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Press Releases

June 15, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Citizenship Bible Distribution Disallowed by Court

TORONTO — The Canadian Bible Society is disappointed and strongly questioning the rationale behind a recent decision by Senior Citizenship Judge Michel Simard, removing the Society's ability to present bibles on request to new Canadians.

For more than 50 years the Society has welcomed immigrants in citizenship courts, offering them copies of the Scriptures. The right of the Society to do that was formalized in an agreement signed in 1998 with the government. At all times, it was made clear that acceptance of the bibles was purely voluntary on the part of the recipients.

"We don't understand what prompted Judge Simard to renege on this agreement, particularly since there was no prior consultation," said Rev. Phyllis Nesbitt, National Director of the Canadian Bible Society

In a letter to the Society, Judge Simard merely noted that Canada is a multicultural nation where freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His letter indicated that notwithstanding the agreement "allowing holy books to be made available at citizenship ceremonies detracts from this message."

"But when does excluding bibles from citizenship courts equate with freedom of religion?" Rev. Nesbitt asked, wondering if the ruling is less about freedom of religion and more an indicator of declining spiritual fervour. She noted that "this great nation of Canada was built on a strong religious foundation." To deny "holy books" at citizenship ceremonies reinforces secular, irreligious philosophies rather than undergirding religious freedoms, she said.

The Society is writing to inform members, donors and supporters of this disappointing turn of events and will keep you posted regarding further action as decisions are made. Please pray for a reversal of this decision.

The Canadian Bible Society is currently commemorating 200 years of Bible Society activities around the world and is looking ahead to its own centennial celebrations in 2006.

Contact:
(416) 757-4171





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