Monday, January 02, 2006

The Albatross Around Harper's Neck

If anything is not receiving sufficient attention during this election campaign it is the hard link between Stephen Harper's Conservatives and the likes of Tristan Emmanuel.

As the so-called second half of the federal election campaign gets underway, something appeared in this post by Pam over at Pandagon which should be a clear reminder that the Conservative Party of Canada is not the old Progressive Conservative Party. In fact, the CPC is rapidly becoming more and more like the US Republican Party and that is particularly so with respect to the influence of the dominionist bible movement or, the "Christian right".

Emmanuel currently exercises nowhere near the influence in Canada that the Falwells, Dobsons and Robertsons do in the US, but he unapologetically involves himself in Canadian politics at the party level and he weaves his radical religious views into the fabric of the political force that he feels can turn Canada into a "Christian democracy". He has been active in promoting "Christians" to run for the Conservatives who now have at least nine candidates sporting radical Christian credentials. All of them openly campaign against same-sex marriage, most want abortion made illegal and some are virulent racists. A good proportion of them have been or are leaders of the Canadian branches of organizations such as Focus On The Family and the Promise Keepers. (Interestingly, such affiliations have recently been expunged from their websites. They are obviously aware of the revulsion felt by many Canadians for these groups, but if the candidates truly believe in their worth, why the sudden attempt at camouflage.)

Emmanuel has some rather disturbing beliefs of his own. He praised Franklin Graham for his openly stated opinion that Islam was an "evil and wicked religion" and endorsed the belief that Christians and Muslims did not share the same God, which in Emmanuel's view made Muslims infidels. He has described gays and lesbians as "sexual deviants". He also subscribes to a belief that homosexuality is determined by choice. Emmanuel was also the founder of "Canadians for Bush", an organization which seems to have fizzled since its 2003 birth. No matter, Emmanuel receives continuing support from US televangelists whose signals find their way to Canadian TV.

Stephen Harper, no matter how hard he tries to distance himself from Emmanuel during the current campaign, is solidly linked to him. Aside from other events Harper was the star performer at an Ottawa rally Emmanuel organized in April 2005 against same-sex marriage. Harper, speaking to a group estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 yelled out, "We will win this thing." Evidence enough that, should he ascend to the Prime Minister's office, he will trample on the rights of at least one minority group. One of Harper's party lieutenants and former leader of the Reform Alliance Party, Stockwell Day, has unabashedly sung the praises of Emmanuel.

The problem for most Canadians, used to a clear separation of church and state, is that Emmanuel openly preaches Christian dominance of government, something of which Harper is fully aware. Given that Emmanuel's stumping is expected to deliver the fundamentalist Christian vote, Harper will find himself under pressure to produce for that group. If the electorate gives him a minority government, the best he can hope for at this time, any moves to satisfy Emmanuel's requirements will send the electorate in the opposite direction and destroy any chances for a future majority.

In any case, the reason for the Emmanuel and Harper association is fairly straight forward. Emmanuel stands to gain financially should he become an affiliated power of a Conservative government. His commercial evangelism has not achieved the same levels as some of his US champions and involvement with government would help fulfill his ambitions. Harper believes he can use the dominionist Christian dogma as a tool with which to control large segments of the population. In any case, he hasn't been seriously pressed on his religious beliefs. Since he has so strongly embraced the Christian right, perhaps it's time to break with Canadian tradition and hold his feet to the fire.

Canadians have a reason to be nervous. The CPC is moving closer to the position in which the US Republican Party finds itself. If the Conservatives form government, the differences will be difficult to distinguish.

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