Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Checking the Box
You may be aware of the controversy swirling around a federal government decision to provide summer employment grants only for organizations which support reproductive rights for women. To state it simplistically, only groups which do not oppose abortion need apply. What this means is that certain faith groups which may have received grants in the past for summer youth programs, and daycares and drop in programs can't get them now because they can't in good conscience check the box saying that their "core mandate" supports reproductive rights.
Many religious organizations as well as some with no religious affiliation point out that there is no federal law regarding abortion as there is in the United States. Access to abortion is not specifically protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, yet freedom of conscience and religion are. Of course we have decided that abortion is legal in this country. So, how is it that the federal government can insist on this acquiescence in those instances where it may have nothing to do with the purpose of the application? There have been newspaper editorials cautioning the government against this approach.
This is a thorny issue, to say the least. The United Church has long danced an ambiguous line between the sanctity of life and the right to choose for women. I don't know we have done so all that well in stating our position, which is probably why this is almost never discussed in United Church congregations. Try and find the United Church position on the subject even though we post position papers on many other social issues. Years ago a former Roman Catholic parishioner asked why I would preach on a lot of important issued but never on abortion. I didn't have a ready answer.
I think the feds are making a mistake on this one, even though I do not agree with Christian groups including the Roman Catholic Church and most evangelical denominations. Their supposed pro-life stances are often narrow and ultimately cruel. For many of them pro-life seems to apply for the unborn but not to those whose lives are deeply affected by unwanted pregnancies for a variety of reasons. Still, through the decades I was able to be in meaningful dialogue with those of other faith communities despite profound differences in some areas.
Yesterday the federal government stepped back a bit today, although it is still a bit hazy. Maybe they should just allow the criteria for grant applications which currently exist to continue to do their work. Specifically anti-abortion groups don't get funding and shouldn't.
What are your thoughts on this one? It isn't easy, but sometimes decisions aren't straightforward.