NANAIMO, British Columbia – Two months after a small Canadian town canceled a Chick-fil-A sponsored event due to concerns over the owners’ ‘criminal’ Christian beliefs, the town’s city council has officially rescinded their initial decision and reaffirmed the rights of men and women of all faiths to use their city’s facilities.
As previously reported, the city council of Nanaimo, Canada, had planned to rent out an event center to a Georgia-based leadership organization for a May 9 simulcast. However, when the city leaders learned that the simulcast would be sponsored in part by Chick-fil-A, they decided to cancel the event, citing concerns over the Christian beliefs of the restaurant chain’s owners.
“[A]s owners of the facility,” the motion to cancel the event stated, “any events that are associated with organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate [will] not be permitted [by the city].”
During a May 5 council meeting, the Nanaimo city council members sharply criticized Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, saying Cathy’s beliefs in traditional marriage are comparable to “organized crime.”
“[Cathy] has a rich history of homophobia and other divisive practices,” Councilor Fred Pattje alleged during the meeting. “ … This is about an organization that is being sponsored by a man who has done tremendous damage.”
“I find [Cathy’s beliefs] almost to be a criminal point of view in this day and age,” remarked City Councilor Jim Kipp. “This is just nuts, it’s just nuts.”
Ezra Levant, a Canadian lawyer and best-selling author, said the city councilors’ anti-Christian remarks were both troubling and unwarranted.
“Councilors took turns defaming the convention, Chick-Fil-A, one of its speakers, its organizers and those in it—all without the burden of facts,” Levant wrote in a Toronto Sun column. “They falsely accused one conference speaker of being anti-gay—even though city staff reminded councillors that the conference wasn’t about homosexuality at all.”
In response to the criticism, Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan released a statement during a June 23 city council meeting, in which he reaffirmed the rights of all faiths to rent government-owned facilities.
“The City of Nanaimo specifically reaffirms that men and women of all faiths are guaranteed the fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion and of thought, belief, opinion and expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and of the Human Rights Code of BC,” the mayor said in his statement, according to minutes from the council meeting.
“Accordingly,” the mayor continued, “men and women of all faiths are entitled to utilize facilities that are owned by and/or in the control of the City of Nanaimo in the same manner that any such facilities are available for use by all members of the general public, subject always to the rule of the law.”
Then, after continued demands for an apology from the city council, the councilors decided on July 3 to rescind the original motion that had banned the Chick-fil-A sponsored event in May. According to the council’s meeting minutes, the July 3 motion passed the council with unanimous support.
In a statement, Levant described the latest development as a “major victory in Nanaimo for free speech, religious freedom, and equality.”
“Last night,” Levant said, “the city council voted to apologize and rescind the motion—a direct result of … citizen activists. Thank you!”