Abortion, Canada, and the relentless wave of Authoritarian Secularism

I love taking Claude (family greyhound) for an early morning walk through the streets of Parkdale and Mentone, and to listen to the Bible as we go. Today in the Psalms, I was struck by Psalm 8:2, which says,

“Through the praise of children and infants

    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

    to silence the foe and the avenger.”

Afterward, I was catching up on the news and heard a report about a recent announcement by Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Organisations applying for Government funding for the Canadian Summer Jobs program, must now sign an attestation that they support abortion. The Government had tried previously to prevent funding to pro-life groups but there were legal hurdles that couldn’t be jumped. Instead, they have now built a wall to keep out organisations they won’t subscribe to the extreme social secularism that is being enforced on Canadians by the Trudeau Government.

 

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The form states,

“CSJ applicants will be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

The employer attestation for CSJ 2018 is consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians. Canada Summer Jobs 2018 4 The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies. The government recognizes that everyone should have the right to live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose, free from discrimination. The government is committed to protecting the dignity, security, and rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.”

According to information stated on the application form, the rationale for this change is twofold:

-to prevent the Canadian Government from funding projects that don’t endorse abortion and LGBTQI rights,

-and to protect minors being “exposed” to these anti-social views.

Among the organisations that are unable to sign the attestation are Christian groups, many who previously were part of the program and providing work for Canadian youth.

Attention to this new policy came to fore last week when Justin Trudeau was asked a question about free speech during a Town hall meeting at McMaster University, Hamilton. He answered,

“In this country, we defend each other’s rights, even when they’re unpopular, as we’ve seen a couple of times. At the same time, we need to know that there is a difference between freedom of expression and acting on those expressions and beliefs. A great example that I was wondering whether you’d bring up is the current kerfuffle around the Canada Summer Jobs program, and expecting that any organization that gets funding to bring young people through the Summer Jobs program – which hundreds of thousands of young people go through – will respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Now, that doesn’t mean that religious groups and faith groups can’t apply for that. On the contrary, so many of the great community organizations that we have working incredibly hard are faith-based across this country and it’s an important and wonderful part of our society. It does, however, mean – and this is where we get to the crux of the matter – that an organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion, the right for women to control their own bodies, is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly where we are as a society.”

The fact the Mr Trudeau felt liberty to use the Summer Jobs Program as his example in answering a question on free speech, says something about his confidence for advancing his social agenda.

Trudeau’s comments are sadly not unusual, but are indicative of much western civilisation today. He is saying to Canadian Christians, ‘we’ll let you hold your believes in private, and perhaps within the confide of your association, but these views are no longer permitted publicly’. This means that organisations will either have to bury their convictions, hide their conscience, and sign the document, or accept that they are no longer Canadians of equal footing and thus lose their funding.

Of course, this is Canada, not Australia. However, we are not so different. Our culture, our history, and our system of Government, is more closely aligned to Canada than it is the United States. The same authoritarian secularism that is sweeping the the land of the maple leaf is also at work here in the south.

It is a perfect illustration of where Western secularism is moving; the gods of the sexual revolution don’t take prisoners. Indeed they will sacrifice the unborn and will trample on the living dissidents. We have already seen a similar move undertaken in Australia. In 2016, the Victorian State Government attempted to legislate that all religious groups must conform to a proposed ‘inherent requirements test”. In short, this would removed freedom from churches and organisations to employ persons based on the theological convictions of the group. The legislation was finally defeated in the Upper House by a single vote. The point is, a State Government in Australia felt as though the sway of society had moved such that they could put forward such Erastian law.

It should also be noted that in addition to the new restriction, Canadian groups are calling for  “anti-abortion” agencies to lose their charitable status altogether.

Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, 

“No anti-abortion agency should be registered as a charity…The mission and activities of anti-choice groups are inherently political and biased, which should disqualify them from charitable status. They work to stigmatize abortion, constrain individuals’ access to it, and ultimately to re-criminalize it.”

In light of the recent introduction of same sex marriage in Australia, the hot issue has become religious freedom and freedom of conscience. These issues have been highlighted by some in the Federal Parliament, and mocked by others. In response to what is probably a combination of reasoned argument and political pressure, a panel has been established to review Australia’s religious freedoms.

As Australians talk about religious freedoms and submit reports to the Ruddock Inquiry, we shouldn’t be surprised to find some who look to this latest Canadian example and use it as ammunition to further squeeze religious freedoms here in Australia.

Jane Caro is a representative of the vanguard of socio-politico thinking in Australia. Two days before Christmas she wrote an article for The Saturday Paper, in which she argued a case for defunding religious schools. In the wake of same sex marriage, Caro has strong views about schools and other organisations whose views differ to the newly redefined Marriage Act.

“We believe that if publicly subsidised schools – and other religious organisations – wish to discriminate against others, they should have to advertise both whom they discriminate against and why – prominently – in all promotional material, prospectuses, websites and job ads. One of the costs of discrimination is that it narrows the field of available talent and anyone considering using the services of such a school ought to be fully informed about that.

Another way of making the statutory right to discriminate fairer for everyone is to remove the blanket exemption and require authorities wishing to discriminate to appeal for an exemption in specific cases. As private school providers claim they rarely resort to exercising their freedom to discriminate, this would seem the most sensible way forward. It might be reasonable to seek to apply religious selection criteria to those who will be giving religious instruction, but why would a mathematics or physics teacher, or a rowing master, or a cleaner or groundskeeper need to be selected on such a basis?

Why should public funds be provided for those staffing positions that require religious discrimination? Surely it would be reasonable for the costs of these positions to be met by the faith community itself, specifically the church and the parents?”

 

It is easy for people to say, “the answer is straightforward, stop applying for Government funding.” The issue is less about the money, but the attack of religious freedom and freedom of speech. This is yet another example of a western nation shedding principles of a liberal democracy. Where citizens lose the freedom to express a point of view (indeed, a viewpoint that was until recent times morally accepted and valued) and are threatened with defunding for holding that position, we are witnessing societies letting go of principles that made possible the creation of the modern democratic State.

Authoritarian secularism may employ the language of progress, equality and fairness, but the reality is very different to their sloganeering. This is about changing how people think and live, this is about redefining truth and morality, and forcing everyone to worship at the feet of our modern manifestations of Moloch and Venus. Aussie Christians need to get used to the fact that the country has changed. We are no longer nominally Christian, and that means that many of the structures and moral frames which built this wonderful nation are being removed. There will be social stigma, there will be financial cost.

How different was my morning reading from Psalm 8. The God of the Bible reveals his glory in his creation, and most wonderfully in humanity. He affirms the praises and song of children and of infants; they are wonderfully made. How different is the view of children that Canada now promotes.

The Lord is majestic in all the earth, both in his stunning acts of creation and in his wondrous act of redemption.

The Psalmist asks,

“what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?”

The answer given is that God give human kind unique glory and honour, and has placed them uniquely in all the universe to rule. God’s image bearers all fall, failing to rule with care, justice, and kindness.  In love God’s only Son descended to the grave, having being killed in the place of sinners. He was raised to life on the third day, to defeat not only death, but to prove the efficacy of his death for sin.

“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Let’s speak about, not shout about abortion

“Heaven is filled with boys and girls, who though unwanted by their earthly parents, have been welcomed by a Father who is committed to their eternal good and joy.”

Every year in Australia 10,000s of children are aborted, a practice that is not only supported by the law in some states, but it is something celebrated by many Australians.

Over the weekend Jane Caro has come out to defend and publicise abortion. Caro begins by sharing her own story of having an abortion, and then calls on other women to shun the guilt associated with abortion.

She writes,

“Abortion and the fear of unwanted pregnancy, frankly, is a normal — if not very pleasant — part of many women’s lives.”

“Shout out about your abortion any way you see fit — if the subject comes up in conversation, perhaps, or there is a story about it in the news.”

“If you have had an abortion, do not be ashamed of it. You are in good company. Shout it out and help lift the shame for all the other women who have also decided that every child should be a wanted child.”

I may need to clear the air in relation to one obvious point, which in the eyes of some readers will automatically preclude me from having anything to say on the issue. Yes, I am a male, and because of this anatomical and psychological fact, I understand some women will straightaway invalidate any comment I wish to make. We are all familiar with the mantras, ‘it’s the woman’s right to choose’, and, ‘women have the right to control their body’.

I suspect though, many on the pro-abortion side would be quite happy to have men speaking in support of abortion. Indeed, only a few short months ago Queensland MP, Rob Pyne, introduced legislation to relax abortion laws in that State; we didn’t hear many women protesting his public voice.

Not only that, it is a simple point of biology that men are involved in the process of women becoming pregnant. Should a father be involved only in the act of procreation, and be excluded from happens next? This is not about being controlling or patriarchal, it is about being a responsible parent and participating in an relationship. Sadly though, many men are irresponsible and uncaring, a problem which continues to cause frightful harm in so many of our homes.

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Morten Liebach, Steenaire (inset); flickr

While abortion has remained a hot political issue in the United States, in Australia it had largely shifted out of public discourse, becoming a forgotten shadow twisting through our cities, towns, and homes. But now, all of a sudden, partly due to the recent American Presidential election and also because of a Queensland Parliamentary vote, abortion is being talked about once more.

Jane Caro is writing though in response to last week’s announcement by Pope Francis, who has given priests ‘permission’ to forgive Roman Catholic women for having an abortion,

“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.”

Caro responds,

“Given the Catholic Church’s attitude to contraception and its behaviour towards vulnerable children the world over, I simply cannot take anything this institution has to say about sex and reproduction seriously.”

Her criticism has some warrant, and I certainly understand her blanket mistrust of Roman Catholicism in light of its dreadful  history of sexual abuse. I am also critical of the Pope, for it is not the Pope’s place, nor the role of any priest to forgive anyone their sins. Priests may find permission in a papal edict and in their Church dogmatics, but such authority is not found in the the Bible, and as Christians that’s what counts. Priests are imperfect men who need their own sins forgiven by God, and as the Bible affirms, 

“there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim 2:5)

One of the reasons for writing today is because of a sadness that overcame me when I read Caro’s call to view abortion as ‘normal’. It is not normal. Abortion is never something to be celebrated or normalised. On rare occasions, when a mother’s life is genuinely at risk, I understand it is permissible, but to consider killing unborn children as okay is not okay.

A society that sanctions, and even celebrates the killing of unborn children is one denying its own humanity.

If one surveys global societies that have embraced a culture of abortion, one notes China with its population suppression policy. There are also numerous religious cultures who denigrate women and frequently force abortions when the baby is female.  And there is our western secularism with its excessive commitment to individualism. When we value the self above the good of others, we create an atmosphere of self-indulgence and not sacrifice, of self-worship rather than selflessness.

The very nature of loving community is that it requires the unexpected and difficult, and rather than eliminating those surprises, we alter our life expectations in order to to see their lives flourish.

Jesus once said, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. Indeed, how great a love it is to sacrifice our hopes and plans for children who enter our lives unplanned.

In my role as a Christian Minister, over the years women have shared with me their stories of having an abortion, and without exception there is a shame attached. Reasons are multifarious: when a woman is raped,the fear of giving birth to children with a disability, when the mother’s life is at risk, and when the child is unwanted due to the mum not feeling ready or not wanting the responsibility or wanting children to impact their lifestyle or career. The reality is, only a tiny portion of abortions occur on medical grounds that the mother’s life is in danger. Many more abortions occur because of the child’s gender, or because the child may carry a disability, and many other children are killed because of lifestyle choices. For many many women this decision has left a wound that has not healed.

As much as Jane Caro wishes women to wash away their shame for having abortions, many women cannot, and no Pope or priest can achieve that either. But in the person of Jesus Christ we find a God who is willing and able, and who is more merciful and wonderful than any of us can ever imagine.

As distressing a topic as abortion is, it is good to hear people talking once again. I don’t want to silence women who have had an abortion. Claire Smith has last week written an article encouraging people to speak more about abortion, and I wish to echo her words. And to a certain extent I also repeat Jane Caro’s words, that of urging women not to keep silent. But the speech we need is different, words that don’t speak affirming  destroying young life, but words that enable conversation, and ears that will listen to these stories.