Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lesbians v. the Knights of Columbus

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption Archdiocese of Vancouver

From CTV News we learn that:
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled in favour of two lesbian women who claim they were discriminated against by a Catholic men's organization when they booked a hall for their wedding reception in the fall of 2003.

Deborah Chymyshyn and Tracey Smith allege the Knights of Columbus council in Port Coquitlam cancelled their contract when they found out it was for a same-sex couple, after they had already paid their deposit and sent out their wedding invitations.

The judgment says that the Knights of Columbus council "failed in their duty to accommodate the plaintiffs when they refused the rental of the hall to them," said their lawyer barbara findlay (who requests that her name is spelled in lowercase letters).

"While they may have been able to refuse based on their religious beliefs, they took no steps to respect the dignity of my clients," findlay told CTV.ca.

The tribunal has ruled that the women are to be awarded $1,000 each, as well as a reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses.

The woman who booked the hall for the couple testified that it didn't occur to her that they were marrying each other, saying she believed they could have been friends or mother and daughter, findlay said.

Elemer Lazar, head of the Knights of Columbus council in Port Coquitlam, has said in the past that he doesn't understand why a same-sex couple would want to book a Catholic facility.

But findlay says that her clients, who had difficulty finding a hall to hold their reception, did not know the Knights of Columbus was a Catholic organization. "Actually, my clients had no idea who the Knights of Columbus were. They had never heard of them and were completely shocked that this erstwhile bingo hall was turning them down," she said.
I wrote about this affair back on January 26, 2005, in a piece called Lesbians Launch Attack on Knights of Columbus.
I know lawyers have the capacity to look you in the eye and tell the most extraordinary tales, the foundation of which is not readily comprehensible to the non-legal brain, but this is a good one. We are supposed to believe Barbara Findlay's assertion that her clients didn't know the Knights of Columbus was an organization of Catholic men dedicated to living their lives in adherence with the teachings of the Catholic faith? Sorry, this is simply not credible, Ms Findlay.

Why even make such a statement? Now that the happy couple does know of the knights' religious convictions, they are proceeding to trample them under in their pursuit of their newly-minted lesbian marriage rights. Is the statement, then, only a ploy to portray your clients as the victims in this tawdry attack dog scenario? One is compelled to wonder.

As for Grand Knight Elemer Lazar, who doesn't understand why a same-sex couple would want to book a Catholic facility, I extend my sincere sympathies. You are evidently not sensitive to the politics of the gay rights agenda. Rest assured that by the end of this affair you and your fellow knights will be. Sensitivity to "rights" is not extended in this liberal society to those who base actions on deeply held religious convictions. Accommodation on that basis is now made grudgingly, if at all.

At the risk of being accused of engaging in the un-Catholic practice of divination, let me make the following prediction. Your KofC council will be ground into hamburger by the human rights commission, the gay rights lobby and most of the mass media. Prepare to repel boarders! When things get nasty, as they most surely will, remember the psalms.

"I shall not fear the dark of night, nor the arrows that fly by day."

The rest of us? Remember this story as you consider the Liberal government's spin that religious groups will not be affected by same-sex marriage. The Liberal bill may protect clergy from having to marry same-sex couples, but human rights commissions operating under entirely separate provincial legislation, will almost certainly demand they hold the receptions for the newlyweds in their church halls. You can count on it.
That was then. I think it worth the time to read the actual ruling by the Tribunal. As I read it, the Knights were, in fact, not required to rent the hall to the complainants because to do so would violate their core religious beliefs. They were, however, held to have failed in their duty to accommodate the complainants once the true circumstances of the reception were revealed.

In other words, the Knights were obliged to have formally apologised for the misunderstanding (which the evidence seems to indicate they did informally and at length) to have reimbursed them for out of pocket expenses immediately (they offered to do so when asked) and to have sought another venue for the reception (something the complainants did themselves with little difficulty). I don't agree with the Tribunal, but that is not my real beef.

The complainants testified that they were totally unaware that the hall had anything to do with the Catholic Church. According to evidence given before the Tribunal the hall is situated on the same plot of land as a Catholic School and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church. They claim to have noticed the Catholic school but although they noticed the church building they were unaware it was a church. Now look again at the photo and tell me if that is credible. It ain't a pizzeria, that's for sure. Something about the architecture and the cross of the roof.

I've downloaded a map of the grounds in the previous post which I hope will be large enough for you to see. If you can't follow the link provided and you will be able to click on a larger version. Tell me that a reasonable person would miss the connection to the Catholic church, the rectory and the Catholic school.

Moreover the interior of the hall itself contains a large crucifix, a picture of the Pope and photos of two Catholic priests. Although the complainants scrutinized the facility in some detail, they claim to have not noticed these things. They were shocked to discover that the Knights of Columbus was the world's largest Catholic men?s organization. Shocked! They say they would not have attempted to rent the hall had they known of its connection to the Church. They say they respect other people's beliefs.

In a pig's ass they do.

A reasonable person might not be so easily moved to accept the complainants' surprise and shock at there being a Catholic dimension to the Knights of Columbus and their hall. A reasonable person might conclude the hiring of the province's leading homosexual rights litigator Barbara Findley was not coincidental to the cause. A reasonable person would conclude they need spectacles with thick lenses if they claim they didn?t see the large crucifix at the end of the hall, the picture of the Pope and the photos of the two priests on the wall.

It seems pretty clear what the agenda was in this case. The complainants and their lawyer were intending to make a hamburger paddy out of the Port Coquitlam Knights and take a hard swipe at the Catholic Church for its opposition to same-sex marriage. Oh yes, they were also after a nice handy legal precedent, which they fortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, failed to get. Oh well. I'm sure Barbara Findlay is looking at a the possibility of a nice judicial review to rectify that setback.


At 9:54 am, November 30, 2005 , Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Heh. Love the capital letters, JTM. Absolutely love them. What sort of a self-important, attention-needy twit do you have to be to decapitalize your own proper name? Asshat.

Did I mention I love the capital letters?

At 11:08 am, November 30, 2005 , Blogger John the Mad said...

You are a bit ambiguous. I'd like to know how you really feel about the capital letters.


At 9:57 pm, December 02, 2005 , Blogger Canadi-anna said...

Are these women RC? If they are, then certainly they should have known that the Knights is a Catholic organisation. If not, then why would they want to have their reception in the hall belonging to an institution that considers their relationship an abomination?
They can pretend they didn't know the ramifications of their attempt to hold their reception in a RC hall, but they did. And in the larger sense they lost -- but I wonder how long this ruling will stand.

At 10:54 pm, December 03, 2005 , Blogger Chris said...

I tend to think that the legal concept of "willful blindness" really should have been applied here. Based upon the locality of the hall, and the religious paraphanelia being displayed within, if they didn't *know* that there was a religious affiliation they had a pretty good idea but closed their mind to it, failed to make further inquiries on their suspicions ect.

Personally, I'm inclined to question the credibility of anyone who made the statements in the circumstances these two women present themselves in. But then again the Court of Chris would likely have laughed this case out of court and awarded triple costs to the Knights. Unfortunately, until Stephen and Co. take over the machinery of government we get their silly judgements. We need more than a decade of Conservative rule to even begin to repair the legal precedents in this country.


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