Muslim Council of Montreal Calls on Canadian Government to Protect Charitable Status of Religious Groups

June 12, 2005

Threat of losing their charitable status if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages seen as a form of coercion
Montreal June 12, 2005 (MCM): The Muslim Council of Montreal is alarmed over reports that religious groups who oppose same-sex marriages are in possible danger of losing their charitable status in Canada.

"Faith groups were assured by the Prime Minister that no group would be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their religious convictions, but with the threat of losing their charitable status if they refuse, we see this as a form of coercion, " stated MCM President Salam Elmenyawi.

In addition to protecting the charitable status of faith groups who refuse same-sex marriages, MCM calls for the following provisions in the bill:
* Stronger guarantees that Charter rights will not override religious freedoms.
* Religious leaders who do not want to perform civil marriages of same-sex couples will not have to do so
* Religious groups will not be required to rent out their halls for same-sex weddings
* Religious educational institutions will still be allowed to preach that homosexuality is against God's law, without being subject to hate crime laws

For many religious groups, the loss of their tax status will be a devastating blow on their ability to operate. Furthermore, this would seriously curtail their capacity to deliver much needed social services to the needy, both here and abroad. The people most hurt by such a decision would be those who are most vulnerable within society and it would further fracture faith communities which are already struggling to survive in an anti-faith social climate.

"In fact, these many faith groups play a role that governments are unable to," stated Elmenyawi, "as they work at the grassroots level of their respective communities."

"The Government of Canada to must protect the charitable status of faith groups and, furthermore, to ensure that these groups do not face a Charter challenge in the future for refusing to perform same-sex marriages," he said.

"Failure on the part of the Government to include these provisions in the same-sex bill will place many faith groups in an impossible situation and will have long-term negative social consequences," Elmenyawi further stated.