Windsor Humanist Society

June 27, 2007

‘Friction-over-faith’ trumps debate over Canadian unity

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 3:59 pm

Muslim-Christian tensions a concern, reveals survey conducted by The Association for Canadian Studies from June 12 to 17, 2007
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Canadians believe that the country’s traditional French-English tensions will be overshadowed by friction between Christians and Muslims when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary a decade from now, according to a survey of attitudes on intercultural and interfaith relations by The Association for Canadian Studies.

Of the 1,500 people polled, 34 per cent said they were pessimistic about the future of Christian-Muslim relations and another 29 per cent expected tense interaction between aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginals by the year 2017.

Respondents were much more optimistic that white Canadians and visible minorities, as well and Christians and Jews, would enjoy good relations in 10 years. Only 16 per cent and 14 per cent respectively were pessimistic about those relationships, similar to the 19 per cent who predicted troublesome French-English relations by the time Canada reaches the sesquicentennial of Confederation.

Twenty-three per cent said they were pessimistic about the relationship between religious and secular Canadians.

Twenty-two per cent were pessimistic about immigrant-non-immigrant relations.

“For the most part, the results reflect a fair degree of optimism,” says Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montréal-based research association. “They do, however, suggest a shift in concerns away from language and inter-racial tensions to concerns over aboriginal-non-aboriginal and interfaith relations — in particular relations between Christians and Muslims.”

He noted that the Christian-Muslim relationship is a complex dynamic involving religious and cultural differences, highlighted by such flashpoint controversies as the debate over Sharia law and the expulsion of a female soccer player for wearing a hijab.

“Can you argue that this (tension) has displaced language concerns in Canada?” he asks. “I think you can to some extent.”

The telephone poll, conducted in early June by Leger Marketing, is part of a series of public opinion surveys and studies commissioned by the ACS to mark Canada’s 140th birthday on Sunday.

Mr. Jedwab said the survey on intercultural relations highlights a clear “paradigm shift” in Canadian anxieties from the traditional French-English divide to post-9-11 apprehensions about security on one hand and, on the other, racial profiling and similarly controversial practices that have stirred vocal opposition among Muslim Canadians.

Those tensions have been most pronounced in Québec, the survey shows. It is the only province in which more respondents were pessimistic (49 per cent) than optimistic (47 per cent) about the future of Christian-Muslim relations.

“Muslims are more of a focal point in Québec,” said Mr. Jedwab, citing the relatively high rate of Arab immigration to the province, the greater attention in Québec given to the conflicts in France and other European countries with their Muslim communities, the broader rejection of religion in Québec society compared with other provinces and the province’s high-profile debate over “reasonable accommodation” of its religious minorities — highlighted by controversies such as the town of Herouxville’s “code of conduct” stereotyping of Islamic culture.

“In Québec, this is where the existential issue seems to have moved,” said Mr. Jedwab. “Anglophones seem much less the object of demographic concerns than Muslims.”

The shift, he added, is clear in the decline of public and media attention devoted to language conflicts — “we hear much less around such concerns of late” — and a “growing preoccupation over relations between religious groups.”

The survey, conducted June 12 to 17, 2007
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 27, 2007 article by Randy Boswell in The National Post

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Anglicans feel same-gender couples ‘not yet’ ready ~ Thoughtful WWF star leaves Bible on pillowside after suffocating wife & 7-yr old son

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In two otherwise unrelated incidents, WWF star, Christ Benoit (aka ‘The Canadian Crippler”),  left Bibles beside both murdered bodies of his wife and his 7-yr old son who’d he just suffocated in perhaps his last act of Christian charity, before taking his own life, meanwhile Rev. Bob Chandler of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Windsor ‘isn’t surprised’ that the Canadian synod found same-gender marriage ‘not yet’ acceptable due to the Global Anglican Communion. ‘Their chief role is to preserve the unity of the church’  (articles below…)
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The pro wrestler known as ‘The Canadian Crippler’ killed his wife and seven year-old son and placed Bibles beside their bodies before hanging himself in his weight room, police said Tuesday.

Chris Benoit, Nancy Benoit and their young son, Daniel, were found dead Monday in their Atlanta-area home.

Lieut. Tommy Pope of the Fayette County sheriff ’s office told reporters that Nancy Benoit and their 7-yr old son, Daniel both died of asphyxiation.

The deaths have been ruled a doublehomicide/suicide, Lieut. Pope said.

It’s believed Nancy Benoit, 43, whose body was found in a family room, was killed Friday, said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard. Her feet and hands had been bound. Scott Ballard said it’s believed the boy, whose body was found in bed, wasn’t killed until the next day.

Chris Benoit, 40, apparently hanged himself late Saturday night.

“I’m baffled why anybody would kill a seven-year-old,” said Scott Ballard.

“It strikes me as somewhat bizarre that perhaps (Chris Benoit) even would be in the home with their deceased bodies,” he said.

No suicide note has been found. “There were a lot of prescription medications that he had received from doctors,”  Lieut. Pope said of the contents of the home. Anabolic steroids were also found. One local wrestling promoter says he will never understand what his longtime friend did, but cannot forget how Chris Benoit offered a helping hand.

“Chris helped me a great deal when I first travelled to the U.S. for World Championship Wrestling in ’93,” Scott D’Amore said Tuesday. “He helped me adjust and made sure I knew my way around. He continued to always offer a helping hand when I saw him through the years. And he was somebody who I respected and admired as a performer.

“Right now I just find myself numb with shock.”

Scott D’Amore, who helped found Border City Wrestling in Windsor and who works as a producer with Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling in the U.S., last met with Chris Benoit at a restaurant a few weeks ago in London.

“We had lunch and a great conversation,”
Scott D’Amore said. “He was upbeat. We exchanged numbers and he said he wanted to make a concerted effort to stay more in touch with people.”

Scott D’Amore said he did not detect anything amiss.

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A vote in favour of same-sex unions could have meant Canada’s expulsion from the rest of the global Anglican church, but a Windsor deacon says he still wishes bishops had blessed gay marriages.

“I wished the vote had gone in favour,” said Rev. Bob Chandler of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church.

“But at the same time, I would have shuddered at the consequences.”

During its national synod in Winnipeg on the weekend, a divided Anglican Church of Canada decided not to allow priests to bless the partnerships of same-sex couples.

A majority of the 300 delegates agreed to the blessing of same sex ceremonies, but church law requires separate majorities among priests, laity and bishops. The priests and laity approved the change, but Canada’s 40 bishops voted it down with a two-person majority.

The 15 delegates from the diocese of Huron, which includes Windsor, including Bishop Bruce Howe, were travelling back from Winnipeg on Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

“I would have been delighted if the vote had gone in favour,” said Rev. Chandler, who wasn’t at the synod.

“I’m not surprised it did not. Bishops tend to be a rather conservative bunch.”

Despite that, Rev. Chandler said he believes there is a growing acceptance of same-sex unions within the Anglican church, including priests and parishioners. He said he was “encouraged” by the votes from the clergy and laity camps. He called it progress.

“That vote augers well for the future acceptance of same-sex unions,” said Rev. Chandler. “The synod’s move this year is a matter of moving from ‘no’ to ‘not yet.’

“Before this synod, I would have thought that most of the church would have said no.… Eventually, it will happen that same-sex blessings are approved by the church. I have no question about that.”

If that happens, he added, there will likely be consequences. A vote in favour of same-sex unions would have meant a “major split” in the world Anglican Church, said Rev. Chandler.

The Canadian and U.S. churches — considered independent provinces of the global Anglican Communion — have been at the forefront of the same-sex debate. But the more conservative sections of the church in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America have little tolerance for the idea.

“They are vehemently opposed to the blessing of same-sex unions,” said Rev. Chandler. “They consider same-sex unions a sin. There has been a threat to oust the Canadian and American provinces.”

Rev. Chandler said it’s possible that some bishops were thinking about those consequences when they cast their votes.

“Their chief role is to preserve the unity of the church,” he said. “That probably is uppermost in their minds.”

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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after June 27, 2007 articles by Craig Pearson (Bedside Bibles) and Trevor Wilhelm (Anglican intolerance of love between gays) in The Windsor Star

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June 26, 2007

Ontarians want public, Catholic schools to merge: CBC poll

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 11:27 pm

More than half of all Ontario residents want the province to merge its two publicly funded school systems, suggests a new poll commissioned by the CBC.

Oraclepoll Research randomly phoned 600 Ontario adults in May and asked: “Do you support or oppose the creation of one publicly funded education system in Ontario by merging the Catholic and public school boards across the province?”

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said they supported the idea, 29 per cent said they opposed it, and the rest said they did not know.

When asked why they felt that way, many respondents who favoured a single school system said there should not be separate boards (17.7 per cent), having a single board would save money (16.7 per cent) and it would create equality (9.4 per cent).

Of those who supported separate schools, many said they think religion is important (10.4 per cent) and separate schools offer better education (8.3 per cent).

The poll conducted between May 20 and May 28 is considered accurate within plus or minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Dena Morrison, chair of the public school board in the Sudbury area, said she is not surprised by the results.

Her school board is among those that have passed motions in recent months calling for a single secular school system in Ontario, which they say would be more efficient and fairer to other religions.

“There are increasing pressures from several other faith-based groups to extend education funding to them,” she said.

Bernard Murray, president of The Catholic School Trustees Association (link here), said eliminating Ontario’s Catholic schools would infringe on a constitutional right that has been in place for about 160 years, but the association is not opposed to extending the right to other groups.

“We have always supported in principle the funding of education for faith-based groups,” he said, adding that it’s not the association’s place to be saying how it could be done.

In February 2006, Ontario Conservatives said that if they were elected, they would look at some sort of financial assistance to parents who pay tuition for faith-based private schools.

But their current platform states that the party is “committed to creating an opportunity for non-Catholic, faith-based schools to choose to join our publicly funded education system the same way Catholic schools have already done” and providing direct funding for those schools.

However, none of the province’s three major political parties has expressed support for merging the school systems.

Oraclepoll CEO Paul Seccaspina said it’s unlikely any party will broach the controversial issue so close to the fall election.

“No matter what you do on this issue, it’s not going to get you new votes. So looking at it from that point of view and a cold political standpoint: why touch it?” he asked.

Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces that still have religious school boards with full public funding that are separate from their fully-funded public school boards.

In 1999, the United Nations human rights committee ruled that Ontario’s policy of fully funding Catholic schools while denying full funding to other religious schools, is discriminatory.

The Poll
Source: Oraclepoll research survey of 600 Ontario adults:

Question 1:
Do you support or oppose the creation of one publicly funded education system in Ontario by merging the Catholic and public school boards across the province?
Support 58.2%
Oppose 29.1%
Don’t know 12.7%

Question 2:
Why do you feel this way?
Should not be separate/different boards 17.7%
Cost savings 16.7%
Don’t know 11.5%
Religion is important 10.4%
One system would create equality 9.4%
Separate schools have better education 8.3%
Discriminates against other religions 6.3%
One would improve education 6.3%
No need for change, system is working well 4.2%
Religion should not play a part in education 3.1%
Public system is better 3.1%
Need alternatives 2.1%
It’s the same curriculum anyway 1.0%
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 26 2007 piece by CBC News

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June 25, 2007

After ‘tortuous’, emotional debate, Anglican bishops say no to same-gender ‘blessings’

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 10:51 am

A deeply divided Anglican Church of Canada opted Sunday not to allow its priests to bless the partnerships of same-sex couples, rejecting, for now, a long campaign by its most liberal members to sanctify gay and lesbian unions. (Read Synod coverage from their website here – Blog Ed.).

After a weekend of tortuous, emotional debate at the church’s national synod in Winnipeg, a majority of the 300 delegates here actually agreed to approve same-sex blessing ceremonies.

For the decision to stand, however, church law requires not a simple majority, but separate majorities among priests and laity, and also among the church’s 40 Canadian bishops. And while the priests and laity approved the move, it was voted down by a narrow majority of two bishops. Feelings were raw after the debate. Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. and the incoming leader of the national church — who voted in favour of the blessings — suggested afterward his fellow bishops had failed the church.

“There’s no question there will be considerable disappointment on the part of many, and a lot of pain. And there will be some people who will be saying, ‘How long, oh Lord, how long must this conversation continue?’” Bishop Hiltz said. “The bishops will certainly be challenged to think about the kind of leadership they are providing.”

Sunday’s decision is complicated by the fact that earlier in the day, delegates, including bishops, voted in favour of a motion declaring same-sex blessings to be compatible with the 500-yearold “core doctrine” of the church.

“On the one hand we said it is a matter of doctrine, on the other hand the church is not prepared to proceed immediately with the blessing of these same-sex unions,” said Bishop Hiltz, who said he was not sure how he would lead the church in the coming years through this ambiguous path.

“It gives one pause, to think how it is we actually make decisions,” he added.

Sunday’s vote follows years of squabbling and theological study within the church. Currently the United Church of Canada is the only large, mainstream denomination in the country to bless and marry same-sex couples.

While the Anglican result will please many conservatives in the church, it is a stinging setback for thousands of Anglican gay and lesbian worshippers and their champions, who have been pressing the issue for more than a decade.

The Anglican Bishop of Vancouver, who heads the Diocese of New Westminster, announced in 2002 that priests under his supervision could bless same-sex unions. Elsewhere in Canada priests and bishops have been secretly blessing and even marrying gay and lesbian couples for some time, hoping that a formal decision this weekend by the church’s national parliament would legitimize such ceremonies. What happens now is not clear. Many same-sex worshippers, and their supporters, could leave the church.

In such cities as Vancouver and Toronto, there could also be court battles as breakaway liberal parishes try to take their treasured buildings and church assets with them.

The decision, however, will be a satisfying one for Anglicans worried about the fate of the 77-million global Anglican Communion, of which the Canadian church, and its 650,000 members, is considered an independent “province.”

Conservative bishops in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America have denounced moves by their Anglican cousins in the United States and Canada to bless or marry same-sex couples, or to ordain openly-gay bishops. There have also been threats to expel the two North American provinces from the Communion should they continue to defy hundreds of years of traditional church doctrine on the matter.
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 25, 2007 article by Richard Foot  in The National Post
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The National Post

June 23, 2007

Public funds for religious schools? Let the debate begin

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 9:59 pm

            There’s an appealing symmetry to John Tory’s proposal to give public funds to “faith-based” schools. Twenty years ago, he was an aide to then-premier Bill Davis when his Progressive Conservative government extended to senior grades the public financing of Roman Catholic schools in Ontario. Mr. Tory witnessed the backlash that finished off a 42-year Conservative dynasty a few months later.

Now, as the party leader, Mr. Tory is attempting to deal with the logical objection to the Davis policy that it gave favoured treatment to Catholics, with an invitation to other religions to join the publicly funded education system. “This is a question of fairness,” said the recently released Conservative policy document.

Mr. Tory’s proposal promises to revive a debate about the role religion ought to play in the school system. Two decades ago, it turned nasty as the fires of anti-Catholic prejudice were rekindled. And while there’s no guarantee that these attitudes won’t surface again, all three political parties are doing their best to avoid this. But anything can happen in an election campaign, as Mr. Davis’s successor, Frank Miller, discovered in the 1985 election that toppled his government.

A coalition of 10 groups is calling for an end to the $6-billion of public financing for Ontario’s Catholic boards. “Maintaining public funding for Roman Catholic schools is, in effect, granting special privilege to one specific religious group at the expense of the Ontario public,” said Malcolm Buchanan of the One School System Network. “This is not right or democratic.”

The coalition, which includes Muslim and Hindu organizations, is eager to give the issue a higher profile by supporting candidates who support its cause. So far, however, only those running for the Green Party are likely to enlist. The Liberal and New Democratic parties are contemptuous of the PC policy proposal but they insist that the issue of school financing can’t be approached as long as the existing system needs repairs.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has ruled out any move to amend the Constitution to integrate the Catholic and public systems even though Quebec and Newfoundland successfully used that option to reform their school systems.

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne dismisses both the PC idea of non-Catholic schools and the network’s push for one secular system.

“Both sound simple but they’re not, and at this point in our history in Ontario we really need to support the system as we inherited it,” she said.

NDP education critic Rosario Marchese offers a similar view, saying that it’s a low priority while English as a Second Language programs need reinforcing and there is a shortage of school librarians. He admits there is an argument to be made against singling out Catholic schools for support but “it’s not something that people [in the NDP] are prepared to tackle.”

The question is whether the NDP and the Liberals can avoid getting into the issue of financing of Catholic schools even as they savage Mr. Tory’s proposal. Even if they can’t – if Mr. Buchanan’s group gets the public’s ear – will enough voters care? In 1985, the polls showed that a bare majority of Ontarians opposed funding Catholic schools but this is a vastly different province now.

An inquiry at that time concluded that the special status of Catholic schools was discriminatory – “more clearly an act of political will than a fulfilment of a constitutional obligation” – and opened the door to public financing of private schools in a manner very similar to what the PCs envision.

Is this what modern, multicultural Ontario wants? Or will voters signal they want a single system? Mr. Tory has opened the door. Let’s have a real debate.
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (Jim.Mac) after a June 23, 2007 article by Murray Campbell in The Globe And Mail

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June 20, 2007

George Bush ‘upholds US moral values’ and vetoes embryonic stem cell research bill

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Pushing back against the Democratic-led Congress, US President George Bush vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have eased restraints on US federally funded embryonic stem cell research.

“Our innovative spirit is making possible incredible advances in medicine that can save lives and cure diseases,” the US president told an invited audience in the East Room.

“America is also a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred. And our conscience calls us to pursue the possibilities of science in a manner that respects human dignity and upholds our moral values,” he said.

US Democrats, who had made the stem cell legislation a top priority when they took control of the House and Senate in January, were quick to denounce the president’s decision.

“This is just one example of how the president puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, a candidate for the US Democratic presidential nomination, told the Take Back America conference of liberal activists Wednesday.

Sen. Barack Obama, another Democratic presidential hopeful, said Bush was “deferring the hopes of millions of Americans who do not have the time to keep waiting for the cure that may save or extend lives.”

And former Sen. John Edwards, also vying for the US Democratic presidential nomination, said the president “had a simple choice today: direct the full force of American scientific ingenuity towards responsible, life-saving medical research or pander to a narrow segment of his political base.”

“With his veto, he made the wrong choice,” he said in a statement.

To blunt criticism, US Preesident Bush issued an executive order directing the Health and Human Services Department to promote research into cells that — like human embryonic stem cells — also hold the potential of regenerating into different types of cells that might be used to battle disease.

If the measure Bush vetoed would have become law, the White House said it would have compelled taxpayers for the first time in our history — to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos.

Spokesman Tony Snow said George Bush’s executive order encouraged scientists to work with the government to add research on new stem cell lines — that does not involve the creation, harming or destruction of human embryos — to the list of projects eligible for federal funding.

“The president does not believe it’s appropriate to put an end to human life for research purposes,” Mr. Snow said. “That’s a line he will not cross.”

This was the third veto of George Bush’s presidency. His first occurred last year when he rejected legislation to allow funding of additional lines of embryonic stem cells — a measure that passed over the objections of Republicans then in control. The second legislation he vetoed would have set timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to schedule an override vote, but the date has not been set. Democrats, however, currently do not have enough votes to override George Bush’s veto.

Scientists were first able to conduct research with embryonic stem cells in 1998, the US National Institute of Health says. There were no federal funds for the work until George Bush announced on August 9, 2001, that his administration would make the funds available for lines of cells that already were in existence.

States and private organizations are permitted to fund embryonic stem cell research, but federal support is limited to cells that existed as of August 9, 2001. The latest bill was aimed at lifting that restriction.

The science aside, the issue has weighty political and ethical implications.

Public opinion polls show strong support for the research, and it could return as an issue in the 2008 elections.

Opponents of the latest stem cell measure insisted that the use of embryonic stem cells was the wrong approach on moral grounds — and possibly not even the most promising one scientifically. These opponents, who applaud President George Bush’s veto, cite breakthroughs involving medical research conducted with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid, none of which involves the destruction of a human embryo.
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 20, 2007 article on the CNN Website

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June 15, 2007

God Alone Can’t Protect The Children From Priests – ‘Chaperone-Code’ Released for RC’s

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 10:09 am

Draft sets rules for clergy – Diocese releases code of conduct for anyone associated with Catholic church

Priests must never be alone in their residences or vehicles with children and should have another adult present when counselling young or vulnerable people, suggests a draft report released today by the Roman Catholic Diocese of London – click here to read report.

The report, called ‘A Safe Environment Policy for the Diocese of London’, also calls for the creation of a victims assistance committee, suggests parishes affected by sexual misconduct should have assistance and provides a code of conduct for anyone associated with the church, from priests to volunteers.

“When you put it all together there are some very clear dos and don’ts,” diocese spokesman Ron Pickersgill said. “They’re very much addressing the kinds of concerns raised by victims.”

Paul Bailey, the Chatham-Kent Crown attorney who led the prosecution against Rev. Charles Sylvestre, 84, who died in prison in January after pleading guilty to sexually abusing 47 girls over a number of decades in parishes throughout southwest Ontario, considers the draft a great first step.

“It is an excellent point of origin,” Mr. Bailey said. “My only caveat is that though we’re making really good progress, this isn’t just a Diocese of London problem.”

Mr. Bailey said he plans to gather input from survivors, who no doubt will have some suggestions. But he’s so impressed with the draft document that he hopes the final version will influence the rest of the country.

“The establishment of a modern, thoughtful, complete sexual abuse program in the Diocese of London is really a beachhead,” Mr. Bailey said.

“It can be used as a template for other jurisdictions. I hope it will spread.”

Among the recommendations is establishment of a “two-deep rule,” already employed in many minor sports and boy scout organizations, requiring at least two adults be present with a child at any time.

Two weeks ago, the diocese sent a letter to Father Sylvestre’s victims, who are now adults, informing them of the draft policy changes.

In recent years the Catholic church has been rattled by costly and highprofile lawsuits from victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests. Father Sylvestre was convicted in October.

Mr. Pickersgill said the diocese has learned a lot in recent years and wants to make its best practices, many of which are being followed, official.

“We’ve grown into this awareness and now we’re putting this out on paper,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “In many parishes these are best practices that are already observed.”

Mr. Pickersgill said the diocese is letting the draft report, which originally was supposed to be released in February, speak for itself. Rev. John Sharp, who prepared the report, will therefore not comment on it.

But Mr. Pickersgill said the document is only a draft and that the public is invited to respond to it by July 31.

The diocese will then sift through submissions, though Mr. Pickersgill said he can’t predict when a final report might come.

He did say, however, that the London diocese will continue to review its policies.

“The new policy is so much more comprehensive than anything we’ve had before,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

“But once the so-called final policy is out, it will be subject to review on a regular basis.”
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 15, 2007 article by Craig Pearson in The Windsor Star

The Windsor Star

June 8, 2007

Tories’ John Tory Proposes to Fund Non-RC Religious Schools

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 11:17 am

53,000 pupils would be affected by proposal

Opposition Leader John Tory wants to give faith-based schools in Ontario the option of joining the public education system if the Conservatives win the Oct. 10 provincial election.

There are 53,000 students in Ontario attending religious schools that Tory believes should be eligible for the same funding as Roman Catholic schools in the province.

“I think there are some things on which you have to stand on principle, and in this case the principle is fairness to people of other faiths,” he said today in advance of the Conservatives’ last convention before the election.

“I think what we want to do is try and replicate the successful experience of the Catholic schools, which are funded today, and do it in a way that expands the sphere of public education to accommodate the diversity that is Ontario today.”

Conservative party sources said Mr. Tory will make a commitment at the party’s convention Saturday to add $800 million to public education spending if he becomes premier.

Mr. Tory said he was not proposing to bring back the tax credit for private schools introduced by the previous Conservative government that was scrapped by the Liberals when they were elected.

There was widespread criticism that the tax credit mainly benefited wealthy families that sent their kids to expensive private schools.

But Mr. Tory said there would be rules — outlined in the party’s platform to be released Saturday — to ensure only faith-based schools qualify for public funding.

“There will be clear conditions, and you will see some of the principles of that outlined tomorrow.”

Deputy Premier George Smitherman said John Tory’s proposal would weaken public education and divide Ontario students along religious and ethnic lines instead of bringing everyone together.

“Mr. Tory’s vision of dividing Ontarians up into groups left, right and centre on the basis of ethnicity and religion for the purposes of education is not an approach worthy of leadership,” George Smitherman said.

“That’s where the kids in my neighbourhood learn about the different faiths and the different countries, where they get to know each other. It gives them the skill set that they need to be able to live together and to thrive together.”

Mr. Tory said it was unfair for Ontario to fund Roman Catholic schools while refusing to fund faith-based schools from other religions, so he wants to try to bring other religious groups into the public education system.

“I think that’s a good thing for Ontario because it respects and reflects the diversity that is this province,” Mr. Tory said.

“It strengthens public education while at the same time allowing these schools to retain their uniqueness, such as has been the case with the Catholic schools.”

Frank Dimant of B’nai Brith Canada said the Jewish organization welcomes Mr. Tory’s proposal, but also wants him to ensure all schools teach tolerance and respect of multiculturalism.

“We applaud the decision and we ask that together with that also comes a commitment to ensure that the curriculum is supervised effectively to include such things as core Canadian values,” Frank Dimant said.

“We see too many educational systems around the world where hate is being taught. We don’t want that kind of curriculum in this country.”

A 1999 United Nations committee found Ontario was violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by funding Catholic schools while refusing to fund schools for other faiths.
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (J.Mac) after a June 8, 2007 article in The Toronto Star

Toronto Star

June 6, 2007

Jack Kevorkian Takes On ‘Tyrants’ – New Foe: The Law

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 11:58 pm

Just five days out of prison, an animated Dr. Jack Kevorkian didn’t mince words Tuesday as he called on the public to take on the right-to-die fight and decried laws that limit personal liberties.

“My new mission is not assisted suicide, my work is effectively done there,” the man known as Dr. Death said in his first news conference since his release from Lakeland Correctional Facility. The conditions of his parole prohibit him from advocating assisted suicide.

It was apparent the man who once defied authorities as he assisted terminally ill patients die is petrified of returning to prison.

“I can’t talk about the procedure, there’s your freedom of speech,” Kevorkian said. “I’m afraid of going back to prison. I’m not going to talk even hypothetically how it should be done because I’m not going to go to prison.”

He said it’s now up to the people to fight for their rights. “I’ll do what I can to help them legalize it, but that’s all I can say now.”

Calling himself the figurative “reincarnation” of Thomas Jefferson — America’s legendary champion for individual liberty — he said he will now pursue speaking engagements to teach the public about their natural rights.

“I’m the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson,” he said. “I’m doing what he once did — educate and inform the whole masses of people.”

Wearing his trademark blue cardigan beneath a greyish-blue suit he said was purchased for $15 at a second-hand store, Dr. Kevorkian stood for the duration of the 90-minute meeting, speaking passionately about the ninth amendment to the U.S. constitution. His lawyers, Mayer and Jeff Morganroth, sat on either side of him.

“I don’t have to talk about assisted suicide now, because it’s explicit in the ninth amendment,” Dr. Kevorkian said, often punctuating his statements by poking a pointed finger in the air.

Dr. Kevorkian was released from prison June 1 after serving eight years for the second-degree murder of 52-year-old Thomas Youk, of Michigan.

Dr. Kevorkian has claimed to have helped about 130 people die. One of those patients was LaSalle resident Austin Bastable, who suffered from multiple sclerosis and sought Dr. Kevorkian’s services in 1996.

Mr. Bastable’s son-in-law, Mike Macri, said the family is happy that Dr. Kevorkian has been released and wishes him the best in his educational endeavours. “It was right for Austin at the time,” Mr. Macri said of euthanasia. “We thank Dr. Jack for what he did, but past that … it’s not our issue anymore.”

Now, the 79-year-old is reserving most of his public speaking to the promotion of this little-known amendment, which reads,“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” and has never been tested by the Supreme Court. He plans on taking his messages to local schools and universities.

Dr. Kevorkian said he interprets the amendment to mean that “every right that’s not listed in the constitution … still belongs to the people.

“No tyrant can survive if the ninth amendment has been exercised,” he said.

While promoting the amendment, Dr. Kevorkian was clearly disdainful of government, whom he often referred to as a “tyrant.”

“The tyrant loves to dumb down the population,” he said. “That’s the only way you can win.”

He decried laws, saying they restrict an individual’s rights and only strengthen government power.

“Law to me is an infraction of liberty,” Dr. Kevorkian said, later adding that only laws that guide day-to-day conduct are acceptable.

In 1998, Mr. Youk’s death was induced with the help of one of Dr. Kevorkian’s inventions, a contraption dubbed the “suicide machine” by the media. Dr. Kevorkian videotaped Mr. Youk as he took his own life inside a hotel room and later aired the footage on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

Mr. Youk’s younger brother, Terrence Youk, who attended the news conference along with a handful of other close Dr. Kevorkian supporters, called the pathologist an “incredible human being in general and intelligent.”

Mr. Youk stood behind his brother’s decision to end his life and ultimately, the suffering he experienced as a victim of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“He was facing a very terrifying event in his life, he wanted to leave life on simple terms,” Mr. Youk told a small group of reporters following the news conference. “What’s ensued has not been that simple, but that initial choice, I think that’s the whole point. People should have that choice.”

Members of a disabilities-rights group called Not Dead Yet tried to enter the news conference about one hour before it was scheduled to begin, but were escorted out of the building by security guards.

The two protesters who got as far as the conference meeting area used wheelchairs and wore buttons declaring “Not Dead Yet” on their clothing.

Group president 53-year-old Diane Coleman, who has spinal muscular atrophy, said Dr. Kevorkian preyed on the sick to further his own ambitions.

“The majority of his body count was people with disabilities who were not terminal; he caught them in a time of despair,” Ms. Coleman said before she was ushered away by security. “He hasn’t really been in jail long enough, has he, for a serial killer.” Dr. Kevorkian defended the protesters’ right to speak out. “My opinion is, let the crippled people demonstrate,” he told the reporters. “Anybody can have any opinion he wants.”
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 6th, 2007 article by Roberta Pennington in The Windsor Star

The Windsor Star

June 5, 2007

Toronto General Hospital Cancels ‘Kidney Cult’ Member’s Donation

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 12:11 pm

A Canadian hospital has cancelled an operation that would have allowed a young Australian man to demonstrate his deep Christian faith by donating one of his kidneys to a stranger in Toronto.

The case has been closely tracked by an Australian film crew because the would-be donor, 22-year-old Ash Falkingham of Sydney, belongs to the controversial Jesus Christians, the “kidney cult” whose members believe that giving up an organ to save someone’s life is an exemplary act of devotion to God and humankind.

The Toronto General Hospital cancelled the scheduled transplant following accusations of religious brainwashing, appeals from Mr. Falkingham’s mother and stepfather to stop the surgery, and extensive psychiatric assessments of the man after his arrival in Canada.

For nearly two months, Toronto General, Canada’s largest organ transplant hospital has been wrestling with whether to allow a young Australian man to donate one of his kidneys — as a gesture of his Christian faith — to a virtual stranger in Toronto desperately in need of a transplant. Ash Falkingham joined the Jesus Christians at age 19. As he explains in his extended interview, he was taken with the group’s literal interpretation of the Bible.

The decision has left the ailing Toronto woman, Sandi Sabloff, “kind of devastated,” she said in an interview yesterday. “I’m not in good shape.”

Ms. Sabloff is consulting a lawyer “to see what my next step is going to be,” and expects “to start looking for another donor.”

More than half of the 30 members of the Jesus Christians — from Britain, Australia, Kenya and the United States — have provided a kidney to recipients around the world, the donations often a source of great ethical agonizing. The group’s Australia-based leader, 60-year-old David McKay, gave one of his kidneys in 2003 at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, where a transplant doctor has said there was “much teeth gnashing” among hospital officials before the operation was approved.

In keeping with its policy of “absolute confidentiality,” the Toronto General Hospital refused to divulge details of the Falkingham-Sabloff case. But hospital president Dr. Bob Bell said yesterday that when transplant decision-makers review any proposed surgery, “it is crucial that we maintain total unanimity” before a donation is approved.

“It’s a difficult ethical determination,” he said, noting hospital officials must be convinced “the person providing the tissue or organ is doing it purely for altruistic reasons — particularly if they don’t know the recipient.”

The story of the planned Toronto kidney transfer was detailed last night on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary program ‘Australian Story’.

“When I tried to donate a kidney in Australia, there was this legal sort of hurdle that I had to get over, of forming a long-term friendship with my recipient,” Mr. Falkingham said in one scene, according to a script provided by the ABC to CanWest News Service. “And so that’s why I am going to Canada, going overseas to donate.”

He arrived in Toronto before the scheduled April 30 surgery and met Ms. Sabloff for the first time since the two connected several months ago through a Web site called Living Donors Online.

Mr. Falkingham’s offer to give Ms. Sabloff one of his kidneys was followed by regular e-mail correspondence as the two worked out details of the transplant.

“I was alternating between being a nervous wreck and being thrilled and excited and happy and so on, and just sort of preparing for this,” Ms. Sabloff said in the program. “And Ash was laid-back, as usual.”

Mr. Falkingham added: “I don’t feel that I’ve been pressured into donating at all ? Perhaps people might see me as, you know, young and naive and idealistic. I see it as a small thing. There are six billion people on the planet, and helping one, I think, it’s just human nature.”

But hospital officials postponed the transplant after Mr. Falkingham’s mother, Kate Croft, raised alarms about her son’s membership in the Jesus Christians and charged that Mr. McKay had coerced Mr. Falkingham into making the donation.

“I do feel that Ash has been pressured,” Ms. Croft said in the film. “I’m certain that the pressure to donate a kidney is one of the many pressures involved in being a member of this group ? I would say it’s a cult. I would say it’s a sect. I would say it’s a madness.”

Mr. McKay is shown rejecting the cult label and recalling his revelation about organ donation as a perfect demonstration of Christian charity: “This is, like, the ultimate, you know? That I could actually save somebody’s life was amazing. Even if it was only one, it was something I wanted to do because that is what we Jesus Christians were all about, is trying to help people.”

But the concerns raised by Ms. Croft and her husband, Nick, prompted the Toronto hospital to conduct additional assessments to determine Mr. Falkingham’s state of mind, the ABC reported. The delay frustrated both Ms. Sabloff — whose brother died from kidney disease — and her young Good Samaritan from Australia.

The broadcaster announced just hours before its documentary aired last night that the hospital’s final decision to disallow the operation came on Saturday.

“A Sydney couple has managed to block their son’s attempt to donate a kidney as part of his membership of the controversial group, the Jesus Christians,” ABC said. “After initially approving the operation, Toronto General Hospital told Mr. Falkingham on the weekend that they will not go ahead with the donation. He is now on his way back to Australia.”

Dr. Bell, who is also chief executive of Toronto’s University Health Network, said nobody has “a right to donate,” even though transplant hospitals everywhere are trying to expand the supply of willing donors and available organs. He also noted that any potential donor has the right to a professional assessment of his or her “appropriateness” to give.

For her part, Ms. Sabloff told the Australian filmmakers that “what upset me an awful lot was the fact that here we went through a whole process and total honesty, telling them everything that was occurring with us and the Jesus Christians and so on. We held nothing back.”

Mr. Falkingham, who is shown visiting Niagara Falls with Ms. Sabloff as they await approval from the hospital, added: “All this being done in the name of ethics becomes unethical, stopping someone from doing something they really think should be done.”

A message from Ms. Sabloff, posted on Living Donors Online, notes:

“I am truly devastated and heartbroken that Toronto General has banned this altruistic donation, particularly since the hospital had approved the operation and sent me a letter confirming the operation date…. The bottom line, I believe, is that [the] hospital is very worried about negative publicity, especially in relation to the Jesus Christians.

“The situation had turned into not only a farce but a nightmare ? They have wasted our time, our money, our energy. They have created untold stress and anxiety and I am back to ground zero, feeling pretty hopeless and upset.”

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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 5, 2007 article by Randy Boswell in The National Post

The National Post

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