Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National Post

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Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National Post

Postby Tape Splicer » Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:40 pm

This is from the National Post web page.

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Case pitting gay rights against religious freedom reaches Supreme Court
By Tobi Cohen

Oct 11, 2011 – 8:12 PM ET | Last Updated: Oct 11, 2011 8:13 PM ET

OTTAWA — A critical case that pits freedom of religion and expression against the right of homosexuals not to be discriminated against will come before Canada’s top court on Wednesday.

William Whatcott, a man who engaged in same-sex activities before finding religion and joining the Christian Truth Activists, was ordered by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission to pay $17,500 to four individuals who were offended by a pair of pamphlets he distributed in 2001 and 2002 in Regina and Saskatoon.

One flyer expressed his opposition to teaching children about homosexuality in public schools, while the other attacked homosexual behaviour, drawing on a personal ad in a gay magazine that appeared to promote pedophilia.

Whatcott appealed the decision and won, but in a bid to have the original decision reinstated, the commission will argue Wednesday that there are limits to freedom of expression.

“As Canadians, we understand that there is a justifiable and narrow limit on the freedom of expression when it has the potential to harm others in the community,” David Arnot, chief commissioner with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said Wednesday.

“In the case of public speech, where expression has the real potential to escalate and expose a target group to hate, we have a responsibility to act.”

Arnot said he will argue that Whatcott’s words and behaviour “crossed the line between critical speech and hateful speech” and that his case would “speak to the power of words to maim and the need for protection from the most extreme, hate-filled and destructive forms of public speech.”

Noting the commission has prosecuted just five cases in 32 years, Arnot said it’s a rarely used tool reserved for only the most serious of cases.

“We feel strongly that this is one of those cases,” he added.

“The Supreme Court of Canada has the opportunity to set the stage for public discussion and discourse in the next decade or longer with this case.”

Not only will the top court be asked to strike a balance between free expression and the right to be free from discrimination, it will also be asked to decide whether the flyers constitute hate propaganda in the same way criticism of one’s race or religion might.

As court documents suggest, Whatcott will argue that it is possible to “love the sinner, hate the sin” and that his flyers attacked the actions of homosexuals, not homosexuals themselves.

“It’s irrational to think there isn’t a distinction between the person and the behaviour,” his lawyer Thomas Schuck told Postmedia News.

“We really object to the characterization of the Christian message of discouraging same-sex sexual conduct as being hate.”

Schuck said his client believes same-sex conduct is “harmful” and he has even filed evidence to show homosexuals have a lower life expectancy and a myriad of health problems as a result of their lifestyle. He suggested the pamphlets were truthful and meant to be educational.

“It’s more out of love and concern for others than hate,” he said.

“Idon’t think we’re infringing on anybody’s rights by attempting to open a debate on what is a healthy lifestyle.”

He believes the outcome of this case could have an impact on others from the marriage commissioner whose conscience didn’t allow him to marry a gay couple, to the bed and breakfast owner who objected to renting a room to a same-sex couple.

“If there’s no accommodation for Christian people, it’s going to lead to a lot of religious discrimination,” Schuck said.

The case has attracted significant interest across the country and some 25 different groups have been granted intervener status in court, including a smattering of provincial and national human rights commissions, Christian and Jewish groups, Egale Canada and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.

It also comes as both Parliament and the Federal Court look at loosening hate laws in the name of free speech.

Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth has tabled a private member’s bill that seeks to repeal Section 13 of the federal human rights code that bans hate speech over the Internet.

He argues provisions already exist within the Criminal Code to deal with the sort of material that could truly harm an identifiable group or individual.

It should be noted that the Criminal Code requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while human rights cases fall under civil law which requires a lower burden of proof based on a balance of probabilities.

A 2008 report prepared for the Canadian Human Rights Commission concluded the section should be removed. The following year, a member of the human rights tribunal said it violated the charter which led to a Federal Court review to be held before the end of the year.

Schuck said he would present the 2008 report as part of his evidence.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby Tape Splicer » Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:46 pm

Here is how SUN NEWS reports the story - From their web site...
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Top court hears hate speech case
12:00 am, October 13th, 2011

SICA MURPHY | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - Anti-gay pamphleteer Bill Whatcott's lawyer faced testy questions Wednesday from Canada's top legal eagles when he argued his client's views were controversial - but not hateful.
Thomas Schuck was greeted with some scepticism from the panel of seven Supreme Court judges as he tried to prove Whatcott was not guilty of promoting hate when he distributed flyers in Saskatchewan questioning the
morality of homosexuality and warning of dangers of teaching it to children.

"Yes, it's harsh, but so what?" said Schuck, referring to the graphic language and Biblical scripture his client used to brand gay sex as a "perversion" and an "abomination."

Schuck questioned whether Whatcott's lack of "finesse" in expressing his views meant he should be barred from legitimate discussion.

"We should be encouraging people to be engaged in political debate," he said.

Canada's top court heard arguments throughout the day on the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission vs. Whatcott case, which pits free speech advocates against hate speech watchdogs.

The commission fined Whatcott $17,500 in 2005 for pamphlets he distributed in Regina and Saskatoon in 2001 and 2002. Whatcott lost his first appeal but a Saskatchewan appeals court later ruled in his favour.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last year.

Grant Scharfstein, representing the commission, argued Whatcott should be allowed to hold and disseminate his views - as long as they weren't expressed in a hateful manner.

"The words convey in them ill will to those in the lesbian, gay and bisexual community," he said of Whatcott's flyers.

Scharfstein argued the narrow limits imposed on freedom of expression by hate speech legislation were necessary to prevent the real harm caused by what he deemed "hate propaganda."

"Bones heal," he said. "The harm and hurt that is done by hate speech will never heal."

Other interveners argued strong hate speech laws could have a chilling effect on the media and public debate.

The Supreme Court heard from 21 interveners in the case, representing a cross section of civil liberties, religious, equality, legal and free expression organizations, as well as human rights commissions from across Canada.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby Howaboutthat » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:09 pm

I would like to suggest that as this IS a radio and to a larger extent a media board, that the posts be somewhat related to that.
Pasting something simply because Sun Media reported something a certain way (I'm pretty certain that would be the back-up response if questioned as to what the story possibly has to do with this board), to me doesn't make the grade. Many of the rip n read threads mr. splicer posts are relevant and provoke discussion. This post, IMO, could be the thin edge of the wedge in turning this board into a copy of the other one. (Without the chem trails)
(BTW, I didn't read the story as I don't care what SUN reports and don't think it belongs here, but I post this because I care about what I see here)
My 2 cents.
Houston, We're dealing with morons!.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby Tape Splicer » Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:22 pm

My reason for posting these articles, even though they are not "radio-centric" was to highlight that it appears "freedom of speech" - to a greater or lesser extent - is on trial.

This in my mind at least concerns radio, TV, print; or for that mater what we say and how we say it here on this message board, or at the counter of the local pub or coffee shop. So in my mint the thought was that it is not so much about "gay rights vs religion" but all of our right to express ourselves with respect but without prohibition on our individual voice.

We already live in such a "P/C sciety, we're afraid to say what is on our mind. this is another nail in the "free speech" coffin.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby Howaboutthat » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:01 pm

Well, MY mistake then. I always thought this was called RadioWest.

Can you at least do this... when you post something, give your opinion on it or at least some comment, other than 'here's Sun's take on it'

There has to be a reason for you to post something. Tell us why you're posting it.

I'm assuming you're not just posting things for the sake of posting things because you have nothing else to do. We get it about the Freedom of Speech thing, you've posted a few articles on that. But please let us know WHY you're starting a thread on something. What grabbed you about it.

I'm curious, do you think anyone be allowed to print and distribute anything? IMO, that's why we have courts, to determine whether something is hateful or inflammatory. I do not like the Politically Correct system we live in right now, but there is a thing called decency.

OK? :occasion5:
Houston, We're dealing with morons!.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby Tape Splicer » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:52 pm

Howaboutthat; I appreciate the feedback. I accept that a comment along with the post might have been helpful. I'll keep that in mind the next time I post something that merits a comment.

I do believe that "free speech" must have limits; and no I don't have the right to shout "fire" in a crowed theater for example. But at the same time I believe that one should be able to comment on what one observes within the bounds of common respect and decency. And yes the courts have a role to play in drawing a line in the sand. I also think everyone else has the same rights of expression.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby Tape Splicer » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:41 pm

I should have said this in the previous post... I am also responsible for what I say and do - It is my responsibility to edit myself so I don't libel or slander anyone. To me "free speech" is not free with out limits. That could lead to anarchy. The "Vancouver riot" was not "free speech", to me it was anarchy.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby pave » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:17 pm

For me, an uttered threat of violence is a form of assault and... chargeable under the Act.

Otherwise, I want to know what people "hate" and why and what, if anything, they are going to be doing as a result of their position.

"Gay Rights"? I'm obliged to tolerate that.
"Religious Freedoms"? I'm obliged to tolerate that.

I am not obliged, however, to agree with either of them... even though I might. I still have the right to either support or criticise either or both, and I have and may again.

Any changes to that status quo will, indeed, get my attention.

Others still have the opportunity to influence my thinking on these matters while I maintain the option to respond. But, in a legal manner.

Still :canflag1:ian. And diggin' it.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby slowhand » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:29 pm

pave wrote:I am not obliged, however, to agree with either of them... even though I might. I still have the right to either support or criticise either or both, and I have and may again.

The problem is, and this is relevant to Radio, when my criticism incites hatred in others.

Sounds simple, and simple to avoid, until you realize the wide range of humanity you are talking to, with a very wide range of mental health. It is very hard to predict what criticism will make someone else hate that which you are being critical of.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby Jack Bennest » Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:00 pm

This is so deep ....even for gays.
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Re: Gay rights vs Religious Freedom: Supreme Court-National

Postby pave » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:26 pm

As slowhand offers:
The problem is, and this is relevant to Radio, when my criticism incites hatred in others.


This may be a major factor in the discussion.

However, it needs to be understood - and clearly - that on-the-air, in print, on the web or in private conversation, I have no control over or responsibility for the behaviours of others unless my criticisms include an admonition to go out and do physical harm. This is an acknowledged offense and is a case also covered by the Act.

In my own case, I am a strident, secular, humanist, anti-theist. But if I promote or suggest the destruction of property or the assault on a person or persons, I am in deep and serious kak. And even if I did hold the position that violence was a viable option, am I then guilty of "Thought Crime"? Some would argue "Of course!" but thinking thoughts is not covered in the Act.

These, I suggest, are easily understood distinctions. Whether the distinctions are acceptable to all is unlikely. And that also comes with the territory.
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