Complaints filed with human rights commission against Catholic bishop

.- A Canadian Catholic bishop may face a human rights tribunal within the next year due to a pastoral letter he issued to parishioners in January against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Two private Canadian citizens said they were offended by and concerned about the pastoral letter, lodging separate complaints against Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

"Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to ... curtail them in the interests of the common good," Bishop Henry wrote.

In the complaints that they filed, Norman Greenfield and Carol Johnson said the bishop attacked homosexuals with his comments. Gay-rights advocates have called the bishop’s remarks “hateful and harmful.”

At a news conference March 30, Bishop Henry refused to retract the statements he made in his pastoral letter and said his rights to freedom of religion and free speech have been violated.

"Those that support same-sex marriage want to shut the churches out of this important debate," the bishop said.

"Those who favor same-sex marriage have been given a full opportunity to state their views on the issue,” he said. “But now they are saying anyone who speaks out against same-sex marriage is discriminating against homosexuals."

Numerous pro-family groups, such as the Catholic Civil Rights League in Toronto and Focus on the Family in Langley, B.C., have expressed their support for Bishop Henry.

"If anyone is successful in bringing charges against Bishop Henry … it shows that religious freedom protections that the government talks about really aren't there," Focus on the Family’s Derek Rogusky told the Canadian Press.

The first step of the human rights investigation will be to attempt a conciliation between the complainants and Bishop Henry, but the bishop is doubtful such a process would be fruitful, reported the Calgary Herald.

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