A Canadian Christian priest has condemned the Harper Conservative government for its “bigoted decision” to cancel the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons. Father Malcolm French, a priest with the Anglican Church of Canada, says the decision is an “assault on religious freedom.”
On Thursday, the CBC News reported that Public Safety minister Vic Toews had announced that the federal government was “cancelling the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons.” As a result, “inmates of other faiths, such as Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance.”
Father Malcolm French emailed his concerns to Toews, and copied Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Official Opposition NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, and his local Member of Parliament, Tom Lukiwski. The email reads:
As a Christian and as a priest, I am writing to object in the strongest possible terms to your frankly bigoted decision to eliminate all non-Christian chaplains from Canada’s prisons.
In announcing this decision, you properly state that it is not and should not be the government’s place to pick and choose among religions, yet it appears you are too addled to realize that this is precisely what you have done.
What other religious tests do you intend to introduce in so arbitrary a fashion? Will you start banning Christian clergy from denominations which don’t hew to your personal views on abortion or capital punishment or human sexuality? Will United Church or Anglican chaplains be the next to be banned because they do not conform to your religious practices?
If a state with a predominantly Muslim population had arbitrarily axed Christian chaplains, you and your colleagues would be shrieking blue murder. It appears you need to be reminded what Jesus had to say about hypocrites.
Father Malcolm French
“Ironically,” Father Malcolm French writes in this blog post, “Mr. Toews is a Mennonite whose family came to Canada to escape religious persecution.”