The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled today in favour of Connie Heintz, a lesbian employee who was forced to leave her job at Christian Horizons. For five years, Heintz was a support worker at a Waterloo residential home for five developmentally delayed adults. She quit her job in September 2000, after employees and supervisors made her final months there "the worst time of my life."
After revealing she was a lesbian, "they said this would be grounds for dismissal," she said. "On a regular basis, I was told to look elsewhere for work...I was harassed. I constantly had to watch my back," Heintz said in an interview with the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.
"They made allegations about me." Heintz said some co-workers made unfounded accusations that she abused residents. How truly Christian of them (not)!
This news release from the Tribunal gives more background on the case and the Tribunal's decision:
"Ms. Heintz, an individual of deep Christian faith, and a model employee for five years with Christian Horizons, was providing care and support to individuals with developmental disabilities. Like other employees, when first hired, Ms. Heintz was required to sign a Lifestyle and Morality Statement, which prohibits, among other things, homosexual relationships. After several years, Ms. Heintz came to terms with her sexual orientation as a lesbian. When Christian Horizons discovered this, they advised her that she was not complying with the Statement and required her to leave the organization."
"The Tribunal ruled that Christian Horizons could not require its employees to sign [such a] Statement. It found that Christian Horizons is primarily engaged in serving the disability-related needs of its clients, and the prohibition on homosexual relationships was not a legitimate job requirement for providing quality care and support to disabled residents.
"Christian Horizons describes itself as an Evangelical Christian Ministry that provides care and residential services to 1,400 developmentally disabled individuals of all races, creeds and sexual orientations. With over 180 residential homes across Ontario, and 2,500 employees, Christian Horizons is the largest provider of community living services in the province, funded almost exclusively by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.
"This decision is important," commented Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall, "because it sets out that when faith-based and other organizations move beyond serving the interests of their particular community to serving the general public, the rights of others, including employees, must be respected."
This decision makes perfect sense. Any organization or business, religious or otherwise, that provides services to the public has no right to practise this kind of discrimination.
I'm sure many Christian groups will howl this is yet another example of the state undermining religious freedom, ignoring the impact this kind of discrimination has on its LGBT victims, let alone the clients they purport to serve. Shame on those who do.