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Stories about Stephen Boissoin and the “anti-gay” letter:
An Alberta man who has pressed for five years to get an anti-gay letter branded as hate literature won a victory Friday with a human rights commission ruling that said it broke provincial law and may even have played a role in the beating of a gay teenager. The letter, written by Stephen Boissoin and published in the Red Deer Advocate in 2002, carried the headline “Homosexual agenda wicked” and suggested gays were as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.
Canadian Press, November 30
An ugly internal dispute over sex, religion and violence erupted within the Alberta Conservative party Saturday, ending up with a candidate being ousted and Premier Ed Stelmach saying the reasons for the “difficult” decision must remain confidential. Mr. Stelmach presided over a private meeting of his party’s 40-member executive committee, which voted not to endorse the nomination of a candidate who founded a group linked to an anti-gay letter.
Canadian Press, December 1
Stories about The Golden Compass:
Globeandmail.com has invited a panel to debate the issues raised by the book, movie and the school board’s decision.
Globe and Mail, December 1
Kidman and Weitz also discussed the supposed anti-Catholic bias Pullman allegedly wove into his books, but Weitz says the Catholic-raised actress was convinced the screenplay and eventual movie would have none of that.
National Post, December 5
The Roman Catholic school board in Calgary has followed the lead of a Catholic school board in Burlington, Ont., in pulling the children’s fantasy book The Golden Compass off school shelves. Board officials said their decision followed concern voiced by parents and recent publicity surrounding the release of a movie version of the book, starring Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman.
Canadian Press, December 5
While some Catholic school boards are removing the novel from their libraries, others say it’s a chance to learn how to decode the world.
Globe and Mail, December 6
The filmmakers have been at pains lately to say that they toned down the book’s anti-religious content, and that may be true to the extent that the movie never uses words like “church” or “God.” But the word “magisterium” does refer, in the real world, to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church, and the film is still peppered with religiously significant words like “oblation” and “heresy,” as well as a cryptic reference to “our ancestors” who “disobeyed the Authority” — that is, to Adam and Eve and their disobedience against God in the Garden of Eden. And when Iorek breaks into one of the Magisterium’s offices to retrieve his armor, he bursts through walls decorated with Byzantine icons — a potent symbol of how the bear, Lyra, and others are fighting to liberate themselves from church rule.
Peter T. Chattaway, ChristianityTodayMovies.com, December 6
Stories about the minister and her license plate:
Stung by uproar, province is reconsidering decision to deny retired church minister her vanity plate
Toronto Star, November 29
If there’s any cosmic justice, the devil himself will be firing up a special ring in hell for the Ministry of Transportation. Only a body called the Personalized Licence Plate Review Committee, after all, could have so lost touch with goodness and decency as to object to a United Church minister from Whitby — Rev. Joanne Sorrill by name — having the vanity plates REV JO on her car.
Jim Coyle, Toronto Star, November 29
REV JO is a NO GO. A Whitby minister’s vanity licence plate has been rejected by the transportation ministry — again. This time, it’s worried about drunk driving. “Rev is an alcoholic cooler-type beverage,” spokesperson Bob Nichols said in passing along the plate review committee’s decision yesterday.
Toronto Star, December 5
The decision to deny the renewal of previously approved personalized licence plates was embarrassing and defied common sense, Premier Dalton McGuinty admitted Wednesday as he overruled the Ministry of Transportation’s bureaucrats.
Canadian Press, December 5
Whitby minister gets her licence plate back after McGuinty steps in to ensure ‘common sense’
Toronto Star, December 6
The law, we were famously told by Dickens, is a ass, a idiot. And he had that figured out without even meeting the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s personalized licence plate review committee.
Jim Coyle, Toronto Star, December 6
Stories about Christmas and Hanukkah:
The comment is often made, by people of my own religious and political outlook, that you cannot write satire any more, for the world of our contemporaries is self-satirizing on an heroic scale. I have myself made passing references, over the years, to what I call the “mall culture”: the vision of frenetic consumerism one encounters, even while trying to avoid it.
David Warren, Ottawa Citizen, December 2
When Eliana Train plunked down in front of an arts and crafts table a few weeks ago, she had to muster all her imagination to tackle the job at hand. In front of her, and about 80 of her schoolmates, were small lengths of wood, a pile of metal nuts, some tissue paper, pastels and paint. Their task: to transform these raw materials into menorahs — special candelabras lit only during Hanukkah.
Toronto Star, December 4
In his op-ed column attacking the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (“Bah, Hanukkah,” Dec. 5), Christopher Hitchens gave every impression, as he usually does, of a man frightened by the thought that religion might refuse to remain in the grave he keeps trying to dig for it. So frightened, in fact, that yesterday he attempted a hasty burial of history for good measure.
Douglas Farrow, National Post, December 6
Stories about the Anglican schism:
The head of the Anglican Church of Canada is suffering from “functional amnesia” and is in “denial” for ignoring a key part of an international report that is meant to deal with the issue of same-sex blessings, conservatives charge. They point to a pastoral letter released yesterday, in which Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the national Church, expressed displeasure with the primate of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which takes in most of South America, for appointing bishops in Canada this month to oversee a parallel church structure here for those opposed to the controversial rite.
National Post, November 30
The liberals and the conservatives have come to a parting of the ways; all that’s left is the division of property
Michael Davenport, Vancouver Sun, December 3
The U.S. Episcopal Church faces major tumult as an entire California diocese with more than 9,000 members decides whether to secede in an unprecedented protest over gay issues.
National Post, December 6
Stories about the polygamous cult at Bountiful:
Warren Jeffs was a tyrant but those carrying out orders were also victims.
Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun, November 23
The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that three children whose mother left the Mormon community of Bountiful, B.C., and now lives in Payette, Idaho, should remain with their mother. Joseph Blackmore asked the court for sole interim custody but said he’d be content with an order for joint custody if his former wife returned with the children to live near him.
Canadian Press, December 5
Also: Canadian Press
The polygamous-sect leader convicted of being an accomplice to rape is asking the Utah judge who heard the case for a new trial. Lawyers for Warren Jeffs filed the motion claiming errors and improprieties during his four-day trial in September.
Associated Press, December 5
A mother of three from the polygamous B.C. community of Bountiful, who was accused by her husband of snatching her children and taking them to the United States, has won an interim order for sole custody of the children. Teressa Blackmore, who recently testified against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, took the children to Idaho, claiming she was trying to get them out of the clutches of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon community linked to Bountiful, near Creston.
National Post, December 6
Politicians in British Columbia may be afraid to tackle the polygamous community of Bountiful, but a Supreme Court judge didn’t shy away from repeating the obvious this week. Polygamy is illegal and it may not be in childrens’ best interests to be raised within a polygamous society. And if anything Justice T.J. Melnick’s ruling on the interim custody of three of Bountiful’s children should raise alarm bells in several different B.C. ministries whose responsibilities include the care, protection, nurturing, and education of children.
Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun, December 6
Stories about Islam and the West:
In 2007 most people noticed a factor that only a few saw in the 1980s and 1990s. For peace-negotiations to succeed, it’s not enough for both sides to want peace in the abstract. They must both ascribe the same meaning to the term — and the two sides in the Middle East do not. Israel wants peace and so does the Arab/Muslim world — except Israel wants peace with the Arab/Muslim world and the Arab/Muslim world wants peace without Israel.
George Jonas, CanWest Publications, November 29
The Muslim Canadian Congress is organizing a teddy bear mail-in to protest Sudan’s imprisonment of Gillian Gibbons, a British schoolteacher. The 54-year-old woman was jailed on Thursday for 15 days for allowing her young students to name a teddy bear Muhammad as part of a class project. Tarek Fatah, MCC’s founder, said he is asking the group’s 300 members to send “tiny teddy bears” to Faiza Hassan Taha, Sudan’s ambassador in Ottawa, as a protest.
National Post, December 1
Let us not be timid in the face of bullying. I am thinking of the mob that formed in Khartoum yesterday, after Friday prayers in the mosques, demanding the execution of a British schoolteacher who was arrested by Sudan’s ruling Islamist junta. Gillian Gibbons has already been “tried,” and jailed 15 days, by one of this regime’s kangaroo courts. She was found guilty of “insulting Islam,” and barely escaped forty lashes or worse — for what? For having named a class teddy bear “Mohammad,” in complete innocence, at the suggestion of one of her pupils, whose own name is Mohammad, and who, after she was charged, bravely stood up to defend her. In other words, a wilful misunderstanding, in which the wilful misunderstanders are calling for blood.
David Warren, Ottawa Citizen, December 1
A cloak of my own
‘When I see a woman masked in black cloth, I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to be her’
Danielle Crittenden, National Post, December 5
Little mosque on the tundra
In the land of the midnight sun, Yellowknife’s growing Muslim community grapples with a harsh climate, geographic hardship and faith on the frontier.
Globe and Mail, December 6
Earlier: Stories about Islam and the West
Other stories from the past week:
Making the Church matter in Quebec
Last week Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec City, made front-page news across the country with his open letter asking forgiveness for the sins of the past. Yesterday in this space, my colleague George Jonas devoted his column to that apology. And in Quebec, the Cardinal’s intervention dominated the news. The open letter of last week caps a year for Cardinal Ouellet in which something extraordinary has become ordinary again. The Archbishop of Quebec is once again a public figure of consequence.
Father Raymond J. De Souza, National Post, November 29
Earlier: Cardinal Ouellet’s apology greeted with praise and suspicion
Top court to settle row over Hutterite driver’s licences
A dispute between the Alberta government and two Hutterite colonies over driver’s licences is heading to the Supreme Court of Canada, signalling a years-long legal battle is about to come to an end. Canada’s top court agreed Thursday to hear the case that has pitted Alberta’s demands for security measures against the Hutterites’ demands for religious freedom.
CanWest News Service, November 30
Hope that saves
Pope explores distinguishing mark of Christians in encyclical
Father Raymond J. De Souza, National Post, December 1
Dealing with the i-word on the spiritual West Coast
To free-spirited secular-but-spiritual people, the word “institution” is a profanity. Many hate organized religion, for reasons related to their upbringings or to global conflicts. Still, I’m one of those people in do-your-own-thing B.C. who holds on to an unpopular view: Institutions are extremely valuable.
Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun, December 1
Despite the rhetoric, we’re a tolerant lot
One wonders whether, when the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation has aired the thoughts of every Quebecer who chooses to take the microphone, the province (and indeed the rest of Canada) will feel satisfaction or regret.
Michael Adams, Vancouver Sun, December 1
Earlier: Stories about religious minorities in Quebec
New Catholic head to strengthen ethnic community ties
Seven years ago, she was a parent trying to save her son’s school from closing. Now, she’s running the board. Catherine LeBlanc-Miller, acclaimed as chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, took the job Dec. 1.
Toronto Star, December 4
What would Jesus watch?
Also involving a nativity play — in fact starting with one — is The Pagan Christ on CBC. A voice-over tells us that one third of the world’s population subscribes to basic Christian beliefs, including — in fact dominated by — that Jesus was a real person. The film charts the growing disbelief in this of the Canadian religious journalist Tom Harpur, who nonetheless still considers himself a Christian, an allegorical one. For him “the Jesus figure stands for [everybody’s] higher self.” The film is based on his recent book of the same name.
Robert Cushman, National Post, December 6
Earlier: Was Christ’s life based on pagan myths?
‘From sea to sea’ suits me fine
We’ve been having some fun in the Saturday National Post the last few weeks, running a contest on these pages for a new motto for Canada. The entries have ranged from critical — “Medicare, we’re dying to keep it” — to congratulatory — “Canada: a home for the world.” The actual motto of Canada is a mari usque ad mare — “from sea to sea.” My colleague Yoni Goldstein, who is moderating the contest, characterizes our current motto as “drab” and mocks it as being the equivalent of describing a person as being “from head to toes.” All very clever, and no harm done in pursuit of the first prize.
Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, December 6