Thursday, March 5, 2009

Are 'sexual orientation' protections in Canada's hate propaganda laws worthless?

Question to Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley: Why hasn't Sudbury's David Popescu been charged yet with promoting the "execution" of all homosexuals last October?

Is it because Popescu seems to be using the "good faith" exclusions that exist within the new anti-hate propaganda sections of the Criminal Code, passed in 2003?

As you may recall, perennial Sudbury independent candidate David Popescu ran again in the 2008 federal election and took part in an all-candidates debate in a high school where the subject of same sex marriage came up. In response, he reportedly told the group of students that gays should be "executed."

"I said I believe homosexuals should be executed . . . when I say homosexuals should be executed, I am speaking in terms of government actions. That is the way the Bible puts it," Popescu told Canwest in an interview.

Does the Bible say such things? Not according to gay filmmaker Daniel Karslake:

[What] most conservative Christians don't know - or conveniently forget to tell you - is that the Bible says absolutely nothing about homosexuality as we know and understand it today. In fact, the word homosexual didn't even appear in any Bible in any language until 1946! And whether you think Jesus was the Son of God, just another prophet, or even simply a myth, the story of Christ is all about embracing outcasts, not creating them."

Others have argued that the Old Testament is fairly clear: Leviticus, the ancient Jewish community rule book, not only condemns all forms of male homosexuality as an abomination, but calls for all those who commit it to be "put to death." (It doesn't say anything about killing lesbians.)

Of course, anything in the world could be justified using some passage from the Bible, from beating your wife to keeping slaves.

But is Popescu exempt from the Criminal Code's hate propaganda laws because he's expressing a religious opinion?

The Criminal Code indicates a person commits an offence by making statements that promote violence or incite hatred against identifiable groups. But the code also protects people from being convicted with a hate crime "if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text..." Click here for info on Bill C-250 which brought these provisions into law.

Those complexities prompted Sudbury police to seek direction generally from the Attorney General before charging Popescu.

So what say you, Attorney General? Is the LGBT community protected against the promotion of its genocide? Can someone promote the mass murder of all homosexuals and then claim he's innocent of any crime because his opinion was simply the expression of his faith, as he's chosen to interpret the Bible?

If the statement was inspired by the Bible or other religious text, it's okay? So a non-religious person could be convicted under the Criminal Code if they spoke Popescu's words, but not Popescu because he claims to be quoting the Bible?

This "good faith" protection sets up a terrible precedent because it impacts on all forms of hate propaganda. If religious faith is lawful justification for promoting the genocide of an identifiable group, then clearly more groups need to be concerned.

If someone based on their religious beliefs broadcasts that all Jews should be killed, are they also exempt from prosecution under Canadian law?

Suddenly all hate mongers might have found a loophole in the Criminal Code's provisions that allows them to get away with hate propaganda: they can promote genocide if they're doing it for religious reasons?

If this isn't the case, I hope the Attorney General does the right thing...If Bentley claims the "good faith" provisions make a conviction unlikely and won't proceed, then that means the LGBT community basically has no protections against hate propaganda except those contained in various Human Rights Acts across the country...and we know what many critics want to do with those protections, now don't we?


Militant Dipper said...

Great post Matt. Hate is hate whether you hide behind the bible or not.

Cliff said...

Leviticus also calls eating shellfish an abomination. So have some gay sex or eat some lobster - Leviticus thought both were equally bad.

If you know anything about the historical underpinning of the old testament you know that the ancient Hebrews had two classes of prohibitions: religious and cultural - so for example Murder was against both religious and cultural law - sodomy only had a religious prohibition.

Of course all of this sidesteps the more basic question of how a rule book written for nomadic sheep herders thousands of years ago could possibly be considered 100% applicable to post industrial 21st century society...