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Former Iraq war hostage James Loney says the Ontario-based Catholic group Knights of Columbus has closed a Catholic youth leadership camp because he is gay and serves as a staff member there, the Toronto Star reports. Loney and the Christian Peacemakers Team said in a statement that his decision to disclose his relationship with partner Dan Hunt after his release prompted the closure of the camp. The Ontario Catholic Youth Leadership Camp, near Orillia, was to operate this year between Aug. 21 and Aug. 26.
Reached by the Star at his Peterborough home last night Jack Clancey, a Knights of Columbus official, said the decision to close the camp had nothing to do with the organization's views on homosexuality. "That statement is totally out of left field," said Clancey. "We closed down that leadership camp because we needed to review the way we were going and the curriculum that we were teaching."
Loney and Hunt received the "Fearless" award at a fundraising gala and awards dinner on Tuesday as part of Toronto's Pride Week festivities in recognition of their perseverance during the hostage ordeal. Loney, a Roman Catholic who helped found Toronto's Catholic Worker community, made international headlines when he was kidnapped along with three colleagues in Baghdad last November. He was held for four months before being released.
The fact that Loney was gay was kept a secret by family and friends for fear that, if his captors found out, it would endanger him. "I was worried that if the captors did find out, that it would substantially change my treatment or would, or could, endanger my life," Loney said shortly after his return.
The Knights of Columbus has made headlines in the past with its strong views opposing same-sex marriage. The group has stated they want Ottawa to re-introduce legislation to "recognize, protect and re-affirm the definition of marriage as a voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others." In the United States, at the behest of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus printed 10 million postcards addressed to U.S. senators to support a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage. (The Advocate)