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Back in July 2017, TGC Canada published an article about Bill C-51. Among other things, the Bill intended to remove portions of the Criminal Code (section 176) that protect religious ministers and worship services from unlawful disruptions and interference.

A number of organizations, including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Association for Reformed Political Action, and the Christian Legal Fellowship made submissions to a government committee tasked with assessing the merits of the Bill and making recommendations to Parliament.

I had the opportunity to serve on an Advisory Group that helped to formulate the submissions made by the Christian Legal Fellowship, and today, I received the very encouraging news that our submissions were accepted. The committee was convinced that s. 176 of the Criminal Code continues to serve an important purpose in society, and therefore, it will not be repealed.

In its blog post on this development, the Christian Legal Fellowship quotes some of the Members of Parliament whose views on Bill C-51 shifted because of the submissions they heard.

For example, Liberal MP Colin Fraser said:

[I]n view of all of the other arguments that we heard at Committee and given that there is a seeming rising volatility and level of intolerance that should be completely rejected, I’m persuaded that section 176 should remain in the Code, that it does serve some purpose.

Similarly, NDP MP Alistair MacGregor said:

At first I was prepared to accept the Government’s argument that the offences in this part of the Criminal Code can most certainly be covered in other sections, but I think I’ve been absolutely convinced that it needs to be kept in the Criminal Code simply because it has very significant symbolic value for the people involved….

Bill C-51 will now return to the House of Commons, where it is expected that the committee’s position on this issue will be approved.

This is undoubtedly a win both for religious freedom and for the democratic process in general. I am encouraged by the fact that the committee was willing to change its mind, and I am grateful to our Lord for answering our prayers.

Let us not take this victory for granted. Instead, let us take time to pause and give thanks to God for the freedom we continue to enjoy in Canada.

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