This letter is to inform you about events which you may or may not be aware. As you know, invitations went out to individuals who may be interested in either being exhibitors or attendees of your Manning Conference in Ottawa. We received several of these invitations via e-mail and mail, as a matter of fact we are still receiving them from your office.
Under the impression that these invitations were sincere we went online and paid to have a table for your conference for the second year in a row. As you may recall, last year we attended and were exhibitors at your Ottawa conference. We were very shocked and surprised that after successfully paying for our table and tickets, this year, that our payment was refunded and we were informed that we were refused the privilege to participate as a table host in your conference.
We have had several conversations with different officials at the Manning Centre to try to clarify why we had been refused a table, when in the previous year we were granted one. Through the course of our discussions it was revealed to us that “the Manning Conference was not the proper forum for a church”. We were told that this is a “political event” and that churches are religious and not political.
Mr. Manning, with this understanding in mind, I discussed this with a friend of mine, Jim Blake, who runs an organization called Concerned Christians Canada. Mr. Blake decided to register for the event as a table presenter. You may be surprised to discover that, although Mr. Blake does not run a church and nor is Concerned Christians Canada (CCC) a church, he was refused the ability to have a table at your conference as well.
By the way, you may be interested to know that CCC is very politically involved and actively communicates with people in all three levels of government. It advocates for Christian and traditional family values. It is involved in drafting proposals for government, involved in the law making process, in fighting immoral laws, in communicating to and for political campaigns, connecting with many in Church leadership, and in speaking out for the less fortunate and for those who have no voice.
What’s further interesting, and very disconcerting, is that upon asking why he had been refused, no proper reason was given, other than that his “friend” had already attempted to register and was refused and that, that would be the end of the discussion.
Just so you know, we spoke with three separate staff members; Bethe Andreasen, Peter Andreasen, and Nicholas Gafuik. When we asked why our application was rejected, we were told by Mr. Gafuik, it’s none of our business. Even though we tried to get an answer through e-mails, and I personally spoke with your assistant, to this day, we do not have an acceptable answer.
Sir, we felt it important to discuss with you our concerns in the hopes that this is some form of misunderstanding. We hope to find that you are unaware of this abuse, and that you will quickly rectify this matter and grant our organizations equal access to be table presenters, as you have granted many others the same request. On the surface, the only connection seems to be that both organizations are Christian organizations, and that perhaps your staff feels that our views are unpopular. We are having a great deal of difficulty comprehending any valid reason why we should be refused and we sincerely hope that these acts do not demonstrate an anti-Christian sentiment on the part of your staff.
The only other reason I can think of is that you, if you in fact know about all of these circumstances and approve of such restrictions of free speech, under the guise of a centre for building freedom and democracy, have taken offence to the comments I made to you last year at the conference. I truly and sincerely hope that you heard my words as words of inspiration and encouragement.
The message I brought to you was from God, a reminder of your Godly heritage and of the important role that you have, as one of today’s most well recognized political figures. At that time, you may recall, I told you that God said, pointed out your grey hair to me and told me to ask you, “How long do you think you have, a day, a year, twenty. You don’t know.” He had me share with you that your life is in His hands and He wanted me to point out to you that everything that you do, in those conferences, in politics, etc is worth absolutely nothing, unless God Himself is in the middle of it.
I reminded you about your father that preached so boldly on the radio about Jesus Christ, while at the same time being the Premier of Alberta, and yet where is the fruit of that heritage? In your conferences no prayers are given or are seemingly allowed, no mention of God can be found in your speeches, at whenever I have been present.
Sir, I hope you were not offended. I did not speak on my own authority, but God’s. The purpose was not to condemn you but to challenge you to be a better man, better politician, and a better representative of God.
The essence of your organization, the Manning Centre for “Building Democracy”, is the very thing that is under attack by our refusal. Equal rights and freedom for all… is that not what you are building?
I find it very ironic, that on Monday, February 1, 2010 the very same Nicholas Gafuik, wrote an article for the Calgary Herald. In this article he said that Andre Siegfried had a dour view of Canadian politics stating that “Canadian leaders, ‘seem to stand in fear of great movements of public opinion and seek to lull them rather than encourage them and bring them to fruition’”. I wonder if this includes the leaders at the Manning Centre. He further indicated that ‘Sprouts have again emerged, and Albertans have been asking some big questions.’ This is true and some Albertans are Traditional and/or evangelical Christians.
In his article, Nicholas noted that you had delivered a speech at Kayano College in Fort McMurray and that during your visit people “Most wanted to talk about how to improve our political discourse and democratic participation. I heard the argument that without intelligent debate and thoughtful participation, Alberta would be ill-equipped to face the big questions of our time.” I agree. I also feel that Nicholas and others are attempting to opt out certain views by silencing the speech of Christians in the quest for “open discourse” and “intelligent debate”.
His article discussed how Albertans are increasingly asking “What is our vision for the next chapter of Alberta’s story?” Sir, I ask you the same question, what kind of vision is the Manning Centre hoping for by reducing the visibility and silencing the speech of Christians? Another question posed in his article was “How do we improve our education system to prepare young people with the knowledge and skills they need to reach their full potential?” This question is very important since it involves potential, young people, and the future, it clearly involves ideology on what that future should look like.
He raised another point of interest, “How do we encourage our fellow Albertans to be fully engaged in public life and the policy decisions affecting our future? How do we encourage fellow Albertans to be civically engaged citizens who volunteer, donate to charity, vote and are otherwise active participants in our communities?” I echo that question. How on earth do you encourage them to be fully engaged when you discourage involvement in the conferences you put on to supposedly “build democracy”. Sir, this is the pinnacle of hypocrisy, especially when Nicholas further went on to say that the conference is “about ideas, not politics”. It is commonly recognized that Christians are, among all citizens, the ones who will think of others, will volunteer and will be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Nicholas in his article suggested that “When Albertans aren’t getting the answers or information they need and want, they need to demand better.” We have taken his suggestion, and we are demanding better from the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. Mr. Gafuik went on to say that the challenge facing Alberta’s political leaders is “how to respond to the questions and aspirations of Albertans and demonstrate that they have the will and capability to carry the province forward.” I agree. Perhaps it should start with organizations that are talking about, debating and relating political ideas, such as the Manning Centre.
I ask the same question of you, sir, that Mr. Gafuik posed in his article. “Will you stand in fear of great movements of public opinion or will you encourage them and bring them to fruition?” My second question is, will you stand in the face of the public opinion that you don’t like, in order to support the public opinion you do? Surely democracy is about sharing the views of all canadians and surely an organization which is known to be conservative in its ideology should, at the very least, allow the free expression of the views of conservative Christian citizens and organizations.
Mr. Manning, we have, very influential, regular supporters that come to us asking us for our opinions on supporting other organizations. Just a few days ago, we were asked by Timothy and Susan Hearn about your organization, after they received one of your letters/invitations to donate to the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. After hearing about how we have been treated by the Manning Centre, Susan Hearn asked us to ask you, “Is there no place for young Christian voices from Alberta in the Manning Centre for Building Democracy?” Sir, what should we say to Timothy and Susan Hearn and to all others who inquire. What is your answer?
I sincerely await your response with anticipation,
on behalf of Street Church Ministries
and other concerned Christians in Alberta