A few weeks ago, an Ontario facility for people with developmental disabilities, Christian Horizons, was penalized by the Human Rights Tribunal for having discriminated against gays. The reason was that they have a Lifestyle Morality Statement (LMS) that prohibits such activities as lying, premarital sex, illegal drug use and homosexual behavior. A woman was employed by the agency, signed the LMS, but later entered a lesbian relationship anyway. She was disciplined by the agency, then resigned and took Christian Horizons to court.
There are several interesting issues surrounding this case. Firstly, of course, the LMS may be discriminatory, but the former employee signed it anyway. I’m not sure what legisliation is like in Canada, but in the Netherlands, such Statements are invalid if they violate law, even if they’ve been signed. I am not sure, however, how strict non-discrimination legislation is. I have, for example, seen many job offerings that require applicants to be of a certain religion. As far as I understand it, this is acceptable only if the employer has strong reasons to discriminate, and they ought to make these reasons clear and may of course be taken to the Commission for Equal Treatment (our anti-discrimination tribunal) for this.
In Ontario, apparently, an agency is allowed to discriminate only if it only serves people of that particular religion or race or whatever. For example, if Christian Horizons had required that clients adhere to the LMS, too, then they would’ve been eligible for exemption from non-discrimination legislation, cause then they would be serving only an exclusive group of people. However, now that they serve all developmentally disabled people, regardless of religion, race, or even sexual orientation, they are not allowed to discriminate against their employees, either. This may be a useful way of preserving religious freedom while protecting people against discrimination, but I can understand that it sends the message that if only Christian Horizons were a little less tolerant, they wouldn’t have been penalized.