Supreme Court muzzles free speech in Canada, rules against Christian pro-family activist
OTTAWA, Ontario, 27 February, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canada’s top court has released a unanimous decision today that critics say has struck a monumental blow against freedom of speech, opinion, and religion across the country. The court ordered the defendant, a Christian pro-family activist with a reputation for intense activism, not only to pay a fine, but also to pay court costs which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It’s a bad day,” said Bill Whatcott to LifeSiteNews.com in an interview. “The ruling and the reasoning [behind it] is terrible. They actually used the concept that truth is not a defense.”
“It’s worse than I expected. What it means is that my life is over, as I know it. It means that the Christian Church is going to be libel for speaking the truth,” he said.
In Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, the Supreme Court decided that born-again Christian William Whatcott was guilty of hate speech for distributing flyers to neighborhoods in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002. While the flyers used vehement language against homosexual practices and the homosexual agenda, they did not directly attack homosexual persons. (The flyers are appended to the end of the decision linked above)
The Court focused on Whatcott’s main argument, namely that he loves homosexuals with a brotherly Christian love, and it is only their sexual activity that he denounces.
But the Supreme Court found that with regards to hate speech, the distinction between ‘sin and sinner’ no longer applies.
“I agree that sexual orientation and sexual behaviour can be differentiated for certain purposes,” the Court stated. “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 s. 14(1)(b) [the hate-crime clause of the Code].”
“Courts have recognized a strong connection between sexual orientation and sexual conduct and where the conduct targeted by speech is a crucial aspect of the identity of a vulnerable group, attacks on this conduct stand as proxy for attacks on the group itself,” the Court stated.
The Court ordered Whatcott to pay the Human Rights Commission’s legal fees and to pay $7,500 in compensation to two homosexuals who were offended by his flyers.
Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada, called the ruling “very depressing” and “bad news”.
Landolt accused the Supreme Court of “dancing on hot coals, one foot here and one foot there, trying to pretend that they’re doing one thing, but doing another.”
“On the one hand they’re saying, ‘Oh, no, no, no, we’re not really infringing on freedom of religion and freedom of speech and freedom of opinion’, but in fact, what they say is not what they’ve done,” she said in an interview with LifeSiteNews.com.
“In effect, what they’ve done is they’ve hit-out at religious beliefs and promoted again, as is constantly happening, homosexual rights.”
“They’ve picked up ‘sexual orientation’ and slammed ‘religious freedom’ with it and given it a big wallop as with a baseball bat,” she said.
Landolt said that the Court has damaged freedom of religion by “manipulating and twisting” the whole intent of this freedom “to serve their own objective which is to protect homosexuals.”
She said that Christians had better take the ruling as a “warning sign” that they are going to be “pounced on” if they decide to speak about Christian sexual morality in the public square.
The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) said it is concerned over the Court’s equating homosexual activity with homosexual persons.
“A key teaching of Christianity is to hate the sin, but love the sinner,” said CCRL president Phil Horgan, pointing out that as a society, “we incarcerate convicted persons for their crimes, not out of hate for the individual.”
“But with Whatcott, the SCC has stated that criticism of behaviour(s) can be treated as potentially hateful speech against the minority. Will criticism of activities at gay pride parades be treated similarly? Will criticism of certain homosexual sexual activities be now conflated as an example of hate speech of an individual or minority? This conflation of behaviour with the person or group, is a proposition at odds with most religious teachings, and of concern coming from our highest court.”
Chris Schafer, Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) executive director and lawyer, said that the “Supreme Court missed an excellent opportunity to rein in the power of various human rights commissions and tribunals to censor the expression of unpopular beliefs and opinions.”
“Free expression is the lifeblood of democracies and all forms of expression, especially the offensive kind, needs to be protected. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court disagrees,” he said.
André Schutten, legal counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA), said he was disappointed with the ruling since the Court decided to “keep as constitutional” the ambiguous hate-crimes language of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, which prohibits any representation “that exposes or tends to expose to hatred” persons on the basis of a prohibited ground.
Schutten told LifeSiteNews.com that upholding such language is “problematic” since “hatred is an emotion that cannot be easily and objectively measured.”
Schutten said that the ruling means that Christians will now be “less likely to engage in political debate from their viewpoint, which means that Christians are kept out of the political process”. He said that the ruling will also hamper Christians in preaching the “full Gospel”.
“The preaching of the Gospel requires that we know what the Good News is. And the Good News is that we’re saved. But in order to understand that we are saved, we have to know what we are saved from. So, when we are preaching the Gospel, that includes preaching about sin. And sin is always going to be offensive to some people. When we talk about sin, some people will interpret that as hateful.”
Schutten said that the ruling “puts a chill on religious expression and any expression.”
Ezra Levant from Sun News has predicted that the ruling will inundate Human Rights Commissions with hate-speech based complaints.
“You will see a boom in the Human Rights Commission business because the law is so vague and the Supreme Court is saying: ‘Yeah, you can go after someone if they say something hateful’. We are going to see an explosion of hate-speech complaints out there,” he said.
Whatcott agrees. He told LifeSiteNews.com that the ruling will embolden homosexual activists to file complaints against those who raise a voice against sexual anarchy.
Despite the ruling, Whatcott said that he will continue to “publicly witness against homosexuality” since he sees it has “God’s will” in his life. The Christian activist is soliciting prayers from people of faith so that he will receive the spiritual support needed to get through this time.