The president of the White Rock Pride Society says his organization feels discriminated against because the Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Parish will not rent its community centre to the society for an upcoming Pride event.
Ernie Klassen told Peace Arch News Monday that he was initially told by Star of the Sea that the community centre was available for the date the society wanted, and he put in an application.
However, the Star of the Sea Catholic Church, Klassen said, turned down the application.
“They are not in favour of gay marriage and they believe that it’s a chosen lifestyle and they are opposed to anything to do with the gay community. It’s against their beliefs,” Klassen said.
When asked for comment Monday, the Star of the Sea requested that PAN contact a spokesperson at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver.
“We’ve just decided against responding publicly to the White Rock Pride Society’s complaint,” Archdiocese of Vancouver director of strategic communications Paul Schratz wrote to PAN Monday.
However, Archbishop delegate James Borkowski emailed a statement to PAN Wednesday.
“The parish reviews all applications for events to ensure that the proposed use of the parish center would not be contrary to the teachings on faith and morals of the Catholic Church. We regret that this will inevitably disappoint some people and we strive to give answers in as timely a fashion as possible,” the statement read.
Klassen said that when the Pride Society asked to speak further about the issue with the Catholic church, they were told to speak to the church’s lawyer.
The White Rock Pride Society hosted a dinner and dance fundraiser for PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at Elk’s Hall last year. The venue has a capacity of 120 people.
Klassen said that he expects the society could double the attendance with a bigger venue, which is why they contacted Star of the Sea.
“I guess our biggest issue is that they call it the Star of the Sea Community Centre and they rent it out to the public. There’s something there almost every week that has nothing to do with the church.
“If you want to call yourself a community centre, and get the property tax relief from the city, then I’m now, as a White Rock citizen, subsidizing their taxes and I’m not allowed to use their facility,” Klassen said.
“There’s the dilemma. If you want to hold it strictly for the Catholic church purposes, then promote it as such.”
According the City of White Rock, the Star of the Sea property receives a property tax exemption for the total assessed value of the entire property.
The approximate value of the property tax exemption is $11,800.