A court case in Alberta, Canada is going to decide whether Reverend Stephen Boissoin‘s letter, which was published in a newspaper, can qualify as hate speech.
The controversy stems from a letter Boissoin, then a youth pastor in Red Deer, wrote that was published in the Red Deer Advocate in June 2002. “From kindergarten class on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators,” he wrote. “Your children are being warped into believing that same-sex families are acceptable; that kissing men is appropriate.”
Boissoin went on to attack gay activists as “spreading their psychological disease,” saying they were “just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.”
University of Calgary professor Darren Lund (who is straight) filed a complaint that Boissoin’s letter promoted “hatred against gays.”
“Freedom of speech is a precious thing that we need to preserve,” Darren Lund said yesterday outside an Alberta Human Rights Commission hearing.
“But there are very clear limits on that freedom and when expressing yourself takes away the rights and safety of others, that’s where the limits need to be drawn.”
Shortly after Boissoin’s letter appeared in the paper, a gay male teen was beaten up in what seemed to be a hate crime. There was no direct connection made to Boissoin’s letter, but Lund said “the report was an example of the effect that such rhetoric might have in the community.”
The sides in this case might not be what you’d expect. Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE), while “vehemently” opposed to Boissoin’s letter, support his freedom of speech. Queerty says that “a Lund victory would only further alienate religious fundamentalists. Further, it would give them plenty of ammunition for their anti-gay crusades.” They have a point.
The Calgary Herald says that “the Alberta government has intervener status in the hearing and will be backing Lund.”
Boissoin did try to file a $400,000 defamation suit against Lund between the published letter and today. That suit was unsuccessful.
Here’s one surprise you wouldn’t see in America:
Janelle Dodd, who worked at the youth centre with Boissoin, said his letter caused a split in the community. Soon thereafter, the centre began losing funding and shut down several months later.
Good for those Christians who don’t support this sort of prejudice.
(Why don’t we ever see more Christians standing up to fundie pastors in America? If they do, why do they never get media coverage?)
Without knowing Canadian law, Boissoin does seem to have to upper hand in this case. It’s horrible that his mind can’t see past hetero unions, but he has a right to voice his opinion. Even if it’s not based on any fact at all. Everyone else has a right to reject his warped mind and take their money elsewhere.
Incidentally, Boissoin is being defended in court by the US-based Christian Right group, the Alliance Defense Fund.
(Thanks to Dysentery for the story!)
[tags]atheist, atheism, Canada, Alberta, homophobe, pastor, Stephen Boissoin, Red Deer Advocate, homosexual, gay, lesbian, University of Calgary, Darren Lund, Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, EGALE, Queerty, Calgary Herald, Janelle Dodd, Christian, Alliance Defense Fund[/tags]