Monday, November 01, 2004

Revenue Canada's Threats 'an Outrage'

Editorial
Winnipeg Sun, October 31, 2004
Taxman's threat an outrage

Somebody should inform Canada Customs and Revenue
Agency (CCRA) bureaucrats we enjoy freedom of speech
in this country.

They need a dose of reality if they believe their
stacks of regulations entitle them to meddle with our
sacred rights.

During the federal election campaign in June, a CCRA
agent made a call to Calgary Catholic Bishop Fred
Henry. According to the Bishop, the CCRA bureaucrat
threatened the church's charitable status could be
revoked if he continued to speak out against Prime
Minister Paul Martin.

Now, there is a law that prevents organizations with
tax-exempt charitable status, including churches, from
urging people to vote for one candidate or another
during an election campaign. We agree with this law.

But all Bishop Henry did to invoke the taxman's wrath
was to point out in a church bulletin that although
Martin was being portrayed as a "devout Catholic" in
the media, the politician's "position regarding
abortion and same-sex unions is a source of scandal in
the Catholic community and reflects a fundamental
moral incoherence."

At no point did the Bishop urge Catholics to vote for
one candidate or another. In fact, it was the Bishop's
duty, as spiritual leader of his flock, to clarify
that Martin, who has tremendous influence on our
society, was not representing Catholic Church
teachings.

We may or may not not agree with what Bishop Henry
wrote, but we cannot deny he has the right to discuss
these important spiritual matters with his
congregation.

The actions of the revenue agency are an outrage and
should be investigated and brought to a halt
immediately.

This intimidation is nothing less than an attempt to
chill religious leaders into silence on important
moral issues of the day.

Those who suggest "separation of church and state"
justify CCRA's actions have it backwards. That is a
U.S. doctrine that prevents the government from
harassing the church.

Maybe it is time we enshrined such a right in Canada.

Churches of all faiths play an important role in our
society.

In addition to forming the moral bulwark that guides
our actions, their works of charity offer support to a
multitude of less fortunate Canadians.

The government would be hard-pressed to duplicate
these good works if all the churches were suddenly to
vanish.

Imagine what would happen to our taxes, then.