Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
“Hate crimes” laws were defeated in Congress just a few months ago. Just a few weeks ago, Frank Wright of the National Religious Broadcasters Association warned, “We must be one in Christ to face the days ahead” because “hate crimes” laws would create untold new liability for Christians.
Now a major Christian ministry has confirmed that such “hate crimes” laws already are setting limits on what it can broadcast.
The issue is “hate crimes” laws in Canada, and they are affecting U.S. Christian ministries that broadcast into that nation.
WND reported just a week ago on a Christian ministry based in Canada that essentially was ordered shut down under that nation’s “hate crimes” laws which prevent Christians from expressing Biblical opinions on a wide range of issues.
So what used to be called MacGregor Ministries with offerings in how to recognize and eliminate “faulty fads” in Christian churches has been re-created in the United States, and now operates under the name MM Outreach Media Ministries, according to spokeswoman Lorri MacGregor.
“Canada has very strong hate laws,” she told WND.
She said the ministry points out the differences between Christianity and various cult beliefs, but also with respect, and never as a proponent. She said the work always is in response to a question or issue.
“When a group such as Jehovah’s Witnesses said of our doctrine we’re worshipping a freakish three-headed God (the Trinity), we should be able to respond,” she said. “We say, ‘Here’s the doctrine of the Trinity and here is where it is in the Scripture.’”
That, however, violates Canada’s hate crimes laws, and the ministry was ordered to either make wholesale changes in its presentations, or shut down.
“There was nothing we could do that would please them,” she said. “They wanted us every time we criticized something to say, ‘So Christianity is equal to Buddhism, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses… Just decide for yourself.’”
“We cannot do that,” she said of the work she and her husband, Keith, have spent their lives assembling.
Now comes confirmation from the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, one of the largest Christian publishing and broadcasting organizations in the nation, that it has been reviewing, and if necessary editing, its broadcasts to avoid complications with Canadian “hate crimes” laws.
In a statement attributed to Gary Booker, director of global content creation for Focus, the organization confirmed that broadcast standards have a “dynamic nature.”
“Our staff at Focus on the Family Canada works proactively to stay abreast of the dynamic nature of broadcast standards, Canadian Revenue Agency legislation and both national and provincial human rights laws,” the statement said.
“Parameters regarding what can be said (and how it should be said) are communicated by Focus on the Family Canada to our content producers here at Focus on the Family in the U.S. To the best of our ability, programming is then produced with Canadian law in mind,” Focus continued.
“In particular, our content producers are careful not to make generalized statements nor comments that may be perceived as ascribing malicious intent to a ‘group’ of people and are always careful to treat even those who might disagree with us with respect. Our Focus on the Family content creators here in the U.S. are also careful to consult with Focus on the Family Canada whenever questions arise. Focus on the Family Canada, in turn, monitors the content produced in the U.S. and assesses this content against Canadian law,” the group said.
“Occasionally, albeit very rarely, some content is identified that, while acceptable for airing in the U.S. would not be acceptable under Canadian law and is therefore edited or omitted in Canada,” Focus said.
Focus broadcasts programs on thousands of radio stations across the continent, publishes dozens of magazines and newsletters and provides a wide range of other resources to Christian families and churches.
Wright had told the NRB that the U.S. version of “hate crimes” that was blocked from the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill last year originally would have made religious broadcasters liable for various criminal acts.
The subject of homosexuality, specifically, was provided protections in the U.S. proposal, and is one of the issues that Canadian law addresses.
“We today have a major national magazine, a federal political party leader and a registered political party, a major Catholic newspaper (Catholic Insight) and an internationally renowned journalist all of whom are being investigated by appointed ‘hate speech therapists’ from the commissions,” the group said.
The journalist is Mark Steyn, according to CFAC spokesman Brian Rushfeldt, and the newest case involves Canada’s national Catholic magazine of news, opinion and analysis.
The publication has been told it is being targeted by a complaint from Edmonton resident Rob Wells, who alleges the publication has offended homosexuals. But Rushfeldt confirmed the result of any such dispute is up in the air, because ordinary courts don’t handle such complaints, they are taken on by various Human Rights Commissions in Canada.
They are set up to take action if anything “indicates discrimination” or “is likely to expose to hatred or contempt.”
Rushfeldt noted that Alberta’s provincial law, for example, orders: “No person shall publish, issue or display or cause to be published, issued or displayed before the public any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that (a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a class of persons, or (b) is likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt bcause of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or class of persons.”
“You see if my feelings are hurt and I feel discriminated against due to my ‘religious orientation’ then surely I must have a right and entitlement to have an appointed group of people in the Human Rights Commission at taxpayers’ expense, intervene and force the activist to pay me compensation for my feelings. This is really not bullying is it? Or is it more like extortion?” said a commentary by the Family Action organization.
“How can I prove my feeling are hurt? I don’t need to prove it. I just say it is so and it is so. Do I need to provide truth? No, not under the functions of the Human Rights Act. … Section 3(1) states that if something ‘indicates discrimination’ and ‘is likely to expose to hatred or contempt’ is a basis for action.”
Similar restrictions have been found valid for broadcasting, officials said. And websites and books also will have to be edited, since those were the primary issue affecting MMOutreach when it used to operate in Canada.
“They said if we were just preaching our own Gospel, and weren’t criticizing anybody else, we could continue,” Mrs. MacGregor told WND in the earlier case. “If you’re going to defend the Gospel, you’ve got to criticize sometimes.”
For example, the ministry addresses the issue of “fads,” including a “creeping Eastern mysticism” appearing in some churches, “turning meaningful prayer meetings into mind-emptying rituals called contemplative prayer promising experiences of a spiritual nature.”
“Feelings have often replaced the solid word of God,” their website warns.
Mrs. MacGregor told WND the government ultimatum was that she would have to preach that “all religions are equal,” but she could not work within such restrictions.
“We wrote on Feb. 7 and voluntarily revoked our [license] ourselves,” she said. “We said this auditor requires us to compromise our Christian faith, which we cannot do.”
“You’re not allowed in Canada to speak in a persuasive way about your own faith,” she said.
The U.S. proposal was launched in the House of Representatives as H.R. 1592 and would have punished crimes based on the “actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability…”
The immediate concern – and still unresolved worry – expressed by Christian radio broadcasters, ministers and others was: If someone attacks a homosexual, will those speaking against homosexuality also be charged for inciting violence?