Saturday, December 1, 2007

Alberta panel denounces ex-pastor's anti-gay comments

This is excellent news. This case came about after a former evangelical Alberta pastor, Stephen Boissoin, published a venomous letter in the Red Deer Advocate in 2002 which attacked, "Homosexual rights activists and those that defend immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities."

The letter urged readers to, "take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness" of the "homosexual machine." Two weeks later, a gay youth was assaulted in Red Deer. Darren Lund, a local high school teacher at the time, filed the complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which led to yesterday's ruling.

Boissoin tried to defend himself by claiming he was merely aiming to inspire a "spirited" community debate with his hateful letter. But the panel rightly dismissed that argument.

Deliberate or not, Boissoin's words had the effect of completely dehumanizing a group of his fellow citizens and inspiring any and all attacks against them. Violent homophobes for generations have used similar words to justify many forms of violence against their victims.

True to form, Boissoin's Christian colleagues are being anything but Christian in their reaction, complaining again their religious freedoms are more important than the rights of homosexuals to live safe in a community where violence against them isn't promoted by abusive community leaders.

"If you really can't speak out your religious viewpoints, that is tyrannical," says Jim Blake, the national chairman of what is now Concerned Christians Canada.

As far as I'm concerned, people of any religion (or non-religious affiliation) have every right to express dislike or disdain for any group of people or any type of behaviour, without that expression being judged as "hate material" or "hate speech."

But clearly this is a case where the pastor went completely overboard with his published rhetoric. He wasn't merely expressing a religious viewpoint. His call for readers to take action and use "whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness" of the "homosexual machine" clearly can be interpreted to include promoting violent action against LGBT citizens. Justice has been served in this case.

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