Thursday, February 10, 2011

The York Regional Police's rabbi and the homophobia controversy

I didn't even know the York Regional Police had a rabbi before this!

According to the Gay community newspaper Xtra:

York Regional Police (YRP) inspectors have wrapped up an internal investigation of their in-house rabbi, launched in response to a complaint about a "very homophobic"sermon.  
The "letter of concern" was filed by Kulanu Toronto, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews, against Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, the Jewish chaplain for YRP. In his sermon, given just before Toronto Pride 2010, Kaplan instructed his followers to not support Kulanu or the Pride parade, referring to gays as "an abomination," says Justine Apple, executive director of Kulanu... 
Ricky Veerappan, an inspector in the diversity and cultural research bureau of YRP, says police could not substantiate the allegations of hate rhetoric. 
“We looked at it from a purely religious perspective,” he says. “Experts agreed that the content was technically correct. I’m in no position to judge if that’s hateful.” 
...Kaplan gave his sermon after Kulanu published a full-page advertisement in the Toronto Star just before the 2010 Pride parade. “The rabbi got a hold of the ad and presented it to his synagogue members while he spoke.
“The ad was a call-out to people to come and march with us because of the whole QuAIA [Queers Against Israeli Apartheid] controversy, so we wanted community support,” she says. But Kaplan used that advertisement to blast the gay community.
Kaplan tells Xtra he stands by his comments. “I took exception to [homosexuality] and I continue to take exception to it.”

The Xtra article includes an interesting email exchange between Kaplan and the Canadian Jewish Congress' Bernie Farber.

Like Apple, Farber questions whether Kaplan is the most appropriate choice to represent YRP. "That's what has to be answered."
"It's not enough to say, 'It's in the Bible and that makes it OK,' even if that may be true," Farber says. "Does it make it right to take it one step further and take that position as a public official? That's a serious question that deserves a thoughtful answer, and we have not heard that yet."
Veerappan says the police investigation concluded in January with the decision that Kaplan would remain a police chaplain.

The Jewish Tribune also did a report on this which can be seen here.

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