Supreme Court to Decide Group Religious Freedom Case

General July 23, 2009

For immediate release from The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Legal Fellowship

July 23, 2009

Ottawa – On Friday, July 24, 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada will release its decision in the Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony case heard last October. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and Christian Legal Fellowship intervened in the case requesting that the court define the group aspect of religious freedom alluded to in the 1986 case of R. v. Edwards Books. In Edwards Books then Chief Justice Brian Dickson, writing for the majority of the Court, stated that “freedom of religion, perhaps unlike freedom of conscience, has both individual and collective aspects.”

EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson stated, “The Supreme Court has a well developed jurisprudence on the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ right to religious freedom for individuals. This case has provided the Court with an opportunity to define the right for groups with equal clarity.”

While media reports last fall referenced this case as being about the government’s ability to enforce a photo I.D. requirement, the EFC and Christian Legal Fellowship, who joined together in the intervention before the Supreme Court, regard the key issue as the right of a religious group to determine and live by its understanding of its sacred texts.

CLF Executive Director Ruth Ross said, ”The Hutterites’ core religious beliefs require that they live communally and that they not be voluntarily photographed (following the biblical Second Commandment). As such, individual Hutterites cannot manifest religious expression without Charter protection for the collective group.”

Hutchinson said, “This is an ideal case for the Court to clarify this right as it does not involve accommodating criminal activity (like polygamy) or recognizing alternative legal systems (like Shari’a law). It does ask the Court to define the extent to which the religious beliefs and practices of a community or a congregation have standing and protection under the Charter.”

Hutchinson, who directs the EFC’s Centre for Faith and Public Life, will be available to the media from his offices in Ottawa following release of the decision tomorrow. Ruth Ross, the Executive Director of the Christian Legal Fellowship, will also be available to the media.

The EFC/CLF written factum for Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony may be viewed at http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=734&nccsm=21&__nccspID=894

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For more information or an interview contact:

Gail Reid
Director, Communications
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
905-479-5885, ext. 227
Cell: 647-227-3464
[email protected]

Stephanie Luck, J.D., Esq.
Christian Legal Fellowship
1673 Richmond Street, Suite 140
London, Ontario N6G 2N3
(519) 641-8850
[email protected]

The Christian Legal Fellowship (www.christianlegalfellowship.org) is a national not-for-profit association of legal professionals in Canada. The association, among other functions, explores the complex interrelationships between the practice and theory of law and Christian faith. The Fellowship has some 535 active members from several dozen Christian denominations working together to integrate Christian faith with law.


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The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of evangelical Christians, gathered together for influence, impact and identity in ministry and public witness. Since 1964 the EFC has provided a national forum for Evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical principles in life and society. In addition to 40 evangelical denominations, the EFC affiliates include ministry organizations, educational institutions and individual congregations, who uphold a common statement of faith. The EFC is an active participant in the World Evangelical Alliance.

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