Richard Peachey’s speech before Abbotsford city council, June 29, 2015

Mayor and council, I come before you with a heavy heart, deeply disappointed by your June 15th decision to raise a flag for eight days in July — a flag that will celebrate sexual immorality.

You did this at the end of an evening council meeting, with minimal discussion, with no debate at all, and with no acknowledgment of the controversial, divisive nature of your decision. I’m asking you now to revisit and reverse your decision to raise that flag.

Flags are extremely important symbols. We’ve seen that recently in South Carolina. Some people view the Confederate flag as a symbol of southern “pride,” while others decry it as an abhorrent symbol of evil.

Mayor Braun, in your Star•fm interview you stated that the Pride flag only means that these folks are part of our community. Similarly, you told the Abbotsford News, “I don’t view this as endorsing anything … this is about accepting people…”

But hold on a minute! With respect, the mayor doesn’t have the right to unilaterally decide what the meaning of a flag is. This flag is actually about celebration. That’s the word Fraser Valley Pride used in their request to council: “celebration.” And I agree with them; this flag is about celebration. The flag’s purpose is to celebrate what they are “proud” of, which many in this city view as sexual immorality.

If you go to the front page of the Fraser Valley Pride website, you will see these key words, “diversity in the expression of gender and sexuality.” Pride groups, in general, have as their primary distinctive their views on sex, and their sexual practices. They tend to believe that “anything goes” between (or among) consenting individuals.

Some years ago I was an Abbotsford delegate to a BCTF annual general meeting. That year, a group called the “Gay and Lesbian Educators” were very active. They were promoting their agenda repeatedly, over and over : “We must teach our children from K to 12 to endorse, celebrate, affirm, and embrace homosexuality, lesbianism, tranvestitism, and anythingism.” Anythingism! Anything goes! They call it “sexual diversity,” but many in our community — Bible-believing Christians and others — see it as sexual immorality.

Now, there is no dispute that the views and practices of Pride group members are fully legal. Decades ago the federal government removed various sexual behaviours, including adultery, from the Criminal Code. But now that these behaviours are legal, that does not mean they deserve to be celebrated. Our city council should not be giving official support, honour, and celebration of views and practices many of us regard as immoral. So I ask you to revisit and reverse your decision to raise this flag that would celebrate sexual immorality.

The members of Fraser Valley Pride are already first-class citizens in this community — as we all are. The Canadian flag is already a symbol of that. I acknowledge that in our free and democratic society, the Pride folks are fully entitled to their views on sex and their legal sexual practices. They are fully entitled to promote their ideology and their agenda, like anyone else. I have no complaint about the fact that they made a request to council to have their flag flown. My complaint is directed specifically against council for its hasty, ill-considered decision approving that request.

Councillor Loewen wrote to me, “… in the absence of a policy … we are compelled to allow all requests, given that we have allowed some.” And in an email to a friend of mine, Mr. Loewen wrote, “… we were bound to allow this application.” Really? “Compelled”? “Bound”? So, if the flag request had come from the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, you would have had no choice but to raise it? Or if the request had been from the Pivot Legal Society, you would have been “bound” to approve it? Or if the flag request had come from the BC Marijuana Party, you would have been “compelled” — you would have passed the motion quickly, unanimously, and with no debate? This is laughable. How in the world is “not having a policy” about something . . . logically equivalent to . . . “having a policy stating that we must do whatever we might possibly be asked”?

I asked Councillor Loewen to tell me what other flags our city has previously agreed to raise. The only one in recent memory that he mentioned was the flag of Canuck Place, representing pediatric palliative care — a mission of mercy for dying children across British Columbia. That flag request was completely non-controversial, non-contentious, non-divisive, and you have not received any objections to it. But Fraser Valley Pride, on the other hand, is a self-promoting, self-justifying organization, and your approval of their flag request is highly controversial, contentious, and divisive. Thus there is absolutely no comparison between these two flag requests.

The Community Charter, section 115, states: “Every council member has the following responsibilities: … to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality and its community….”

Mayor and council, the Community Charter — provincial legislation — does not say you must act in a manner that will draw the least attention from the national media. It does not say you must follow what is politically correct or politically expedient. The Community Charter does not say you must do whatever will minimize your chances of being embarrassed or sued by militant activists. This provincial law requires you to consider the well-being and interests of the community.

But how does your decision to raise a flag to celebrate sexual immorality serve the well-being and interests of this community? I argue that our council should not be sending a message to Abbotsford’s young people that “sexual diversity” is something to honour and celebrate. Sexual immorality is simply not something that’s good for our community, and many of us regard your decision to raise a flag to celebrate sexual immorality as abhorrent. I am not saying I’m morally superior to anyone else. All of us are sinners, but most of us are not asking for a flag to be raised to celebrate our sins.

Mayor Braun, in your Star•fm interview you said, “Because I embrace them as individuals doesn’t mean I wholeheartedly endorse everything that they do.” Well, I’m curious: What is it that “they do” that you don’t endorse? Does it have anything to do with their “sexual diversity”? I think our community will be interested in your response to that when you address this issue “head-on” in a few minutes. I’m sure the folks at Fraser Valley Pride will also be interested, and they are entitled to know what you think. If you actually don’t endorse their sexual views and practices, then please don’t impose them on the rest of us by raising a flag to celebrate what you yourself view as sexual immorality. Please reconsider and reverse your approval of raising that flag.

Mayor and council, you will need to have two things in order to reverse your June 15th decision: humility and courage. You will need humility to recognize that you made a hasty, ill-considered decision. And you will also need great courage to rescind that decision even though the national media and others will attack you for doing so.

In conclusion, I will quote Abraham Lincoln, who was a great opponent of the evil represented by that very divisive Confederate flag. Lincoln said,

“Nothing can be politically right, that is morally wrong; and no necessity can ever sanctify a law, that is contrary to equity. Virtue is the soul of a republic.”