John Westen

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Supreme Court of Canada homosexual ‘hate speech’ case could be decisive for religious freedom

John Westen
John Westen
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OTTAWA, October 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A case argued before the Supreme Court yesterday, if decided the wrong way, could result in “a virtual open season on anyone communicating a religiously informed position on any matter of public policy,” according to Don Hutchinson, general legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which intervened in the case - Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) v. William Whatcott. 

The four-hour-long hearing had a record 21 interveners arguing both sides of a sharply divided stance on free and religious speech vs. hate speech and its interpretation by human rights commissions and tribunals.  Hutchinson presented second to last and thus took in all the previous argumentation noting several startling positions.

Saskatchewan human rights commission considers reading from Paul in Bible on TV could be hate speech

The SHRC brought Whatcott before the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal in 2006 over his practice of distributing flyers about the dangers of abortion and homosexuality. The flyer at issue was penned in objection to a classified ad in a homosexual newspaper that sought “boys/men for pen pals, friendship, exchanging video, pics.”  It also criticized the promotion of homosexuality in Saskatoon public schools and the University of Saskatchewan.

The Tribunal found that Whatcott had violated section 14(1)(b) of the province’s human rights code, which prohibits speech that “exposes or tends to expose to hatred, ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons on the basis of a prohibited ground.”  He was ordered to pay a $17,500 fine and to cease publicly spreading his beliefs about homosexuality.

The Tribunal decision was upheld in 2007 by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, but it was overturned in 2010 by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.

In an interview with LifeSiteNews today, Hutchinson said that he was “really thrown off” when counsel for Saskatchewan human rights commission, the body charged with assessing what constitutes hate speech under the provincial act, said that reading certain of the writings of Paul from the Scriptures on television would be hate speech.

Key to the debate, noted Hutchinson, is the concept of loving the sinner and hating the sin. 

Lawyers for the homosexual activist group EGALE argued that if a person is gay then their behaviour is inextricably tied to their sexual orientation. “That argument was countered later in the day,” said Hutchinson, “noting that if a person is heterosexual that doesn’t give them free reign to engage in any form of heterosexual sexual activity that they choose.” Additionally, he said, “If a person has pedophilia or bestiality tendencies, it doesn’t leave them free in our nation to act out those sexual orientations.”

For his part, Hutchinson argued “Evangelical leaders and pastors and members of congregations around the country are feeling that their expression of religious position on public debate matters seems increasingly unwelcome.”

“These types of provisions in human rights codes make for an overbroad reach and a chilling effect on freedom of expression because human rights codes don’t allow the defense of truth and the sincerity of belief, they focus on the subjective feeling of offense or affront to dignity of the person who feels offended,” he told LSN. “For the average Canadian, that has to hire a lawyer and then be subject to multiple appeals and fines or both, this seems more worthy of an ideological driven society than a free and democratic society.”

According to Hutchinson, best case scenario would be for the court to say that the criminal code provisions on hatred, which are limited to intent to incite harm, are sufficient for the limitations for free speech in Canada and that the ones in the human rights codes which are subjective and have caused a host of restrictions on free religious speech should be set aside. 

In the worst case, “if the court concludes that these types of provisions are fine and that there are no changes required in regard to their interpretation then it would be a virtual open season on anyone communicating a religiously informed position on any matter of public policy.” He added: “Before you say something you best load up and put some money in the bank because you’re going to have to hire a lawyer to deal with the human rights complaint that is coming.”

“Let’s leave genuine public discourse to the public square and promotion of hatred to conviction under the criminal code,” he said.

A decision in the case is expected within 6-9 months.

Watch the full proceeding online here.

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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