Officials in the Canadian city of Nanaimo issued a statement Monday affirming the rights of "men and women of all faiths" to rent government-owned venues after the same council members recently raised the ire of Christian pastors for banning a public venue from being used for an event because it was sponsored in part by Chick-fil-A.
Council member Fred Pattje last month blasted fast-food owner Dan Cathy's "history of homophobia" and introduced a measure to bar the streaming of an annual conference called "Leadercast."
The event, which took place May 8 in Atlanta and was streamed to 800 cities in North America, is aimed at providing thought-provoking speakers who can help build up a generation of viable leaders; the conference does not explicitly address controversial subjects like homosexuality, based on an analysis of its website.
But Pattje took issue with Chick-fil-A's sponsorship of the event, saying that it made it ethically impossible for the city to allow it to be simulcasted at a local convention center.
"Among others [the event will be] sponsored by a company in the U.S. called Chick-fil-A," he said. "The owner of which has a rich history of homophobia and other divisive practices. The gentleman's name is Mr. Dan Cathy."
Pattje, who didn't elaborate on the other "divisive practices," also charged that one of the event's speakers believes that homosexuality "can be fixed with reparative therapy," which Pattje said was incredibly offensive and another reason why he opposed the event.
Pattje read from his motion: : "The city of Nanaimo advised the VICC — the Vancouver Island Conference Center — that as owners of the facility any events that are associated with organizations of people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia or other expressions of hate in a such advised VICC to not permit the upcoming Leadercast event to occur in the city-owned facility that is scheduled for Saturday May the 9th."
Councilman George Anderson said the body would display leadership by showing it would "not accept acts of hate."
Council members ultimately voted 8 to 1 in favor of Pattje's proposal. The sole holdout, Bill McKay, unsuccessfully appealing to his peers by noting that many well-known and revered leaders like Desmond Tutu, former first lady Laura Bush and journalist Malcolm Gladwell would be participating, SUN News' Ezra Levant reported.
"Leadercast" conference organizers and the Daily News — which reportedly sponsored the canceled event — were not in attendance at the May meeting and were seemingly not notified of the motion beforehand.
Levant was so outraged by what unfolded that he devoted an entire episode of his show "The Source" on June 20 to the council meeting, decrying the spectacle as "shocking bigotry" (watch the raw footage of the Nanaimo meeting here):
Despite taking a hard stance on the matter and subsequently banning the event, Christian pastors were quick to speak up against the act, asking that officials reverse course and open city-owned facilities to everyone without discriminating based on religious ideals.
According to the Nanaimo Daily News, three pastors who came as a part of the Nanaimo Evangelical Fellowship, a coalition of churches, asked officials for an apology and for an affirmation that people of any and all faiths can use the conference center, citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the basis of the request.
Faith leaders expressed shock over the event's cancellation at a June 16 council meeting, with Pastor Darcy Siggelkow of Generations Church calling both the cancellation and the councillors debate over the issue "immensely concerning."
"I'm not asking you to agree with or accept my opinions and beliefs ... but my rights to have those beliefs," he said, according to the Daily News.
While they didn't get an apology, Mayor John Ruttan has seemingly backtracked on the council's previous comments.
City spokesman Philip Cooper told TheBlaze Wednesday that Ruttan read a statement during the June 23 meeting affirming the rights of all religions to rent and use city property: "The City of Nanaimo hereby reaffirms that it shall unconditionally uphold the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and of the Human Rights Code of British Columbia."
"Without in any way limiting the generality of the foregoing statement, 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 statement said. "Accordingly, 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."
Since the "Leadercast" simulcast was canceled, the act that the motion sparked cannot be undone, but it seems the sentiment has been reversed. Still, some are considering taking legal action over what is being perceived as a violation of religious conscience.
Calls to the Pattje, McKay and the Daily News were not immediately returned to TheBlaze. It is unclear whether "Leadercast" will be allowed to take place next year.