LONDON, ON -City Hall and the Catholic diocese are reconsidering their ties to a Christian prayer fest whose organizer has said Muslims shouldn't be allowed to fully practice their beliefs in Canada.
City clerk Cathy Saunders launched a review Monday of an earlier decision to fly behind city hall a
Christian flag to commemorate the event - a decision made before she or her staff knew of the event's organizer, G.J. Rancourt, or the statements he's made about Muslims in interviews he's posted to his Facebook page.
Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the London Catholic Diocese is also seeking answers - he's to deliver the opening prayer at a March for Jesus that will precede the prayer fest in London's Victoria Park.
"He's very concerned, of what he's read of comments by Mr. Rancourt," diocese spokesperson Mark Adkinson said.
It was a diocese church that proposed the March for Jesus, but the church wasn't involved at all in the prayer fest, Adkinson said.
"Bishop Fabbro wants to make clear that he's involved with the March for Jesus only," Adkinson said.
But Rancourt has promoted the two events as being joined at the hip, with a website and Facebook pages, and told QMI Agency he is the director of both.
The flag flap has left a number of city councillors concerned, among them, Harold Usher.
What Rancourt has said is disturbing, he said.
"It's definitely of concern to me," Usher said. "I think we should all get along with each other."
Rancourt told Omni TV, "(Muslims) should be allowed the freedom to practise fully - but not in Canada ... Perhaps a one-way ticket home would be a good idea."
The comments sparked a reaction from Coun. Joni Baechler.
"As an elected official I have concerns because I represent everyone," she said.
Promo material for the Prayer Fest and March for Jesus this weekend speak of family, faith and fun with photos of balloons, a carnival ride and a praying child, and Rancourt insists that should have nothing to do with his prior statements about Muslims.
Rancourt also defended himself, posting a comment Monday on the London Free Press website, lfpress.com, saying he doesn't want all Muslims to leave, just those who defend their faith-based Sharia law.
Until recently he was head of the Christian Heritage Party in London, which has called for a moratorium on immigrants from Islamic countries that practise Sharia law.
For now, a Christian flag that's used by some churches is to be flown Friday at 7 p.m. at the community flag pole behind city hall.
The march starts 9 a.m. Saturday and will be followed by Prayer Fest.
The flag flap isn't the city's first: Five years ago council approved flags flying in front of city hall for Gay Pride, Argentina and the Metis, while denying other groups. That led council to give the city clerk power to decide which flags fly behind city hall - flags are barred from political or commercial groups or those whose philosophies espouse hatred, violence or racism.