An application made by the Star of the Sea Parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver to dismiss a human rights complaint filed against them by the White Rock Pride Society has been denied.
The complaint is to progress to a Human Rights Tribunal hearing, however, a date for the hearing has not yet been published.
White Rock Pride Society filed a complaint against the church last June, alleging discrimination by the Star of the Sea Parish on the basis of sexual orientation.
Earlier that year, Pride Society president Ernie Klassen told Peace Arch News that his organization felt discriminated against because Star of the Sea would not rent its community centre to the society for an upcoming “Love is Love” pride event.
Archbishop delegate James Borkowski told PAN last year the decision to deny the event application was made because the event would be contrary to the teachings on faith and morals of the Catholic church.
The Tribunal published a 28-page document May 26 outlining the decision to deny the Parish’s application.
Tribunal member Kathleen Smith details a number of reasons why the complaint should move to a hearing, including that she was not persuaded by Star of the Sea that the Pride Society has no reasonable prospect for success in its human rights complaint.
In the application to dismiss the complaint, the Parish asked the Tribunal to apply protections of the Human Rights Code in a way that proportionately balances the religious freedoms of the Parish with the rights of the Society members to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“In the Parish’s view, requiring it to facilitate and tacitly support and encourage an event directly contrary to their religious teachings and beliefs on sexual morality, would amount to a disproportionate interference in the religious freedoms of the Parish,” Smith wrote.
The Pride Society argues that the Parish did not make inquiries regarding the Pride Society’s mandate, what activities were planned for the event (and whether the Society had any flexibility in this respect) and who might be attending the event.
“The Society points to evidence that the Catholic Church does not condemn homosexuals, only the homosexual act. It says the Parish did not make any effort to communicate with representatives of the Society to resolve whether its concerns with the proposed fundraiser event… could be addressed by the society.”
Smith wrote that the Parish made a “compelling argument” about the need to protect religious spaces.
“This case is complicated, however, by the fact that the Parish makes a part of its space available to those outside of its Catholic community,” Smith wrote. “I agree with the Society that a determination about reasonable accommodation short of undue hardship requires the careful examination (of) complex and nuanced issues, including the meaning of Pride, as well as the competing rights of the parties in this case. In my view, these issues cannot be determined on this application and require a full hearing.”