If churches and other Christian groups in Canada want to receive government grants for student summer jobs, support for abortion must be part of their "core mandate," according to a Canadian government official.
The Canadian government recently issued a rule stipulating applicants for the Canada Summer Jobs grant had to attest to specific views, in order to qualify. This attestation was purportedly exclusively aimed at groups opposed to abortion. Roman Catholic, evangelical and other religious organizations contend the rule is unfair and potentially illegal to be forced to make known their stances on abortion during the application process, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
Employment Minister Patty Hajdu stated last week that she was comfortable with requiring the grant applicants to check a box stating they have a "core mandate" which respects "reproductive rights." Unless that box is checked, the online application cannot be submitted for consideration.
"In terms of church groups that are concerned that this may invalidate them from funding, in fact, my perspective is that it won't, as long as their core mandate agrees with those hard won rights and freedoms that Canadians expect us to stand up for," she said.
What exactly "core mandate" means is disputed.
Hadju's office is attempting to distinguish between groups whose sole focus is to oppose abortion and a religious organization and faith-based groups that hold pro-life views.
The summer jobs grant currently funds approximately 70,000 placements for students, and religious groups that have run summer camps, daycares, drop-in centers and other programs have counted on the funding.
"We think this is a fair process," Hadju said, noting that many faith groups have no problem with checking the box since "their core mandate is actually, for example, administering the word of God, or administering spiritual guidance for people ... These are the kinds of things that, if you look at the core mandates of faith groups, that they talk about."
Hamilton, Ontario native Dusty May Taylor, 31, is pushing back. She told The Christian Post on Tuesday, "To demand agreement with abortion in exchange for a public grant is a sly brand of ethical extortion."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has, meanwhile, defended his government's rule.
"This is a really important right that we have established and there are organizations out there that couch themselves as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience," Trudeau said at a town hall meeting at McMaster University in Hamilton, as LifeSiteNews reported Jan. 12.
"Of course, you're more than allowed to have whatever beliefs you like, but when those beliefs lead to actions determined to restrict a woman's right to control her own bodies, that's where I, and I think we, draw the line as a country."
Some faith-based charities and institutions say they cannot sign the attestation in good conscience.
"Faithful Christians need to take a stand and vote for a candidate who will publicly proclaim to be pro-life, and be willing to help re-educate the public that abortion is not a right under our Charter," said Jeff Gunnarson, vice president of Campaign Life Coalition in a statement to LifeSiteNews.
Taylor is doing just that. Describing herself as "pro-life and fiercely pro-woman," she told CP that she wrote her member of parliament to voice her displeasure with the requirement.
"The moment you, as a government leader, tell me I may access public government funding only in exchange for altering my religious and moral values, is the moment you become a perpetrator."
People of faith have two options: push back or gradually lose freedoms, she said.
"Point blank, it is not okay to be coerced to sign a statement in opposition to your conscience, in exchange for public funding. Honestly I can't believe it, and we had better not tolerate it."