If they were any group but Christians, Garth Turner would never get away with it

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The Article

Last Friday. May 26 Dr. Charles McVety, President of Canada Family Action Coalition and Canada Christian College, was asked to participate in a televised debate with MP Garth Turner on the twin topics of muzzling MPs and the Conservatives opening the nomination process.

Dr. McVety, a key player in the debate over marriage in this country, is encouraging pro-family Canadians of all backgrounds to join the political party of their choice and work within the system to ensure that the policies of those parties are not destructive to families. Legislation redefining marriage is one such policy, and nominating candidates who oppose that sort of myopic social engineering is one way to influence the process.

During the debate Mr. Turner worried about this, complaining about “ethnics” coming on busses and hijacking political nomination meetings to ensure that their preferred candidate gets selected. At the time, rightly in my view, he was criticized by other panellists for suggesting that so-called ethnic Canadians don’t have the right to organize and participate in the democratic process.

Subsequent to that interview Mr. Turner posted a commentary on his personal blog entitled “Agenda of Hate” in which he ridicules Dr. McVety and his religious beliefs. His remarks include: “I started to worry about lightening bolts in the studio”, and calling McVety a “sanctimonious blowhard”. He accuses people of faith of trying to “force their morals, or their culture, on the rest of us” and expresses concern that “the same crew might target” him. He concludes by equating Christians with the fanatics our troops are fighting in Afghanistan. “Call it Defend Marriage. Call it the Taliban” he writes.

In the interest of full disclosure let me say that Charles McVety is my friend. Over the years he and I have worked closely together on a number of projects, including rallies against anti-semitism, pro-immigration initiatives and a number of issues relating to religious freedom. We also worked together on the subject of marriage. If there is a more caring and tolerant man than McVety, I have yet to meet him.

But this is not about Charles McVety. It’s about Garth Turner and his apparent and irresponsible school-boy delight in playing to his audience by offending those with whom he and they disagree. The louder the cheering, the bolder the attacks.

It’s also about honesty and intellectual integrity.

In the interest of full disclosure I should also point out that I have been active in Conservative politics for the last 30 years – longer, I suspect, than almost all of those who voted for Mr. Turner in his last nomination meeting. As it happens, I worked on Mr. Turner’s campaign to lead the Tories in 1993. He and his team were thrilled to have the support of what he now calls “insta-Tories” that I and my colleagues signed up at that time on his behalf, just as, I am quite certain, he was thrilled to have their support this time around. Indeed, he no doubt encouraged his friends and supporters to go out and sign up as many “insta-Tories” as possible to “stack” the nomination meeting in his favour. In short, Mr. Turner is being dishonest. His hand-wringing over this issue is entirely contrived.

Then there are the “ethnic” comments he made on CHTV.

For the record, I am not an Evangelical Christian. In fact, I am not Christian at all. I am Jewish – Orthodox to be exact. I am, moreover, the former Director of Government Relations for the Jewish human rights group B’nai Brith Canada. I have had a long experience, both personal and professional, with bigotry.

The term “ethnic”, in the context Mr. Turner used it on television, is always a pejorative. Why?

Properly used, the word “ethnic” is an adjective. There are such things as ethnic groups (one or more of which we all, including Mr. Turner, belong to), but no such thing as an ethnic. When used like this – as a noun – the term is meant to refer to… well – them, that is to say, those who aren’t part of the my ethnic group. Nobody took Mr. Turner’s words out of context. Garth Turner is a smart man. He used the word deliberately and in the context he did because it accurately conveyed what he meant to say.

Protestations to the contrary may fool others, but not me. I’m reminded of how Jews used to be barred from certain clubs in the past, not because they were Jews, but because the club could not accept those who required “special diets”. “We aren’t against Jews,” the argument would go. “We just can’t accommodate anybody with a special diet.”

Right – except vegetarians, diabetics and anyone with a food allergy, of course.

Mr. Turner writes that, in his view, “(f)aith-based politics is fine”, but then characterizes people of faith – read Christians – as Taliban if they solicit the support of others who believe in the same things they believe in, such as marriage and family. Dr. McVety may be a bit of a blowhard sometimes, a description he good-naturedly acknowledges, but at least he doesn’t try to suck and blow at the same time.

In fairness, perhaps this was just an example of the sort of “colourful language” Mr. Turner sheepishly admits to using from time to time. But would he get away with it if he were calling African Canadians “niggers” or Jews “kikes”? Why is it OK to use derogatory words when it comes to Christians? The silence of the mainstream media on this is deafening – and chilling.

Finally, there’s Mr. Turner’s implicit accusation that certain “groups” in our society are trying to force their “culture” on the rest of us. I couldn’t agree more. That’s why so many of us, the majority of Canadians in fact, from all walks of life, opposed, and still oppose the re-definition of marriage.

While Canadians tolerate many relationship and life-style choices, they rightly regard the institution of marriage as something special and worth protecting. Forcibly changing that age-old institution, and the corresponding changes to the structure of families, is precisely the sort of imposed and radical cultural change that we are against, particularly given the potential social costs involved. This is the sort of important policy issue that serious MPs are supposed to grapple with. Instead of being serious about it, however, Mr. Turner turns it into a joke and invites his blog-readers to join with him in the laughter. This isn’t reasoned argument – it’s political sadism.

German theologian Martin Niemöller wrote a poem dealing with the incremental growth of intolerance in pre-war Nazi Germany in which he observed that “When they came for the Jews I did not speak out for I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”

To be sure, Garth Turner and his ready-made audience are not Nazis – not even close. But the ease with which they ridicule their fellow Canadians who happen to be Christian is disquieting to say the least, as is the obvious and perverse pleasure they all seem to derive from the offence they are causing.

As a Jew, I will not be silent, because if I’m silent when Christians are the target, who will be there when the focus shifts to me?

Garth Turner??

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