Tuesday, June 17, 2008

“Human Rights” in Canada--and New Mexico

A “human rights commission” in Alberta, Canada, has ruled that a Christian pastor, Rev. Stephen Boission, has no right to say anything “disparaging” about homosexuality. Here’s Ezra Levant’s summary:

A Christian pastor has been given a lifetime ban against uttering anything "disparaging" about gays. Not against anything "hateful", let alone something legally defined as "hate speech". Just anything negative.

So a pastor cannot give a sermon.

But he must give a false sermon; he is positively ordered to renounce his deeply held religious beliefs, and apologize to his tormentor for having those views.

And then that pastor is ordered to declare to his entire city that he has renounced his religious views, even though he has not.

That's Alberta's human rights commission.
If you follow the links and read the ruling, you’ll see that the basic issue was an anti-gay-marriage letter to the editor by the pastor, published in the local paper. Frankly, the letter was pretty harsh, and the language in it was probably not the way that I would try to persuade someone of my views about homosexuality. It isn’t exactly a prime example of Christian love. But, Rev. Boisson’s views are certainly based in Biblical passages about homosexuality.

Canada doesn’t have identical free speech protections as our first amendment, but it does have a similar passage in its founding charter. Nevertheless, a government commission (not even a real court) has ruled that Christians don’t have the right to express a religious belief.

It’s easy to say well, that’s Canada, it can’t happen here. And it’s true that we have stronger free speech protections than our neighbors to the north, but at least one state, New Mexico, has its own human rights commission similar to the Canadian system.

From Eugene Volokh, Photographers Denied the Freedom To Choose What They Photograph:
Elaine Huguenin co-owns Elane Photography with her husband… Elane refused to photograph Vanessa Willock's same-sex commitment ceremonies, and just today the New Mexico Human Rights Commission held that this violated state antidiscrimination law. Elane has been ordered to pay over $6600 in attorney's fees and costs.

One blogger summarized the issue this way:

The Huguenins have the right to refuse to photograph any number of things they regard as moral issues, whether it’s a photo shoot at Planned Parenthood, a poster for the Ku Klux Klan, or a keepsake album for participants in a baby seal hunt. The Constitution may offend the politically correct crowd, but it is quite clear that Americans should not be forced to promote a private message that violates their conscience.

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