By Rory Leishman
In a remarkable ruling on Maundy Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal unanimously quashed the rulings of a Saskatchewan human rights board of inquiry which found that a Regina man had violated the province’s human rights code, by drawing public attention to Biblical teaching on the sinfulness of sodomy.
The man in question, Hugh Owens, is a
Acting on a complaint by three homosexual activists, the human rights board of inquiry ruled that “the circle and slash combined with the passages of the Bible … can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule” contrary to section 14 1(b) of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. To atone for this offence, the board ordered The StarPhoenix and Owens to pay the complainants $1,500 each in damages and to promise that they would never again publish such an advertisement. The publisher of The StarPhoenix meekly complied. Owens appealed the ruling, and lost again in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench.
Luckily for Owens, he has now been vindicated by the Court of Appeal. In reasons for the Court, Mr. Justice Robert Richards pointed out that an objective observer would know that the passages cited by Owens are “self-evidently part of a larger work, the Bible.” Richards dryly added: “One need not be a Biblical scholar, or even a Christian, to know that the Bible as a whole is … the source of messages involving themes of love, tolerance and forgiveness.”
On this basis, Richards held that the publication of Owens’s advertisement did not offend the ban on hateful publications in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. But if the province’s Human Rights Commission were to appeal this judgment to the Supreme Court of Canada, would Owens win again? That, to say the least, is doubtful.
Ian Hunter, emeritus professor of law at the
Following these precedents, lower courts and human rights tribunals have repeatedly censored Christians for publicly affirming the sinfulness of sodomy on the ground that the equality rights for homosexuals in section 15 trump the rights of all Canadians to freedom of conscience, religion, opinion, expression and association in section 2.
Homosexuals, of course, are not the only favoured minority of human rights commissions and the courts. In
Who might be the next victim of
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the expansive human rights codes that were enacted in the 1980s were supposed to safeguard and enhance the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Instead, judicial activists on the Supreme Court of Canada have transformed these codes and the Charter into veritable instruments of oppression.
While three enlightened judges on the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal have given Owens a rare reprieve, the rest of us should beware: No one can be safe in a country where a mayor who refuses to issue a gay pride proclamation or a publisher who reproduces a cartoon that some Muslims find offensive could end up in jail as a prisoner of conscience.