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Jesus would not discriminate against gays: pastor

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A north Winnipeg church has waded into the debate over the NDP’s anti-bullying law.

But Rev. Mary Best said a sign posted outside the Atlantic-Garden City United Church is intended to calm the waters and not stir the pot.

It’s also in response to criticism against the Bill 18 from some Christian groups, which claim the proposed legislation infringes on their constitutional right of religious freedom by stipulating Manitoba schools recognize gay and lesbians high school students.

Best said that kind of thinking doesn’t ring with the words of Jesus Christ.

"In the United Church of Canada we feel that all people are created in God’s image," she said Thursday. "We also believe that Jesus would not discriminate."

Best also said the recent debate over Bill 18, particularly the position taken by some evangelical churches in Steinbach and Winnipeg, does not represent the view of all Christians.

"We as Christians need to take a stand against bullying," she said.

She also said the debate has sidetracked discussions in congregations and among the public on the real purpose of Bill 18 — the need to protect children.

Best added the decision to put up the sign was made by her in discussion with several parishioners.

The church recently celebrated its 85th anniversary at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Arlington Street.

Education Minister Nancy Allan introduced Bill 18 last fall in part in response to the suicide of Amanda Todd, a Grade 10 student from British Columbia who had posted a revealing picture of her breasts and then was hounded relentlessly on the Internet. She took her life Oct. 10 last year. Todd, 15, posted a video on YouTube in which she used flash cards to tell of her experience of being bullied.

Allan’s bill, which is not law yet, says schools must promote gender equity, anti-racism and the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

It also says schools must use the name gay-straight alliance, "or any other name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils."

Late last week federal Public Safety Minister and Steinbach MP Vic Toews said in a letter to his constituents that he believed that last provision violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms by infringing on freedom of religion.

"If the provincial legislature does not amend Bill 18 to address concerns of faith-based organizations, school and communities, the only remedy may be an application to the courts to decide if the legislation is compliant with Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Toews said in the letter.

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