He survived being held hostage for months in Iraq.
But now Toronto’s Jim Loney claims he’s facing a new threat to his freedom – intolerance.
The Christian Peacemaker Teams member was in Toronto Tuesday to protest the closing of a Catholic youth camp in Orillia. He claims operators The Knights Of Columbus are shutting down the kid friendly centre because he’s involved with it – and he’s gay.
He’s been working there for the past four years, but only revealed his homosexuality after his release from Iraq.
“We are doing this because we care about the church, we care about young people and we care about the kind of church they are coming into,” he explains about the reasons he’s speaking out.
Others came to support his stance. “We are compelled by our consciences, we representing the staff here, to end the silence that routinely surrounds the Catholic Church’s discrimination against gay and lesbian people,” declares Catholic school teacher Dwyer Sullivan.
Staff members contend the camp was only shut down after its chairman expressed concern that its existence was promoting a homosexual lifestyle because of Loney’s now famous presence.
“We want the teasing and the bullying and the harassment that comes with homophobia to stop,” Loney pleads. “We want the teenage suicide and the self-loathing of the closet to stop. We want people to be able to speak freely about what they are and what they believe without fear.”
“When I was sitting there day after day in handcuffs and chains, it struck me that there are many kinds of prisons.”
But Knights of Columbus spokesman John Clancey insists Loney’s comments are completely unjustified and that the camp was shuttered pending a review of its curriculum.
“The decision to close the camp this year was not caused by James Loney’s sexual preferences, as he alleges in the press. We resent the allegation,” they said in a statement.
The Ontario Catholic Youth Leadership Camp has been in existence since 1991 and was supposed to open for a week in late August.
The controversy comes one day after Pride Week celebrations began in Toronto and the same day Loney and his partner were to be honoured at a gala fundraising dinner.
The Knights of Columbus have issued a press release adamantly denying Loney’s allegations. Here’s what they had to say.
“The Knights of Columbus has operated a five day Catholic Youth Leadership Camp in a rented facility in Orillia, Ontario.
The purpose of the camp has been to bring together students to help them develop leadership skills and to consider how the Roman Catholic faith affects their day to day lives.
The camp was closed for this year pending a complete review of its mission, vision and administration. It was decided to commence the review this year and to finish it as quickly as possible so that if the review justifies continuing with the camp then it would be in a position to re-open the camp administration by the late fall of this year with a view to holding the camp again in late summer, 2007.
The decision to close the camp this year was NOT caused by James Loney’s sexual preferences as he alleges in the press. His sexual preferences were not a factor at all in the Knights of Columbus’ decision.
We resent the allegation.”