Huge win for freedom of speech in Canada

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: freedom of speech, Canada, civil rights

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(NaturalNews) We don't hear much about civil rights violations in uber-socialist Canada, but every now and then the leaders and institutions of our frosty neighbor to the north (like the elected leaders of our own country) tend to forget that, at their core, human beings trend towards liberty and freedom over state-mandated oppression.

In what some legal experts are calling a "watershed case" involving freedom of expression as it pertains to homosexuality, a Canadian court handed down a decision recently that some say may give hope to religious liberty advocates in the United States because it is a decision they believe could impact similar cases here.

Over the course of a decade, the case was bandied about in the courts. It involved a Canadian pastor, Stephen Boissoin, who wrote letters to the editor of a local newspaper expressing his religious viewpoints on homosexuality and especially his perception that the behavior was being promoted in public schools.

His letters were reported by a University of Calgary professor to the Alberta Human Rights Commission as hate speech. The commission agreed and proceeded to fine Boissoin $5,000, while prohibiting him from expressing further his views on homosexuality.

Finally; however, a Canadian court sided with the principle that what constitutes freedom of expression on one end of the political spectrum thereby constitutes free expression on the other end.

'Public expression should not be censored just because it's not universally popular'

"Matters of morality, including the perceived morality of certain types of sexual behavior, are topics for discussion in the public forum. Freedom of speech does not just protect polite speech," said Alberta Appeals Court Justice Clifton O'Brien in his ruling.

The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, which defended Boissoin, applauded the ruling, saying the court "got it exactly right" on the key points at issue.

"Christians and other people of faith should not be fined or jailed for expressing their political or religious beliefs. There is no place for thought control in a free and democratic society," said Gerald Chipeur, an ADF-allied attorney who served as counsel in the lawsuit.

ADF said in what appears to be a final victory for the pastor, Alberta's highest court has upheld and affirmed Boissoin's right to express what are his own religious views publicly - just like those who have viewpoints opposed to his.

"Public expression should not be censored simply because the views expressed are unpopular," read an ADF blog post Nov. 2. "... This legal victory has great significance for religious expression. As American courts look more frequently to international jurisprudence for guidance, this victory for freedom of expression has important implications for preserving and promoting religious freedom in America."

Added Chipeur, a Canadian attorney, "This was a watershed case, very important, in terms of freedom of expression and religious liberty. Going forward, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for religious or political debate to be found in breach of Alberta's current human rights laws."

"The tools of censorship should not be available to prohibit freedom of religious expression in Canada. The court rightly found that this type of religious speech is not 'hate' speech,'" he continued.

The law is questioned as well

The three justices of the Alberta court panel said in their ruling that "Boissoin and others have the freedom to think ... that homosexuality is sinful and morally wrong ... (and) they have the right to express that thought to others."

In addition to affirming the pastor's rights, the court went on to question Alberta's "hate speech" law.

"Of particular concern in the area of human rights law is the lack of clarity that will cast a chill on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and religion," the court said.

"This legal victory has great significance for religious expression," said ADF, in a statement. "As American courts look more frequently to international jurisprudence for guidance, this victory for freedom of expression has important implications for preserving and promoting religious freedom in America."

Actually, American courts need not look further than the U.S. Constitution, from which they attain their powers, to rule that voicing an opinion based on a legitimate religious belief is neither "hate speech" nor a violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees that right.


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