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 ↑
The lawyer who handled the years-long battle by Pastor Stephen Boissoin over “hate speech” charges for a letter he wrote to the editor of a local newspaper that cited the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is forecasting a nationwide “witch hunt” in the U.S. prompted by an expanded “hate crimes” law signed by President Obama.
Gerald Chipeur, who supervises law offices across Canada, worked from his Calgary headquarters on the defense of Boissoin, who was accused by a university professor of instigating hate against homosexuals with his letter to the editor.
Alberta had adopted a “hate speech” law with promises it would be reserved for actions that accompany “hate speech.” Boissoin’s letter to the Red Deer Advocate criticized those who “in any way support the homosexual machine that has been mercilessly gaining ground in our society since the 1960s.”
“Our children are being victimized by repugnant and premeditated strategies, aimed at desensitizing and eventually recruiting our young into their camps. Think about it, children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public-school system. … Your teenagers are being instructed on how to perform so-called safe same-gender oral and anal sex. … Come on people, wake up!” Boisson wrote.
University of Calgary professor Darren Lund filed the complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. An administrative law judge later ordered the $5,000 payment and written apology from Boissoin along with instructions not to express his beliefs further.
Chipeur today told WND the damage to religious liberties from the case was immediate and dramatic and continues even though the decision has been overturned.
“I had church pastors, church-school principals, board members coming to me for legal advice [when the case erupted],” he said. “They were saying, ‘What should we do about our statement of faith, our bylaws, our policies. Should we just completely repeal them so that we won’t have people offended?’”
Chipeur said his advice was for organizations to “tell the truth as you see it from the Bible” and the law firm’s job was to defend that right.
“Even though I gave them that advice, many pulled punches,” he said. “They reversed policies, they buried their statements of faith, ran for the hills. They tried to do everything they could.”
“Homosexuals got exactly what they wanted. In the marketplace of ideas, one side has now been censored,” he said. “This [situation] is exactly what homosexual activists have in mind.”
That damage – the suppression of religious beliefs because of the intimidating effect of the lawsuit – continues today, Chipeur said.
“I can tell you there was significant damage from the decision. People continue to be afraid. People aren’t going to feel safe overnight. That was the impact of the decision. Christians became afraid,” he said.
“They’re only human. They were frightened. They acted upon that fear, and started to reverse policies that had been in place forever,” he said.
Chipeur described the core problem with the Boissoin case as a misunderstanding on the part of many who believe “hate crimes” laws will make “everyone love everybody.”
Further, there are minorities who are not happy with the liberty to live their lives as they choose; they demand government endorsement and approval. Once given that, they then want to crack down on anybody who disagrees with them, he warned.
In practicality, he said, such “hate” laws – the ones in Canada and the U.S. are similar – are intended to address actions, not thoughts.
“This legislation does not address your ability to think it. It does not address your ability to speak it. It does affect your ability to act on this, to prevent someone from having a job, to get accommodations to buy things because of race, religion or sexuality,” he said.
But Chipeur said he expects the same issues now to be raised in the U.S., because of the expanded “hate crimes” law signed by Obama.
“I would be shocked if you did not have 100 times more problems with this legislation than we are. Your system is set up to encourage lawyers to do this, and you have so many more people, there is more opportunity for people to take offense,” he said.
“There are certain people in society who look to the government for everything, including to help them with their hurt feelings. The government was never made for that,” he said.
Regardless, “there are those who want the government to bless their approach to life, whatever it is, because they have this view. They come to the point they want the government to say … you are right.”
“We’ve learned from history that’s a very bad idea. You get persecution, which is exactly what’s happening here,” he said.
Then those interests want the “power of the state to punish anyone who disagrees,” he said. The result is “doing exactly what we did 500 years ago. They will be going on a witch hunt, [repeating] the Spanish Inquisition.”
“This is not theoretical. We’ve already seen it, hospitals, school boards, religious organizations pummeled with this. There are board meetings going on as we speak … talking about what they can do to avoid having complaints,” he said.
The Boissoin appeals-court ruling did not strike down the “hate speech” law, but it sets limits for its use. The Alberta ruling means “hate speech” laws cannot be used to silence religious expression or public debate simply because someone takes offense. Such a provision would, in fact, violate the Canadian Charter of Human Rights, the ADF said.
The accuser in such a case “must demonstrate that the speech contributed to actual harm,” ADF said.
Obama signed the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” in October after Democrats strategically attached it to a “must-pass” $680 billion defense-appropriations bill.
The law cracks down on any acts that could be linked to criticism of homosexuality or even the “perception” of homosexuality. As Congress debated it, there were assurances it would not be used to crack down on speech. But with the law only weeks old, it has yet to be tested in court.
Days after Obama signed it, in response, pastors and other Christian leaders gathered to read from the Bible
at a rally organized with the help of Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Coalition.
Former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt of PrayInJesusName.org read from Romans: “And they that commit such things are worthy of death.”
“The government has to invade my thoughts to decide what my motive was in quoting the Bible,” Klingenschmitt explained. “I can be prosecuted if the government thinks my motive was wrong.”
The rally took place in front of the offices of Attorney General Eric Holder, who supported the bill although he explained it does not protect all people equally. He is charged with enforcing the law.
Obama boasted of the “hate crimes” bill when he signed it into law.
“After more than a decade, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are,” he said.
Some of the rally was captured by Christian Broadcasting Network on video:
“If this law is used to silence me or any of these preachers for speaking the truth, then we will be forced to conscientiously defy it,” Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, declared. “That is my calling as a Christian and my right as an American citizen.”
Janet Porter of Faith2Action called it a “sad day for America.”
“While a small minority of homosexual activists are celebrating, thousands of pastors, priests and rabbis are lamenting their loss of First Amendment freedoms. I for one refuse to bow before this unjust and unconstitutional law, and I intend to continue to preach the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Scriptures,” she wrote.
“But this law doesn’t just affect pastors; it will criminalize the beliefs of millions of ordinary people who may now be afraid to speak even their pro-marriage positions lest it spark a federal ‘hate crime’ investigation,” Porter wrote.
Cass noted in the U.K., a senior citizen was accused of “hate crimes” for writing a letter objecting to a pro-homosexual festival:
“This is the way it gets implemented in all the other countries,” Cass said. “Christians are singled out for prosecution, with threats, imprisonment and fines simply for refusing to stop doing what Christ commands: proclaiming the truth.”
“[These cases] are a good precursor of where this goes,” he warned.
The bill signed by Obama was opposed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which called it a “menace” to civil liberties. The commission argued the law allows federal authorities to bring charges against individuals even if they’ve already been cleared in a state court.