Thursday, June 01, 2006

Perversion of Human Rights

Catholic Insight
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 Regina prison guard and Evangelical Protestant. His troubles with the human-rights thought police stem from an advertisement he placed in the Saskatchewan Star Phoenix that listed four Bible passages -- Romans 1, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-19 -- together with a picture of two stick men holding hands and superimposed with a circle and slash -- the universal symbol for something forbidden.

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 University of Western Ontario, has observed that the ostensible guarantee of freedom of religion in section 2 of the Charter “has been interpreted by the Supreme Court since the landmark decision in Big M Drug Mart [1985] to mean freedom from religion.” Correspondingly, in Egan [1995], the Supreme Court defied the manifest will of Parliament and the provincial legislatures by reading equality rights for homosexuals into section 15 of the Charter.

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 Calgary, an Imam has persuaded the Alberta Human Rights Commission to undertake an investigation of Ezra Levant, the publisher of The Western Standard, for allegedly violating the equality rights of Muslims, by republishing “hateful cartoons” of the Prophet Muhammad.

Who might be the next victim of Canada’s human-rights thought police? No one knows. All Canadians are vulnerable. Theoretically, even a Muslim could get charged for saying or publishing something offensive to homosexuals.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Canada: Freedom of Speech succumbing to Kangaroo Courts of the Human Rights Commission

Proceedings against Ezra Levant are nothing short of ridiculous, but let's consider the implications for moderate Muslims. This "investigation" will further divide Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada. It will give credence to radicals' claims that the West is at war with Islam. It will antagonize non-Muslims and moderate Muslims will be pushed towards radicalization. Regardless of the outcome, once again Islamists skillfully manipulated Dhimmi justice system and came out as clear winners. Thank you, Human Right Commission!

Muslims Against Sharia are proud to be the first Muslim group to publicly support Ezra Levant and denounce HRC inquisition

Sign Free Dominion Against the HRCs Petition