
Mary Anne McKellar, the board of inquiry adjudicator assigned to the Haskett case, was no less dismissive of the rights of Christians. Despite the ostensible guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion in section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, McKellar held that Mayor Haskett had a moral and legal obligation to issue a gay pride proclamation upon request by HALO.
Haskett repudiated this unjust ruling. In testimony before the board, she avowed that she could not separate her religious convictions from the performance of her duties as mayor. She said: “I think at the very least a person who separates themselves from their deeply held beliefs, at the very least, they are a hypocrite and at the very worst, they are turning their back on God, and I can’t do that.”
Joe Fontana, the previous Liberal incumbent in London North Centre, took a different view of his religious obligations. To get himself elected to Parliament and appointed to the federal cabinet by former prime minister Paul Martin, he had no compunction about supporting same-sex marriage and abortion on demand notwithstanding his fundamental moral obligations and religious beliefs as a Catholic.
The determination of the Harper government to reopen the issue of same-sex marriage was a major issue in the London North Centre byelection. Of the four leading candidates, three -- Haskett, May and Pearson -- professed to be Christians, but only Haskett upheld the Biblical definition of marriage as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman.
On this basis, Haskett went down to electoral defeat. But at least, she emerged from the contest with her integrity intact. And in doing so, she set a good example for all Christians, by resisting the temptation to pursue popular favour and political gain through deliberately turning her back on God and renouncing the traditional teachings of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

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