Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I’ve written over the course of several years about the Stephen Boissoin case in Canada, where the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission found a minister guilty of “hate speech” and fined him $5,000 for expressing his anti-gay views in a letter to a newspaper. The commission also ordered him not to say anything negative about homosexuality again.

A judge has now reversed that decision and restored Boissoin’s right to free speech.

A Court of Queen’s Bench judge has ruled an anti-gay letter written by a former Alberta pastor in 2002 was not a hate crime and is allowed under freedom of speech.

Justice E.C. Wilson overturned a 2008 ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Commission that the letter by Stephen Boissoin that was published in the Red Deer Advocate broke provincial law…

The commission had ordered Boissoin to refrain from making disparaging remarks about homosexuals and to pay the complainant, former Red Deer high school teacher Darren Lund, $5,000 in damages.

Neither order can now be enforced, as Wilson declared them “unlawful or unconstitutional.”

The letter carried the headline “Homosexual agenda wicked” and suggested gays were as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.

I repeat what I said last year when the commission ruled against him:

Stephen Boissoin is an idiot, an ignoramus and a bigot. But so what? Being an idiot is not against the law and expressing idiotic opinions should not be either. We have far more to fear from governments with the power to censor speech they don’t like than from all the hateful speech ever uttered.

And I’ll quote Jason Kuznicki on the same case:

Look, I’m as gay as they get. And I’m even an atheist. Yet all the same, I have to feel sympathy for the guy. Something terribly wrong is being done to him-even while, yes, he really is saying something that I find terribly wrong. Neither point should ever obscure the other; the freedom to be offended implies the freedom to offensive, and vice versa.

To my gay friends: It’s nothing personal. It’s just that the freedoms of conscience and of speech are the foundations of your rights, too. Once, not so long ago, your speech was generally thought every bit as loathsome as Mr. Boissoin’s is today. And because my loyalties, my deepest and most profound loyalties, are with the system of free inquiry and free self-discovery, I must support him even as I have supported you. I daresay I’m even doing you a service…

We’ve seen his kind before. The way to deal with them is not prosecution, but mere civic ridicule, which gives them all of the scant dignity that they deserve. Back when Anita Bryant came peddling this stuff, it almost made sense. But now, with gays and lesbians raising more children than ever before, the best way to fight Mr. Boissoin might simply be for gay and lesbian parents to speak up against him. Perhaps one fine Sunday morning they could show up at his church in droves-and pray (another “democratic right”) that he change his views.

I’ll blast the Stephen Boissons of the world as long as I have breath in my body. I’ll ridicule them, I’ll mock them, I’ll prove them wrong. I will not, however, acquiesce to a government that claims the authority to punish them. Jefferson said it best: “It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.” Principle and pragmatism both weigh heavily against taking any action against this man other than ridicule.