Ottawa, Ontario — The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Biblical speech opposing homosexual behavior, including in written form, is essentially a hate crime.
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.
Whatcott had distributed the flyers over a decade ago to raise awareness of his concerns about both the homosexual parades in Canada, as well as the vulnerability of children in a culture that promotes homosexuality. However, when Canada’s Human Rights Commission found out about the matter, they took him to court, citing him with a hate crime.
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.