Friday, January 04, 2008

Brampton Ontario - Shades of Stalinist Russia

The destruction of religious freedom in Canada has begun in earnest now...

From "Brampton Ontario - Shades of Stalinist Russia" posted 1/4/07 at No Apologies with Tristan Emmanuel

It first came to my attention over the Christmas break, when I got an email. I was pretty convinced this couldn't be true. Not even in "liberal" Canada. The story is about the city of Brampton, Ontario, and how it plans to start regulating religion within its boundaries.

It's a convoluted tale but the way I understand it, the bureaucrats in Toronto's western-most suburb decided to have a look at the way churches, mosques, temples, and other "places of worship" have traditionally been exempted from paying property taxes. That initial idea then spawned a whole bunch of other questions, and pretty soon a study was launched on "Places of Worship".

It was all done very quietly, but some churches got wind of it. Some of them would go to City Hall to get their variances renewed or extended, only to be told not to worry about it for now, because the City was doing a study on "Places of Worship", and all that stuff about variances would probably change anyway.

Which got some of those churches asking about the study. But the City wouldn't produce a copy, citing confidentiality rules. In fact, to this day, Brampton hasn't produced a copy for public perusal. A search of their website would lead you to believe the study doesn't even exist.

But last summer, someone with a bit of sympathy for the churches leaked a copy. A draft of the report - the one that doesn't even officially exist - is about a hundred pages long, and parts of it read like they could have been written in Stalinist Russia.

• All "non-worship space" owned by religious organizations (offices, kitchens, nurseries, fellowship halls, parking lots, etc) would become subject to property taxes. Only the sanctuary space would be tax exempt; even more specifically, only the space where the congregation sits/stands/gathers for actual worship. (One interpretation of the study says even the square footage occupied by the stage/pulpit/altar would be deemed taxable.)
• The study recommends a redefinition of what constitutes "places of worship" - including a removal of provisions expressly allowing church properties to be used for "community services" such as day care centres, soup kitchens, etc.
• There is a recommendation for major restrictions on new church start-ups, including regulating what space these start-ups could rent, where, and for how long.
• The study sets a stated goal of having only one "place of worship" for every 10-thousand residents. (There's no express mention of shutting down existing churches, but the goal would apparently be achieved by flatly denying applications for new churches to be built until that ratio is achieved.)
• The policy also includes major increases in permitting fees for things like zoning and variance issues. (One church reportedly had to pay the City of Brampton $400-thousand for the permits and approvals to put up a new sanctuary.)
• And the real shades of Stalinist Russia come with the proposed regulations on "house churches." Regularly-scheduled private gatherings in homes would be restricted to no more than 20 people - children included.

Any questions?

I don't know the demographic landscape of this area but there are reports that this particular crackdown on religion is due to a large influx of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs which is creating some discomfort among native Canadians.

It is interesting to see how everything is working together to destroy religious freedom.

One merely has to observe what has happened in the UK and is now in Canada to see that freedom of religion, the bedrock of all freedoms, is disappearing. (See related coverage below for examples.) Incredibly, it seems to be going with barely a whimper of protest.

Here in the US, legalizing same-sex marriage and passing anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and cross-dressing will create a situation in which Biblical Christianity is officially in direct opposition to public policy. The above article illustrates different ways the government can make life very difficult for those who refuse to join the bandwagon.

General indifference and the abdication of responsibility
among Christian leaders to stand for righteousness makes the outcome almost certain. The above article probably prophesies our future...

Read the whole appalling account.

Related coverage:

Canada: Pastor Found Guilty of 'Hate' Crime
BC, Canada: Parents Cannot Opt Children Out of Gay Curriculum
UK: Anti-Gay Comment Could Land You in Jail for 7 Years
UK: Anglicans Fined for Refusing to Hire Homosexual Youth Worker
UK: Religious Schools May Not Teach "Christians Sexual Morals as if They Were Objectively True"