OTTAWA — Disrupting a religious service is likely to remain a crime, since MPs on the House of Commons justice committee have agreed to change a controversial part of proposed legislation aimed at modernizing the Criminal Code.
This spring, the Liberal government moved to rid the Criminal Code of sections that are redundant or obsolete, including those which involve challenging someone to a duel or fraudulently pretending to practice witchcraft.
One of the changes proposed in Bill C-51 would have removed a section that makes it a crime to use threat or force to obstruct a clergyman or minister from celebrating a worship service or carrying out any other duty related to his job.
That came under heavy criticism from a number of major religious groups, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and B’nai Brith Canada, who urged MPs on the justice committee to keep Section 176.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who chairs the committee, says that even though the section is rarely used, the committee did not see the value in removing it at a time when there have been hate-motivated incidents against churches, mosques and synagogues around the county.
The MPs also voted to update the language so that it is gender neutral and refers to all religious and spiritual officiants, instead of just Christian clergy.