As some U.S. Supreme Court justices look abroad for guidance on cases related to homosexuality, Canada is set to vote on a bill opponents say would criminalize public expression against homosexual behavior.
Introduced by self-described “gay” House of Commons member Svend Robinson, bill C-250 would add sexual orientation as a protected category in Canada’s genocide and hate-crimes legislation.
As WorldNetDaily reported, opponents fear if the bill becomes law, the Bible will be deemed “hate literature” under the criminal code in certain instances, as evidenced by the case of a Saskatchewan man fined by a provincial human-rights tribunal for taking out a newspaper ad with Scripture references to verses about homosexuality.
The Parliament is scheduled to debate the bill today and likely will call a vote today, or within the next few days. The legislation has the support of every provincial and territorial attorney-general in Canada.
The debate comes amid a battle over a government bill that would establish same-sex marriage. Yesterday, Parliament narrowly defeated a nonbinding motion reaffirming the heterosexual-only definition of marriage. The close margin in the Liberal Party-dominated House of Commons, 137-132, raised questions about whether the government bill would pass, especially if an election is called before it is brought to a vote.
Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of the Canada Family Action Coalition, says, ironically, his group’s opposition to the homosexual marriage bill could be construed as a punishable offense under Robinson’s legislation.
“Canadians who are speaking out against the redefinition of marriage are already being accused of ‘hate’ speech by homosexual activists,” Rushfeldt said. “When C-250 is passed into law later this fall, the activists will begin to insist on prosecution to silence their critics with criminal sanctions.”
He said many people are beginning to consider its potential implications.
“If my son went to school and said homosexuality is not a healthy lifestyle, let alone a perversion or a sin, and they asked where did you hear that, there is the possibility I could be held liable,” Rushfeldt said.
Robinson has accused Christian lobby groups of “fearmongering.”
“What this bill is all about is ensuring that a group of people who are targeted more than another group for violent hate crimes, receives equal protection to those groups already covered by hate propaganda legislation,” he said, according to the Winnipeg Sun newspaper.
Looking to ‘wider civilization’
Alan Sears, president of the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit legal group, says Americans should pay close attention to their northern neighbors.
“Why does what is going on in Canada matter?” he asked in an interview with WorldNetDaily. “Some of our own justices have already have told us they will be looking closely at how the ‘wider civilization’ handles these cases.”
Sears notes Justice Stephen G. Breyer said in a recent interview with ABC News that the world is growing together through “commerce and through globalization” and we will find out in coming years how our Constitution “fits into the governing documents of other nations. …”
In a speech last month, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the U.S. Supreme Court is looking beyond America’s borders for guidance in handling cases on issues like homosexual rights and the death penalty.
“Our island or lone-ranger mentality is beginning to change,” Ginsburg said during a speech Aug. 2 to the American Constitution Society, a liberal lawyers group, according to the Associated Press.
Justices “are becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives,” said Ginsburg, who cited an international treaty in her June vote to uphold the use of race in college admissions.
“While you are the American Constitution Society, your perspective on constitutional law should encompass the world,” she told the group of judges, lawyers and students, according to the AP. “We are the losers if we do not both share our experiences with and learn from others.”
In the landmark case earlier this summer that overturned Texas’ ban on sodomy, Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued against the previous precedent regarding sodomy, Bowers v. Hardwick, noting the “case’s reasoning and holding have been rejected by the European Court of Human Rights, and that other nations have taken action consistent with an affirmation of the protected right of homosexual adults to engage in intimate, consensual conduct.”
Sears said the court’s arguments in its “fabrication” of a “constitutional right to engage in sodomy” were so questionable that the court felt “compelled to appeal to European courts to justify the desired conclusion.”
In his dissent of the Lawrence case, Justice Antonin Scalia said the court should not “impose foreign moods, fads or fashions on Americans.”
Scalia wrote, “Constitutional entitlements do not spring into existence because some states choose to lessen or eliminate criminal sanctions on certain behavior. Much less do they spring into existence, as the court seems to believe, because foreign nations decriminalize conduct.”
Backers of Robinson’s bill, C-250, argue statements against homosexual behavior for religious reasons are exempted in the current law. But opponents point out the law addressed by Robinson’s amendment spells out three different types of actions or speech considered criminal, and only one can be excused by a religious defense. And even that one, opponents maintain, has not always held up in court, because its vagueness leaves wide discretion to judges.
The opponents argue the provincial human-rights commissions, which already include sexual orientation as a protected category, have penalized people for actions motivated by their conscientious objection to homosexual behavior.
“The trend in court decisions has been when religious rights and homosexual rights clash, the court favors homosexual rights,” Rushfeldt said.
As WorldNetDaily reported, a Saskatchewan man was fined for submitting a newspaper ad with citations of four Bible verses that address homosexuality.
Ad placed by Christian corrections officer in Saskatoon, Canada, newspaper
Under the provincial Human Rights Code, Hugh Owens of Regina, Saskatchewan, was found guilty along with the newspaper, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, of inciting hatred and was forced to pay damages to each of the three homosexual men who filed the complaint.
The rights code allows for expression of honestly held beliefs, but the commission ruled the code can place “reasonable restriction” on Owens’ religious expression, because the ad exposed the complainants “to hatred, ridicule, and their dignity was affronted on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
If Robinson’s bill passes, Owens and others would be considered criminals, subject to a jail sentence of up to two years in some cases and five years in others.
Two years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission penalized printer Scott Brockie for refusing to print letterhead for a homosexual advocacy group. Brockie argued that his Christian beliefs compelled him to reject the group’s request.
In British Columbia, a teacher was suspended for making “derogatory and demeaning” statements against homosexuals, according to the judgment of a teachers association panel. Though none of the statements in question were made in class, the panel cited letters to a newspaper that indicated veteran teacher Chris Kempling’s attitude could “poison” the class environment.
One Kempling letter cited by the panel said: “Gay people are seriously at risk, not because of heterosexual attitudes but because of their sexual behaviour, and I challenge the gay community to show some real evidence that they are trying to protect their own community members by making attempts to promote monogamous, long-lasting relationships to combat sexual addictions.”
The teachers panel said it does not need to find direct evidence of a poisoned school environment to determine that a member is guilty of conduct unbecoming.
The panel said, “It is sufficient that an inference can be drawn as to the reasonable and probable consequences of the discriminatory comments of a teacher.”
In another case, a Christian couple in Prince Edward Island chose to close down their bed and breakfast rather than be forced to condone homosexual acts under their own roof, according to the National Post.
Along with the human rights tribunals, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council rules have been used to censure programs addressing homosexuality. In 1997, the council ruled that the airing of a James Dobson “Focus on the Family” program, called “Homosexuality: Fact and Fiction,” violated the requirement that opinion, comment, and editorializing be presented in a way that is “full, fair, and proper.”
The Vancouver teacher Kempling wrote a letter to the National Post last month, expressing his amazement that the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association would choose to side with the teachers against him, noting “not a single gay or lesbian person registered any complaint about what I wrote, either to my employer or the B.C. Human Rights Commission.”
“Now I know how Galileo must have felt,” he said. “When civil liberties groups act like Orwell’s thought police, true democracy is in serious trouble.”