Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sermon rips anti-bullying bill

Pastor warns of God's action over gay-group provisions

  • Print

The pastor of a large Steinbach church has warned local politicians, teachers, media members and other local citizens in prominent jobs that God can replace them if they stay silent on the call to oppose the province's Bill 18.

At his Feb. 24 sermon to thousands of parishioners at Southland Church in Steinbach, Pastor Ray Duerksen specifically cited Hanover and Steinbach councillors, Hanover school trustees, doctors in the regional health authority, MLAs and MPs, police, firefighters, teachers, and media members and said: "God did not place you in your position because you are the only person who can do your job that well.

"If you don't do it, God will set you and I aside, and raise up someone who will."

Bill 18, which aims to fight bullying, guarantees any student in a public or private school who asks to form a gay-straight alliance must be supported by the school. Some Christians in southern Manitoba have said the bill infringes on their right to support schools that reflect their religious values.

A source in Steinbach who requested anonymity said Wednesday there is local talk that some church members are planning to run their own slates in the 2014 school board and city council elections, to try to "stack" the public bodies.

Duerksen said in his Feb. 24 sermon God placed people in their positions -- including him -- for a reason.

"We have influence. You are an Esther or a Mordechai because you have influence," the pastor said, apparently referring to a Book of Esther story in which two characters who had influence in the court of a king are praised for standing up for the "people of God" despite personal risk.

"It's (Bill 18) a legitimate fear, and I should do something about it.

"God doesn't need us," Duerksen said. "Too many people take for granted their positions of influence."

Duerksen did not respond to an interview request Wednesday.

The sermon came the same morning as a meeting and prayer session later that evening that drew 1,200 people to Steinbach Christian High School to oppose Bill 18 -- Duerksen used his sermon to exhort his parishioners to attend.

Duerksen asked those who choose to remain silent on Bill 18 how they can ever explain themselves to their children and grandchildren.

Several area municipal councillors are reportedly members of the Southland congregation. In his official online biography, Tory education critic MLA Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach) says his family has belonged to Southland for 15 years.

If Bill 18 passes, Duerksen said in his sermon, "We're going to lose our religious freedom.

"We lost the abortion debate in the '70s... we lost the same-sex debate," and it's not going to happen again, he said.

Duerksen said if Steinbach Christian High School is forced to allow a gay-straight alliance in the school, "that is an attack on our religious freedom."

Steinbach Christian has 235 students in grades 5 to 12.

Meanwhile, Steinbach Regional Secondary School has 1,394 public school students in grades 10 to 12 and is the fourth-largest school in Manitoba. The Hanover School Division has told Education Minister Nancy Allan it will comply with Bill 18, and will accommodate any student who requests a gay-straight alliance.

In his sermon, Duerksen said any sex outside of the parameters of a man and a woman married to each other "is wrong." Duerksen said Bill 18 is the greatest challenge facing Christian churches, and said it is part of a hidden agenda to destroy Christianity.

Duerksen said the Bible is being treated as "hate literature."

The church and the community are in "mortal danger" over the legislation, Duerksen said.

Southland Church has scheduled a prayer session on Bill 18 Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight.

default video player to use on WFP

Steinbach city council has demanded Education Minister Nancy Allan review Bill 18 to ensure it does not violate freedom of religion.

"There's a recognition that the goals and intent of Bill 18 are generally noble," Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen said Wednesday.

But, he said, councillors felt compelled to support constituents' concerns that the anti-bullying legislation does not adequately define bullying, and that it jeopardizes their ability to practise their faith.

Allan said Wednesday the council motion, which passed 5-2 on Tuesday, will not dissuade her from providing "a safe and caring learning environment for all our students. There are many voices in that community."

The mayor said every student deserves an environment free from bullying, and student safety is council's primary concern.

"We're a tolerant, progressive community," he said. "We want to make sure that people can still practise their faith and follow the law."

Goertzen said at no point in the debate Tuesday did any councillor refer to a provision in Bill 18 that guarantees any student in a public or private school who asks to form a gay-straight alliance must be accommodated and supported by the school.

A crowd of 1,200 people at Steinbach Christian High School Feb. 24 objected to the bill. The Hanover School Division has told Allan it will comply with the bill, which is expected to be law when school opens in September.

"Council is very conscious we need to respect others," Goertzen said. "We don't often get involved in school matters. It's valid for a council to express citizens' concerns."

Goertzen said the position of two councillors voting against the motion because they feel council has no place in education matters has merit, but there is such strong opposition to Bill 18, council must support its constituents.

The RM of Hanover passed a similar resolution last week, Goertzen pointed out.

Municipal councils rarely venture into school board matters.

Conservative education critic Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach) declined to comment.

"Because they are all elected officials, I will just let them speak for themselves and their reasons for concern," he said.

-- Martin

default video player to use on WFP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2013 A3


Updated on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 1:15 PM CST: adds video of Education Minister

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Donny 'Golden Boy' Lalonde returns home

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A red squirrel peaks out of the shade in a tree in East Fort Garry, Sunday, September 9, 2012. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos


What should the new royal baby be named?

View Results

Ads by Google