I attended the meeting of the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, June 11, at which municipal support for a public outdoor skating rink located on the property of Southgate Church was discussed. Throughout the evening, I kept remembering an old saying that my grandmother loved to pull out: ‘Ideology is like B.O….you can never smell your own’.
Several audience members made the following point: because Southgate’s Wesleyan belief system characterizes homosexuality as sinful, deviant, or an illness, members of the LGBTQ community would be marginalized or effectively excluded from any municipal services offered on the property and under the banner of that organization. Simple.
Responses to these arguments from members of Southgate Church included “but it would cost less money (it would also be way cheaper to only provide health care to Christians, but hopefully that wouldn’t fly)’, ‘but we have LGBTQ people in our church’, ‘but we believe in love’ and ‘but nobody would even ask you your religion when you wanted to go skating’. Some of this sounded like the hair-splitting argument sometimes heard from other anti-gay Christian groups: that they condemn homosexuality, but not homosexuals. That argument actually works better for murderers, who might have made a mistake, but whose very identity isn’t tied to that act. LGBTQ people didn’t make a mistake, and their sexual orientation is part of who they are.
So, the well-meaning people from Southgate Church seemed to fail to see how their ideology might smell pretty bad to the LGBTQ community, to anyone supportive of inclusion and diversity, or even to a plain-old atheist like myself. It’s like this, if you tell me you love me (thanks) while condemning who I am as a gay person, I don’t really want to hang out with you. And I shouldn’t be forced into such an environment to enjoy the services provided by my municipality.
This is a no-brainer. It would be unethical, and possibly illegal, for the municipality to provide services under the auspices of an organization that is so clearly discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. If the members of Southgate Church are as committed to serving the whole community (yep, even LGBTQ folks) as they say they are, then by all means let them contribute their time, energy, and donation dollars in partnering with the municipality to build a rink somewhere where everyone can feel welcome, respected, and safe.