Canadian Supreme Court Rules Biblical Speech Opposing Homosexual Behavior is a ‘Hate Crime’
February 28, 2013
On Wednesday, the court upheld the conviction of activist William Whatcott, who found himself in hot water after distributing flyers regarding the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexuality throughout the Saskatoon and Regina neighborhoods in 2001 and 2002. The 7-judge panel consisted of Justices Beverly McLachlin, Louis LeBel, Marie Deschamps, Morris Fish, Rosalie Abellia, Marshall Rothstein and Thomas Cromwell.
“The Bible is clear that homosexuality is an abomination,” one flyer that was found to be in violation stated, citing 1 Corinthians 6:9. “Scripture records that Sodom and Gomorrah was given over completely to homosexual perversion and as a result destroyed by God’s wrath.”
Another flyer, entitled Keep Homosexuality Out of Saskatoon’s Public Schools, was written in response to the recommendation of the Saskatoon School Board that homosexuality be included in school curriculum. The Supreme Court declared the document to be unlawful because it called the homosexual acts that would be taught to children “filthy,” and contended that children are more interested in playing Ken and Barbie than “learning how wonderful it is for two men to sodomize each other.” The justices ruled that because the use of the word “sodomy” only referred to “two men” and not also the sex acts of heterosexuals, it was a direct target against a specific group of people.
Two other flyers that expressed outrage at the male solicitation of sex with boys in a local publication were not found to be in violation of the statute, in part because Whatcott’s citation of Luke 17:2 was not clear on whether it only referred to homosexuals. The verse, which he had handwritten on the handouts, quotes from Jesus Christ.
“If you cause one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better that a millstone was tied around your neck and you were cast into the sea,” it read.
The court insinuated that the Scripture could have been an issue like the other references if used in a way to pertain solely to homosexual persons.
The Supreme Court noted in its opinion, among other concerns, that Whatcott’s use of the Bible to target homosexuals was a problem.
“[Whatcott's] expression portrays the targeted group as a menace that could threaten the safety and well-being of others, makes reference to respected sources (in this case the Bible) to lend credibility to the negative generalizations, and uses vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred,” the panel ruled on Wednesday.
It pointed back to the lower court ruling, which asserted, “While the courts cannot be drawn into the business of attempting to authoritatively interpret sacred texts such as the Bible, those texts will typically have characteristics which cannot be ignored if they are to be properly assessed in relation to … the [Hate Crimes] Code.”
The judges did note, however, that “it would only be unusual circumstances and context that could transform a simple reading or publication of a religion’s holy text into what could objectively be viewed as hate speech.”
Commentator Andrew Coyne noted that the wording of Canada’s hate crimes law is problematic because it leaves much discretion in the hands of law enforcement.
“The code itself outlaws material that ‘exposes or tends to expose to hatred’ any person or group, on the usual list of prohibited grounds. It is not necessary, that is, to show the material in question actually exposes anyone to hatred — only that it might,” he advised. “The Court then upholds the ban on the grounds that the hatred to which individuals might or might not be exposed might in turn lead others to believe things that might cause them to act in certain unspecified but clearly prejudicial ways: it ‘has the potential to incite or inspire discriminatory treatment,’ or ‘risks’ doing so, or is ‘likely’ to, or at any rate ‘can.’”
Whatcott has now been ordered to pay $7,500 to two homosexuals who took offense at his flyers, as well as to pay the legal fees of the Human Rights Commission — which could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The ruling and the reasoning [of the court] is terrible,” he told reporters. “They actually used the concept that truth is not a defense.”
“It’s worse than I expected,” Whatcott added. “What it means is that my life is over as I know it.”
A much different ruling came out of the Alberta Court of Appeals last October, as Pastor Stephen Boissoin was likewise facing hate crimes charges for submitting an op-ed to a local newspaper that outlined his beliefs about homosexual behavior. In releasing its opinion, the court said that Boissoin had a right to express his beliefs on matters such as homosexuality as long as they were focused on a behavior and not a specific person.
“Matters of morality, including the perceived morality of certain types of sexual behavior, are topics for discussion in the public forum. Frequently, expression on these topics arises from deep seated religious conviction, and is not always temperate,” the panel advised. “Boissoin and others have the freedom to think, whether stemming from their religious convictions or not, that homosexuality is sinful and morally wrong. In my view, it follows that they have the right to express that thought to others.”
However, the Supreme Court of Canada declared Wednesday that oftentimes, it is impossible to say that one loves the sinner and hates the sin. It asserted that the hatred of the act was inseparable from hating the person or person group.
“I agree that sexual orientation and sexual behaviour can be differentiated for certain purposes,” the court outlined. “However, in instances where hate speech is directed toward behaviour in an effort to mask the true target, the vulnerable group, this distinction should not serve to avoid [the hate-crime clause of the Code].”
While speech opposing homosexuality remains legal in the United States, some note that the nation is heading in the same direction as Canada, as discrimination laws are being enforced by state Human Rights Commissions across the country.
A number of incidents have made headlines in recent years where American businesses have been punished for their refusal to accommodate the homosexual lifestyle, such as the story of a photographer in New Mexico that was forced to pay $700 in fines for declining to shoot a same-sex commitment service, to the Vermont bed and breakfast owners who settled a lawsuit with two lesbians who were told by an employee that they could not hold their commitment service on the property. A Kentucky t-shirt screening company was also recently punished for declining to complete a work order involving t-shirts that were to be worn at a local homosexual pride parade.
Canadian High Court Upholds Pastor’s Right to Oppose Homosexuality, Criticizes ‘Hate Crimes’ Law
http://christiannews.net/2012/10/23/canadian-high-court-upholds-pastors-right-to-oppose-homosexuality-criticizes-hate-crimes-law/October 23, 2012
Pastor Stephen Boissoin had written a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate in 2002, expressing his Biblical beliefs about the homosexual lifestyle. After reading the letter as published in the Advocate, Dr. Darren Lund, a professor at the University of Calgary, filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, accusing Boissoin of violating Canada’s hate crimes law, which prohibits “hate propaganda.”
In May 2008, the Commission ruled against the pastor, and ordered him to cease and desist from further expressing any views regarding the homosexual lifestyle. He was also ordered to pay Dr. Lund the sum of $5,000, and to compose a written apology to the professor, although Lund was not the subject of Boissoin’s writings, nor did the two know each other.
In December 2009, the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta reversed the order, stating that Boissoin’s letter to the editor did not constitute hate speech.
“In my view, the panel erred in its finding that the impugned letter was hateful and contemptuous of homosexuals,” wrote Justice Earl C. Wilson on behalf of the court. “Had the Panel been alive to all [the] evidence, she could not have come to the conclusions that she did.”
However, the ruling was then appealed to Alberta’s highest court in an attempt to force the pastor to face punishment for his writings.
Last week, the Alberta Court of Appeals upheld the opinion of the Court of Queen’s Bench, stating that Boissoin has a right to express his beliefs on matters such as homosexuality as long as they are focused on a behavior and not a specific person.
“I acknowledge that drawing the distinction between expressions of opinion, and statements of another kind, may sometimes be difficult to draw, and may depend upon the context of the statement,” wrote the panel, which consisted of Justices Carole Conrad, Clifton O’Brien and Brian O’Ferrall.
“Matters of morality, including the perceived morality of certain types of sexual behavior, are topics for discussion in the public forum. Frequently, expression on these topics arises from deep seated religious conviction, and is not always temperate,” the court continued. “Boissoin and others have the freedom to think, whether stemming from their religious convictions or not, that homosexuality is sinful and morally wrong. In my view, it follows that they have the right to express that thought to others.”
However, the court, while noting that Boissoin is entitled to the right to speak his mind, stated that he may not treat homosexuals unequally in society.
“This is not a license to engage in discriminatory practices or to advocate them,” it said.
The judges then provided commentary of Canada’s current hate crimes law, which it found to be unclear as to what actually constitutes a violation of the statute.
“Of particular concern in the area of human rights law is that a lack of clarity will cast a chill on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and religion,” they wrote. “This lack of clarity has resulted in this protracted litigation, to the detriment and expense of all parties.”
“The goals of protecting the freedoms of expression and religion, on the one hand, and protecting vulnerable minorities from discrimination, on the other, are matters of primary concern to the citizens of this Province,” the ruling continued. “In my view, the citizens of this Province are entitled to certainty when it comes to exercise of their fundamental rights. … In my view, it would serve the interests of the citizens of this Province if the Legislature would direct its attention to this objective.”
Following the ruling, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which had been representing Boissoin, released a statement.
“Christians and other people of faith should not be fined or jailed for expressing their political or religious beliefs. There is no place for thought control in a free and democratic society,” said allied attorney Gerald Chipeur. “The court rightly found that this type of religious speech is not ‘hate speech.’”
ADF Global Executive Director Benjamin Bull stated that the ruling helps to set a precedent for other Christians in the country.
“Because the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s decision, it will be extremely difficult for religious or political debate to be found in breach of Alberta’s human rights laws,” he explained.
The case, called Boissoin v. Lund, is now closed.