Saturday, February 09, 2008

Who Really Cares?

February 9, 2008

The United States donates far less of its national income to official development assistance than any other industrialized country. At just 0.18 per cent of national income, the U.S. aid effort is less than half that of Britain, France and Germany, and more than five times less than Sweden, the world's most generous donor of official development assistance to needy countries.
Among the 30 relatively wealthy members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States also ranks last in the proportion of national income allocated to government spending on welfare and unemployment insurance. But does it follow that the people of the United States are singularly lacking in care and compassion for the less fortunate?
"After considering the evidence, it is clear that the stereotype of stingy Americans just doesn't hold up. The American government is not the only giver. When we look at the overall charity of Americans, we quickly see that we are an extraordinarily generous nation, by international standards."
Many critics think so. In 2001, Clare Short, the British International Development Secretary, went so far as to denounce the United States for allegedly "turning its back on the needy of the world."
There is no basis for such accusations. Like so many other left-wing critics, Short failed to appreciate that in the United States, government spending on the needy is supplemented by extraordinary private charity.
Arthur C. Brooks, a professor of public administration at the University of Syracuse, has examined this issue in his book, Who Really Cares?: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism. With regard to foreign aid, he points out that in 2002, the $10 billion which the United States contributed to official development assistance was augmented by $13 billion in other forms of government aid and an enormous $50 billion in private charity for less developed countries. Altogether in 2002, the people of the United States donated about $200 per person -- 0.5 per cent of their national income -- to international aid.
Americans are also remarkably generous in supporting worthy causes within their own country. Regardless, many people in Europe, Canada and other rich countries harbour the smug assumption that they are collectively far more generous than the people of the United States, although there is actually much better reason to believe that the converse is true - that the people of the United States are far more generous in volunteering their money, time and talents to help the needy both at home and overseas than are the people of any other industrialized country.
In a series of annual reports over the past several years on generosity in Canada and the United States, the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute has consistently found that Americans donate much more money to charity than do Canadians. Specifically, in the latest of these reports, the authors state: "In 2005, Americans gave 1.77 percent of their aggregate personal income to charity, resulting in a total of US$182 billion in donations. This rate of giving is more than double that of Canadians, who gave 0.75 percent of their aggregate income (Cdn$7.8 billion in total) to charity in 2005."
The people of the United States are also far more generous than Europeans. Citing the best available data, Brooks relates: "Even accounting for differences in standard of living, average Americans gave more than twice as high a percentage of their incomes to charity as the Dutch, almost three times as much as the French, more than five times as much as the Germans, and more than 10 times as much as the Italians."
An international survey on volunteering in 1998 likewise found that the people of the United States are more generous than Europeans in volunteering their time for both religious and non-religious causes. And here, too, the degree of American exceptionalism is striking. While the survey reported that 41 per cent of the people of the United States volunteered annually for nonreligious causes, only 29 per cent of the population did so in Sweden, 24 per cent in Britain and a paltry 13 per cent in Germany.
Brooks sums up: "After considering the evidence, it is clear that the stereotype of stingy Americans just doesn't hold up. The American government is not the only giver. When we look at the overall charity of Americans, we quickly see that we are an extraordinarily generous nation, by international standards."
What accounts for the exceptional generosity of the people of the United States? Part of the explanation is political ideology: On the basis of his extensive research, Brooks discovered, to his surprise, that liberals and socialists who think that government should equalize incomes give less of their money and time to charity than do conservatives who are not obsessed with equality.
Within Canada and Europe, liberals and socialists predominate. Most of these people seem to think that charity begins and ends with voting for governments that promise to give away other peoples' money to help the poor.
Within the United States, there is a substantially larger proportion of conservatives than in other industrialized countries. These people understand that the mark of true charity is not to rely on the government, but to volunteer one's own time and money for worthy causes.
Regardless, in determining levels of private charity, a much more important factor than political ideology is religious conviction. Brooks cites a survey of the population of the United States in 2000, which revealed that religious people - defined as those who attend church nearly every week - were 25 percentage points more likely to give to charity (91 per cent compared to 66 per cent) and 23 percentage points more likely to volunteer (67 per cent compared to 44 per cent). Furthermore, while these religious people enjoyed exactly the same average annual family income ($49,000) as secular people, they gave away "about three-and-a-half times more dollars per year, on average ($2,210 versus $642). They also volunteered more than twice as often (12 times per year, versus 5.8 times)."
It might be supposed that religious people only appear to be more generous, because they have been browbeaten into pouring money into the collection plates at church on Sunday. But that is not the case. Brooks found that in comparison to secular people, religious people are 10 percentage points more likely to give and 21 percentage points more likely to volunteer for completely secular, charities like the United Way or a home-and-school board.
Religious people are also more apt to engage in random acts of kindness. For example, survey data indicate that if you drop your wallet on the sidewalk, you are far more likely to get it back if it is found by an observant Christian or Jew rather than a secularist.
Also, the generosity of religious people transcends differences in political ideology. Religious liberals give significantly more time and money to charity than do secular liberals, although religious liberals are not so generous as religious conservatives.
Brooks sums up: "Religious people are far, far more charitable than secularists, no matter what their politics. But while religious conservatives are extremely common, religious liberals are a fairly exotic breed. Liberals are far more likely to fall in the 'secular' category than the 'religious' category, which is one big reason why liberals tend to look uncharitable."
It's no coincidence that the United States is exceptional for both religiosity and generosity. Among the 32 countries which took part in a survey of religious behaviour and attitudes by the International Social Survey Programme in 1998, the United States proved to be far and away the most religious as no less than 23.4 per cent of the population indicated that they attended church at least two or three times a month. The corresponding proportion of regular church goers was 18.7 per cent in Italy, 11.7 per cent in Australia, 11.4 per cent in Canada, 7.8 per cent in Britain, 6.6 per cent in Sweden and 5.6 per cent in France.
Christians, of course, are not perfect. All have sinned and fallen woefully short of the divine perfection.
Nonetheless, Brooks has advanced compelling evidence to establish that in the United States as elsewhere, observant Christians are far more likely than secularists to volunteer their money, time and talents for worthy causes. And the reason for the exceptional charitableness of these Christians is obvious: People in the pews hear and respond to the admonitions of Christ that there is no better way to express our love for God than to serve others without counting the cost or expecting anything in return.

The Duty of a Cop

The London Free Press
February 9, 2008

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino has undertaken to set the record straight in an illuminating autobiography entitled: Duty: The Life of a Cop, which he wrote with the editorial and research assistance of Toronto writer and consultant Jerry Amernic.
That Fantino felt the need for such a book is understandable: In recent years, few public figures have been more frequently and viciously maligned than he.
In his book, Fantino recounts how he emigrated to Canada as a youngster from Italy; learned English as a schoolboy in Toronto; earned a high school diploma by correspondence; joined the Metropolitan Toronto police force at age 27; and rose rapidly through the ranks.
His baptism in the fires of political controversy came as a staff inspector in 1988, when he was asked by the North York Committee on Community, Race and Ethnic relations to gather information on the socio-economic status and race of persons charged with criminal offences in the Jane-Finch area. As requested, Fantino duely prepared a report detailing the high proportion of crimes committed by blacks in the violence-prone district.
Inevitably, the media obtained the supposedly confidential report. The result was an intense political controversy featuring Fantino as the fall guy. Any fair-minded commentator would have lauded him for doing his duty. Instead, he was widely maligned as a racist. Ontario Premier David Peterson led a chorus of politicians in demanding that the police stop collecting statistics on crimes by race.
Fantino was so deeply hurt by the North York controversy that he resolved to resign from the Toronto police force. However, he was persuaded to carry on and three years later, he was appointed chief of police in London, only to be vilified again for doing his duty.
This time the controversy focussed on his initiation of Project Guardian, a major investigation of child pornography and pedophilia by the London Police that came up with 62 complainants and 61 suspects. “If that’s not a ‘ring,’ I don’t know what is,” says Fantino.
He reports: “The ages of the complainants ranged from seven to 17 years with 50 per cent of them being 13 years of age or younger, while the average age of the suspects was 40.” The investigation resulted in 535 criminal charges, 39 per cent involving anal intercourse and 49 per cent fellatio. Moreover, the conviction rate for Project Guardian was 86 per cent, a proportion described by Fantino as “almost unheard of in the criminal justice system.”
Nonetheless, many critics contend that Project Guardian unfairly targetted homosexuals. In a nationally televised report on the investigation, the CBC referred to Fantino’s “perceived homophobia” and alleged failure to “distinguish between consensual gay sex and abuse.”
Naturally, Fantino resents such charges. He is proud, and rightly so, of his leadership in combatting the sexual exploitation of children. “I am not anti-gay or homophobic and never have been,” he avows. “However, I am very much against anyone who abuses kids or young people, and as long as I’m in law enforcement, I will go after these characters with everything I’ve got. You can bet on it.”
As commissioner of the OPP, Fantino now bears heavy responsibility for domestic security. He maintains that Canadians are far too complacent about terrorism. Having gained access to national and international intelligence on terrorist activities, he insists it is urgent for Canada to emulate more security conscious European countries like Italy, where police officers are authorized by law to conduct random checks on people right on the street.
As it is, Fantino warns: “We are sitting back, but the day will come when we’ll have to change our attitude. When the bombs go off, you just watch how things will go the other way and the knee-jerk reaction that takes place.”
Altogether, Duty: The Life of a Cop is a fascinating and informative account of the life and thinking of one of Canada’s most accomplished police officers. While Fantino might not always be right, his well-informed views on key issues of public safety deserve careful consideration.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Catholic Insight Under Attack

Catholic Insight
February, 2008

In subjecting Catholic Insight magazine to investigation on baseless charges of homophobia, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is once again trampling upon the very human rights and fundamental freedoms it is supposed to uphold. The sooner this oppressive Commission and its provincial counterparts are abolished, the better.
Catholic Insight is the latest in a long line of publications to run afoul of Canada’s human rights commissions. Among the other victims are Maclean’s magazine, The Western Standard, the Calgary Herald and the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. Some journalists have been so intimidated by Canada’s human rights thought police that they no longer dare to publish anything that might offend the sensibilities of Muslim zealots, homosexual activists or any other group that qualifies for special treatment in the freedom-stifling, federal and provincial, human rights codes that have sprung up over the past 50 years.
Yet it’s open season on the Catholic Church for anti-Catholic bigots. No Canadian human rights commission has ever reprimanded anyone for expressing hatred or contempt for Christianity. To the contrary, as the attack on Catholic Insight indicates, these commissions have specialized in attacking Canadians who uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality.
In 2005, the Alberta Human Rights Commission placed Catholic Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary under investigation for opposing same-sex marriage in a pastoral letter and a column in the Calgary Herald. Following several months of harassment, the Commission dropped the case when the two complainants against him withdrew their charges.
Stephen Boissoin has not been so fortunate. After a five-year investigation, he was found on November, 30, 2007, by an Alberta Human Rights Panel to have expressed hatred and contempt for homosexuals in a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate that he wrote in his capacity as a Baptist minister. Among the statements held against Boissoin was his warning: “From kindergarten class and on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators.”
Such rulings have sent a chill through faithful clerics throughout the country. In testimony before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional affairs on July 13, 2005, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, the primate of Canada, said: “A kind of climate is developing in which people no longer dare say what they think. Even from the pulpit, we feel threatened if we recall the sexual morality of the Church. That is also part of religious freedom. Even in our churches, these words are troubling, and we feel accused of homophobia, hatred of or hurting homosexuals.”
Of course, not all clerics have reason to fear oppression by a human rights tribunal: Liberals who have embraced the gay rights ideology are quite safe. Indeed, some trendy clerics have abetted the human rights inquisitors in oppressing their faithful fellow Christians.
A notorious case in point is The Very Rev. Dr. Bruce McLeod, former moderator of the United Church of Canada. In 2001, he testified before the Ontario human rights tribunal against Scott Brockie, an Evangelical Protestant, who was subsequently found guilty of discriminating against homosexuals for having refused on religious grounds to print materials for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
It will ever be thus, it seems. Down through the centuries, faithful Christians have been persecuted by heretics who conform their thinking to the current pattern of the world rather than uphold that good and acceptable and perfect word of God as revealed in Sacred Scripture.
Father Alphonse de Valk, the editor of Catholic Insight, is made of stern stuff. He can be counted upon not to capitulate under pressure by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, but to stand firm in upholding the truths of Christian faith and morality as authoritatively expounded by the sacred magisterium of the Catholic Church.
And in doing so, Father de Valk should have the solid support of all Canadians who affirm the inalienable rights of all people to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. Certainly, conscientious Christians should never fail in their duty to defend and affirm the faith in public after the manner urged by Abraham Lincoln: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”

Suppression of Religion

The Interim
February, 2008

For a striking illustration of the repression of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in Canada, consider the plight of Stephen Boissoin, an erstwhile Baptist minister in Alberta.
In a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate published on June 17, 2002, Boissoin denounced the indoctrination of children in the public schools by proponents of the notion that homosexuality is a safe and legitimate alternative lifestyle. In response to Boissoin’s letter, Darren Lund, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, accusing Boissoin of exposing homosexuals to hatred and contempt in violation of section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.
As evidence for the charge, Lund cited several passages from Boissoin’s bombastic letter, including the following: “From kindergarten class and on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators” with “repugnant and pre-mediated [sic] strategies, aimed at desensitizing and eventually recruiting our young children into their camps.”
The province’s chief human rights commissioner could have summarily rejected Lund’s complaint. Instead, in 2006, he referred the matter to a human rights panel.
Gerald Chipeur, one of Canada’s top constitutional lawyers, argued before this panel that by virtue of the guarantee of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Boissoin has a constitutional right to publish the honestly held religious convictions on a matter of political debate expressed in his letter to the editor.
Barry Cooper, a distinguished professor of political science at the University of Calgary, likewise told the panel that “reasonable people can disagree about whether homosexual practices are immoral and they can further disagree about whether the Bible is authoritative … [I]f activists use taxpayer dollars to promote homosexuality in public schools, then Christians have a right to stand up and say they do not think it is okay.”
Counsel for the secular Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) repudiated Boissoin’s opinions on gay rights, while defending his constitutional right to express them. In addition, the CCLA argued that the provinces have no authority under the Constitution of Canada to censor the publication of political opinions in a newspaper.
In one of the most dismaying aspects of the Boissoin case, the Attorney General for Alberta flatly disagreed with the defence of freedom of religion and freedom of expression mounted by Cooper and the CCLA. In an intervention against Boissoin, the province’s top law officer insisted that under the Constitution of Canada and the laws of Alberta, the human rights panel had both the authority and the responsibility to censure Boissoin for expressing hatred and contempt for homosexuals in his letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate.
With the Attorney General of the most conservative province in the country intervening against Boissoin, the outcome was virtually a foregone conclusion. In a ruling on 27 November 2007, the Panel Chair, Lori G. Andreachuk, QC, a family-law lawyer from Lethbridge, duly found that Boissoin had violated the ban on expressing hatred or contempt for a protected group in section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.
In support of her finding, Andreachuk argued: “Not taking jurisdiction would mean that inciting hatred would be acceptable up to the point that a crime occurs as a result of it. This cannot be the case, given the context of this being rural Alberta that is a matter of a local nature.” On the basis of such obtuse reasoning are the historic rights and freedoms of Canadians suppressed.
Meanwhile, under pressure from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a Calgary man, Craig Chandler, has apologized for having posted Boissoin’s letter to the editor on the website of Concerned Christians Canada, and has promised never to do so again.
What, though, is the point of such censorship? Most of Boissoin’s letter can be read in Andreachuk’s ruling. And the full text remains freely available on websites in the United States, where the courts still uphold the inalienable rights of all peoples to freedom of religion and freedom of the press.