Professor Brett Scharffs Comments on Canadian Discriminatory Hiring Ruling

August 2010 – Christianity Today

Comments of ICLRS Associate Director Brett G. Scharffs concerning the May 2010 Canadian court ruling in Heintz v. Christian Horizons have been quoted in the 20 August 2010 online edition of Christianity Today. The case, from the Ontario Divisional Court, involved an employee who alleged discrimination by a Christian organization because she is a lesbian. Observers have noted that the court’s ruling was “jarring” in its confusing explanation that religious organizations in Canada can claim exemption to Canadian law that bars discriminatory hiring, “if they are primarily engaged in serving the interests of their religious community, where the restriction is reasonable and bona fide because of the nature of the employment.”

What was most troubling about the decision, notes Professor Scharffs, was the false dichotomy the court created between those who preach and those who live their faith. While the compromise looks reasonable, it quickly unravels, he said. “Focusing on whether someone has responsibility for evangelizing is deeply misguided, since the most profound sermons are often silent ones—preached in the performance of charitable service,” said Scharffs. “Dismissing those who feed and bathe those who are disabled as not having a central religious function is especially ironic. Far from an ‘objective’ perspective, it reveals a deeply troubling and very personal belief by the court of what is and is not important.”