Judge reserves judgment in case of pro-family activists arrested at University of Regina
A Regina judge has reserved judgement for nearly two months after hearing evidence in the case of two prominent Christian activists who were arrested last year at the University of Regina for opposing homosexuality.
On trial Friday for committing “mischief” at the University of Regina was Saskatchewan pro-life and anti-homosexual Christian activist Bill Whatcott and American counterpart Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.
Provincial Court Judge Marylynne Beaton reserved judgment till December 22.
But Whatcott was acquitted in 2012 of an identical charge for pamphleting at the University of Calgary in 2008. In both cases school security staff instructed Whatcott to leave, and when he refused he was arrested (in the second case, so was LaBarbera) and charged.
Two Alberta courts found that a public university is covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protected Whatcott’s freedom of expression. Whatcott said he expected the Regina case to go the same way—but much faster. “The evidence from the video was right there,” Whatcott told LifeSiteNews. “We were just talking with students on the sidewalk. We were not disrupting anything. If we’d been handing out fliers in a classroom it would be different.”
In cross-examination, Whatcott got into a heated argument with Crown Prosecutor James Fitzgerald, who told him, “You believe you are above the law.” Retorted Whatcott: “It’s the University of Regina that is acting as if it is above the law.” Fitzgerald also dismissed an earlier prosecution of Whatcott as his “litter case,” but Whatcott quickly countered that he had been acquitted. When Fitzgerald asserted that Whatcott knew he was violating the university’s “Respectful Workplace” policy, Whatcott responded that he knew that the policy violated his rights.
He explained to LifeSiteNews: “If homosexuals display their genitalia, Christians are supposed to suck it up, but if Christians say Jesus forgives sinners it’s a violation.”
In the Alberta case against Whatcott, the courts there ruled that public universities are public, not private property, that as universities dedicated to fostering the exchange of ideas they should welcome and encourage free speech, and that when they stopped Whatcott from pamphleting they interfered with his Charter rights.
Whatcott’s lawyer Tom Schuck made the same argument in Regina provincial court, even citing a clause from the university’s own literature stating it was a place for “communicating ideas.” Asked Weger: “Communicating ideas is exactly what happened here. Isn’t university about different ideas and different viewpoints?”
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The two men handed out pamphlets last year, debated students, and carried such messages as “Nature Discriminates Against Homosexuality,” “Sodomy Spreads Disease,” and “Sodomy is Sin.”
It was when she saw this last sign that University of Regina security chief Pat Patton said she decided to call police. The messaging violated the school’s “Respectful Workplace” standards, a policy which apparently allows no room for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Neither do Canada Customs officials, apparently. They held up LaBarbera for several hours of questioning about his views on homosexuality, and seized a Russian-made video about homosexuality called Sodom.
LaBarbera has returned to the United States. Whatcott said he will come back only if he is convicted—for sentencing. “He believes that Canada is several rungs below the U.S. when it comes to freedom of expression, and I have to agree with him,” said Whatcott, who has won most of a dozen or so cases, but lost a big one in the Supreme Court of Canada, which ordered he pay a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission fine of $7500 rather than the $17,500 fine the Commission wanted for distributing so-called hate literature.