When the Process Becomes the Penalty

This is an alarming story by and about a Canadian publisher who was hauled before a human rights commission for daring to reprint the Danish cartoons about Muhammed. It cost Levant $100,000 to defend himself. He also mentions the case of the pastor who is now forbidden from speaking publicly or privately against homosexual marriage. Then there is the case of MacLeans magazine which was also hauled before three “human rights” commissions for publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s book.

Could it happen in the land of free speech and the first amendment?

Just for fun here’s a little free-speech-chilling video:

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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19 comments

  1. I worked for the British Columbia Human Rights Commission until it was disbanded in 2003, so am familiar with human rights legislation in Canada. Anyone can allege a human rights violation, and then the person or organization accused is invited to respond. In most cases, there was not enough merit to proceed with the complaint and it would be dismissed. The respondents in such cases do not require a lawyer, and no legal costs are thus incurred. It is only when a case is heard by a tribunal that a respondent would be advised to get legal assistance.

    In the cases involving muslims, all complaints were dismissed.

    It should be noted that in Canada Ezra Levant is considered a radical. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra_Levant

    The case against Stephen Boissoin had nothing to do with speaking out against same sex marriage, but was hateful against homosexual persons as a whole. Many Christians and non religious people have spoken out against same sex marriage and homosexuality generally. This is not a problem until it becomes hate speech. The ruling against Mr. Boissoin was because of the hatred expressed in his letter to a public, secular newspaper. There was no Christianity expressed in the letter, and he was NOT “persecuted” for being a Christian, rather for being a loud, hateful individual. Mr. Boissoin is not prohibited from speaking against same sex marriage.
    “The Panel finds, and the Panel orders as follows:
    a. That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals. Further, they shall not and are prohibited from making disparaging remarks in the future about Dr. Lund or Dr. Lund’s witnesses relating to their involvement in this complaint. Further, all disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.
    b. That The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. and Mr. Boissoin shall, in future, be restrained from committing the same or similar contraventions of the Act.”

    There is a lot of fear mongering about religious freedom in Canada, whereas Christ’s church is free to preach the gospel. Unfortunately, as elsewhere this is often not done, but not because of governmental involvement.

    Whether freedoms in the US are at risk, I cannot comment.

    • I have received thousands of emails from people across Canada who read my 2002 letter to the editor and did not take it as hateful of anything but the propagation of homosexuality to young people.

      Hey, I hate homosexuality…I am not asahmed to state such. The lifestyle is disgusting. It is my right and the right of all Canadians to agree with me or to disagree and to be free to voice our opinion. What was done to me ‘for writing a simple letter to the editor in my local newspaper’ was a crime. It was unconstituional, a breech of my charter rights and it is the hope of my supporters and I that justice will prevail when a real court of law hears the case in Sept of 2009.

      The Gospel encompasses right living as defined by scripture…it does not negate it. Jesus said “if you love me, obey me.” All sexual immorality both heterosexual and homosexual is disobedience to Christ who loves us and an ungrateful act in response to his great sacrifice for us. None of us are innocent of this.

      Homosexuality is condemned in the Bible…like it or not…that is a clear fact that no postmodern pseudo-theologian can change.

      Peace

      • Stephen,

        There is no question for those who believe and confess the Reformed
        faith that homosexuality is sin but so is murder, lying, stealing,
        coveting, idolatry and the like. God hates those things too. Jesus
        died to redeem homosexual and heterosexual sinners and sinners are
        redeemed that they might be sanctified.

        It is not correct, however, to say that “the gospel encompasses right
        living as defined by Scripture.” The gospel, defined strictly, is the
        announcement of the good news for sinners, that Jesus Christ is God
        the Son incarnate, that he obeyed in the place of sinners, that he was
        crucified, dead, and raised the third day and is ascended in glory to
        the right hand of the Father (1 Cor 15).

        The gospel certainly has implications and all who name the name of
        Christ in faith are obligated to live according to God’s moral law.

        It is more true, however, to say say that the law
        encompasses right living. The law, not the gospel, is the norm for the
        Christian life. Through the gospel God the Spirit works new life and
        faith in his elect and gives to believers grace to live the Christian
        life. He also forgives those who are penitent, who stumble into sin,
        even grievous sins.

        I hope that your civil rights (and ours south of the border) to free
        speech are protected.

        • You said “The gospel certainly has implications and all who name the name of Christ in faith are obligated to live according to God’s moral law.”

          Implications it does….if ‘implications’ is the word you prefer…I accept it wholeheartedly.

          I am well aware of what the ‘Gospel’ is and the harmony of scripture is clear….we cannot remove the moral authority of scripture from the Good News….we certainly see this confirmed throughout scripture. I am also well aware of what is considered sin. I did not simply decide to submit a litter at random. It was part of an ongoing debate in my community that pertained to the advancement of homosexuality in my community i.e the fact that the teacher that filed the complaint against me invited a gay minister into a public school in my community to teach what he called the ‘homosexual interpretation of the Bible.’

          I have no desire to debate….I think it would be quite circular and we would conclude by seeing that we are united on the most important points.

          Bless you,

          Stephen

          • I will avoid being hasty and proof before I hit the send button next post. Pardon the grammatical errors.

      • Stephen,

        The Bible condemns lots of things. Assuming you could, were you planning on a writing campaign against all of it? If so, wow.

        I have to say, fornication really gets under my skin. But I cannot imagine prancing around writing letters to editors to prove it. What exactly was the point? Was it to prove you’re no gandy-dancer? See, to show how much I believe in conventional marriage (and think not so highly of fornication) I got married instead of writing letters to editors. I find I get a much more attentive audience that way.

        Has it ever occured to you that it’s one thing to be right, another to be obnoxious? If you’re anything like our American boors, I highly doubt you’re guilty of any hate crime, but rather old-fashioned stupidity and arrogance. Plus, what RSC said about properly distinguishing law and gospel. One of the outworkings of being as confused as you seem to be is to extract God’s imperatives from indicatives, and out pops obnoxious letters to editors instead of loving exhortations to believers.

        • It appears to me that you are more interested in merely having an opinion and judging me or the circumstances without even caring to understand the facts, context or intent. Unfortunately, I am used to this and see it both outside of and within Christendom.

          Regardless……Blessings and Peace

          2 Timothy 2:23

  2. I read the Wikipedia entry. The fact that Levant is “viewed as a radical” says far more about Canada than it does about Levant.

    • It appears that you see nothing wrong with an American who would support the separation of New York and California from the USA. You see nothing wrong with supporting defenders of holocaust deniers. You see nothing wrong with supporting an unbeliever who supports a “pastor” who speaks hate, not Christ. The point is, Ezra Levant likes to make trouble. The point is also that Canada is a free democracy like the US, but has different values. Both countries are secular states wherein Christians are free to worship and proclaim the gospel.

      • Wout,

        You’re forgetting that, despite our dressing it up in a lot of pseudo-caution, we Americans just love sensationalism and a juicy story. And when religion and sex are involved, well, we can even get indulgent.

      • Of course, any reasonable person would happily support the separation of New York and California from the USA. Perhaps Canada could commence the annexation procedure?

        Seriously though, I wouldn’t “support” a holocaust denier, but I wouldn’t jail or fine him either simply for his insane belief.

        It isn’t radical to see that its a short step to facism when government decides to commission “thought police”, deciding what is and what is not acceptable speech. I would assume there was a good reason the Commission was disbanded.

      • “It appears that you see nothing wrong with an American who would support the separation of New York and California from the USA.”

        Ummm. Actually, no, I would not.

        “You see nothing wrong with supporting defenders of holocaust deniers.”

        With allowing them to speak, no I see nothing wrong with that.

        “The point is, Ezra Levant likes to make trouble. ”

        So? Lots of people do.

        “The point is also that Canada is a free democracy like the US, but has different values.”

        I guess so, though if your comments are typical I would question the extent to which Canada is a free country.

  3. Dear Wout,

    I served in the Marines in the recent war in Iraq. Whatever your opinions about that war, here is why I was proud to fight that war: I happily and gladly risked my life to set Iraqi Muslims free to worship Muhammed or whatever the heck they do, and to preach hatred against the very Americans that freed them from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. I gladly risked my life to set them free to worship whatever god they choose, however they choose.

    At the same time, I felt that risking my life in Iraq was helping to preserve the freedoms we enjoy here in America. I gladly risked my life to protect the right of liberal wackos who burn the American flag and want to turn our country into the Soviet Union. I gladly and without reservation risked my life to protect those rights.

    I gladly risked my life to protect peoples’ rights to worship Satan if they so choose; I risked my life to support the rights of those who were protesting the war and insulting all of us who put our lives on the line to protect their way of life.

    I gladly did it and I would do it all over again.

    And I am a committed, reformed Christian and seminary student.

    You may disagree that what I ACTUALLY risked my life for was not to protect the freedom of Americans, but actually our oil supply, but that’s not my point. My point was my internal motivation. And my motivations were no different than the man next to me, or the man next to him. This is how Americans think, and rightly so.

    Free speech is not just a theory to me. Freedom of religion is not merely a debate point. I was convinced enough that these things were worth dying for, and I put my money where my mouth was, being absolutely willing to shed my own blood to protect those rights. Even for those that hate me and my God and my religion and my country.

    I applaud Mr Levant. I applaud his courage. I applaud his clear thinking. He’s absolutely right.

    • I support Mr. L’s free speech assertions.

      But on this other topic:

      What about the presbyterian church in Iraq?

      All but 1 or 2 of the congregations can’t meet anymore.

      The Muslim extremists who S.H. kept suppressed now kill 4th generation godly elders with impunity. Before the war, soldiers stood casually on the nearby street corners (as in most Arab lands with Christian minorities) ensuring the churches would be unmolested.

      How many generations have our fathers been elders? Just curious.

      The Baghdad congregation of 600 presbyterian families, boldly proclaiming the gospel for generations, has shrunk to a gathering of less than 100 persons. The Christians are fleeing the country.

      I forget, did we go to Iraq so that the Christ’s Church could be wasted?

      I’m not saying He’s definitely going to ask us all why we supported/participated in this wonderful exercise, but I suggest that everyone think about their answer.

    • Echo_ohcE, I’m not quite sure what you are getting at here, but if what you are saying is that you believe in freedom for all Americans, then I assume you would also allow those who favour same sex marriage to be married, and those who favour abortion to be allowed to do so. FYI, I am also Reformed, but obviously do not see eye to eye with your political views. Being of one particular political stripe in this world does not determine citizenship in the Kingdom.

  4. Dear Wout:

    I think you are presenting a totally false picture of what’s happening in Canada. I live in B.C. and have watched the shenanigans of the B.C. Human Rights Commission for years. Reality is that once you give human rights bureaucrats and their kangaroo courts the right to decide what kind of speech is hateful, they’ll soon be coming for Christians who express Biblically-grounded convictions about the homosexual lifestyle. In Canada, this has already become a reality for a good number of Christians. Here are a few examples: a privately-funded Christian college is compelled to reinstate a professor who declared himself to be a practicing homosexual even though he had been hired with full awareness of the ethical position of the College; a printer forced out of business and nearly into bankruptcy because his company refused to print disgusting homosexual literature; a teacher fired from his job in a public school simply for expressing his opinion about the gay lifestyle while outside of the classroom. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You also paint a rosy picture of the process involved when you say that in most cases there is not enough evidence to proceed with a complaint. What actually happens is that most people settle with the human rights commission because standing up for yourself is incredibly time consuming and financially draining. The fact that few cases proceed to the tribunal level is not because the commissioners are so wise and generous but because people are terrified of the process. I strongly encourage everyone to read Ezra Levant’s book. It’s a wake up call. In Canada, it’s causing quite a sensation and will likely help to generate the political will needed to rein in the human rights commissions. As far as Rev. Boission’s comments are concerned, they were not at all hateful. They expressed biblical outrage about the gay lifestyle and especially targeted efforts by gay activists to promote their chosen lifestyle in public schools among impressionable juniour high students. I am thankful for bold and brash journalists like Mr. Levant who take on the holy cows of our social elites who are trying to condition us into being good citizens of their brave new world where tolerance has come to mean no longer being permitted to speak against anyone’s lifestyle lest they be offended.

    Wout

    I worked for the British Columbia Human Rights Commission until it was disbanded in 2003, so am familiar with human rights legislation in Canada. Anyone can allege a human rights violation, and then the person or organization accused is invited to respond. In most cases, there was not enough merit to proceed with the complaint and it would be dismissed. The respondents in such cases do not require a lawyer, and no legal costs are thus incurred. It is only when a case is heard by a tribunal that a respondent would be advised to get legal assistance.

    In the cases involving muslims, all complaints were dismissed.

    question is: who gets to decide what is hateful? Human rights commissions in Canada have decided that expressing strong opposition to the homosexual lifestyle is hateful. Rev. Boission is not a loud-mouthed hate-monger as you have portayed him. He has simply

  5. Rob Schouten
    You say you live in B.C. and have watched the shenanigans of the B.C. Human Rights Commission for years. I guess actually working in the commission as a complaints analyst and human rights officer does mean I am oblivious as to what went on there daily. Secondly, as in most workplaces, most staff were non Christian, but I was not the only Christian employed there. You say that once you give human rights bureaucrats and their kangaroo courts the right to decide what kind of speech is hateful, they’ll soon be coming for Christians who express Biblically-grounded convictions about the homosexual lifestyle. Hate speech is determined by prior judgements as well as Supreme Court judgements. In BC, up to 2003, there was one case wherein fault was found under hate speech legislation. This was for a case of anti-semitism.
    You may not be in favour of human rights laws, but the cases you refer to are not as you portray them. You state a privately-funded Christian college is compelled to reinstate a professor who declared himself to be a practicing homosexual even though he had been hired with full awareness of the ethical position of the College. The actual case involved a gay man (Mr. Vriend) at a Christian college who was fired. The Alberta Human Rights Commission would not hear his case as it did not have sexual orientation as a ground of complaint, and it went as far as the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that Mr. Vriend should have been able to file a complaint and ordered the Alberta government to alter the legislation. It did not order Mr. Vriend to be reinstated. If the same complaint had come before the BC human rights commission at the time it is almost certain it would have been dismissed as religious institutions that are non-profit are exempt from discrimination charges based on religion, gender or sexual orientation. This is why you have never seen government force the RC church to ordain female priests or be required to marry divorced persons. You may also not be aware that Christians also filed complaints based on discrimination because of their religion. These complaints were assessed according to case law as was every other complaint.
    Christians who discriminate in their business can and have been found in violation of human rights laws. A printer in the business of printing for the general public cannot refuse a legal print job because of race, disability, religion, sex, age, or sexual orientation. A restaurant owner cannot discriminate for the same reasons. I do not paint a rosy picture of the process involved. When there is not enough evidence to proceed with a complaint. What actually happens is that most people drop the complaint or the complaint is dismissed without it ever becoming public. You would have no knowledge of this unless you worked in the commission.
    You are entitled to your opinions, but please try to ground them in reality, not paranoia. One day perhaps we will lose our freedoms, and if that happens crying wolf will not have helped protect those freedoms. As far as Mr. Boissoin’s comments, people can judge for themselves. Here is the actual case. http://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca/LundDarren113007Pa.pdf

    • Wout, I’m intrigued when you write:

      A printer in the business of printing for the general public cannot refuse a legal print job because of race, disability, religion, sex, age, or sexual orientation. A restaurant owner cannot discriminate for the same reasons.

      If someone had a print job consisting of a cartoon depicting a wheel-chair bound black gay woman worshipping an image of Gloria Steinem, would the government force the printer to take the job?

  6. Granted, Levant is somewhat of a professional provocateur and iconoclast, but it was funny to watch him tweak the noses of the professional wowsers that work for the “human rights” commission when this video first came out.
    They call it the common law because the common man knows what it is. But Bureaucratic Code No. AL26-42. . .
    Forget it. All this mentality is about is criminalizing the population.
    We can’t have anything so gauche or vulgar as doing unto your neighbor as you would have done by you according to the 10 commandments. We must have something more noble, abstract, universal – and malleable according to the smug sensibilities of the modern day idol of “Toleration of everything but Intolerance”.
    And God forbid – oops, make that the Tooth Fairy . . but, but saying “fairy” is discrimination against homosexuals . . . never mind – anybody should claim to know the truth, much more right and wrong about anything. Really, the arrogance and bigotry of these fools. They don’t even believe in human rights, as it is peremptorily defined by the HRC.

    Stephen Boisson’s letter may be found here . We have a problem with it to the point the man needs to be prosecuted? Pray tell.

    To be sure the Bible condemns all kinds of sin, not just sexual, but somehow the example of the gentile Sodom and Gomorrah doesn’t strike me as a gentle slap on the wrist. Yeah, I know, I’m moralizing.
    Yeah, I know, I protested against fornication properly by getting married. Question: When Planned Parenthood brings its propaganda in favor of fornication and abortion into the government schools where our children attend – which arguably by unconstitutional law forbid any mention of or substantial exposition of Christianity, which would at least happen in a history class – does one protest at all, even if it is not after the fashion of Boisson? Would one look down their nose at somebody who did protest PP?

    For that matter, how about 1st OPC of San Francisco? Do the Arabs hate us for our freedoms and the homosexuals hate Christianity just because it discriminates against them?
    But I thought sexual perversion (and adultery, whoremongering and fornication) were all condemned by the perspicuous natural law. What gives?

    When the magistrate forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – a matter of culpable choice according to 1 Cor.6:9 – as opposed to race, age and gender, much more the intent to discriminate, something is wrong. As in Christianity is being discriminated against, much more the natural law. Nothing new from the natural man, but for those Christians in the West who think everything is hunky dory, maybe it’s time to reconsider.

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