Alberta human rights commission ruling sets dangerous precedent
The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal has rendered a decision against Pastor Stephen Boissoin, a Baptist youth minister who in 2002 wrote a letter to the Red Deer Advocate denouncing homosexual activism in local public schools. The letter, which was published during the height of Canada’s debate over same-sex “marriage,” garnered much attention due to Boissoin’s having compared this type of activism to prostitution and pedophilia. A “human rights” activist found the letter offensive and lodged a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
The commission investigated the complaint and subsequently forwarded it to the tribunal. The tribunal decision, which was rendered on May 31, ordered Boissoin to pay the activist $5,000 in addition to $2,000 in court costs. The compensation was ordered despite the tribunal’s acknowledgment that the complainant was “not a direct victim” of Boissoin’s letter.
This fine was the least troubling aspect of the decision, which claimed not to be a punishment but “a remedy … to ameliorate the effects of the discrimination insofar as is possible and to denunciate the actions which were the subject of the complaint with a view to educate and hopefully prevent actions of this nature in future.”
In short, the tribunal decision attempted to force Boissoin to accept the homosexualist agenda, despite his moral opposition based upon his understanding of biblical teaching.
The tribunal also ordered Boissoin to issue a written apology to the complainant for his letter to the editor and to submit a copy of the apology to the Red Deer Advocate with a request that it be published.
Alberta lawyer and political commentator Ezra Levant, the subject of another complaint before the Alberta Human Rights Commission, denounced the order on his blog: “So Ed Stelmach’s ‘conservative’ government now believes that if it can’t convince a Christian pastor that he’s wrong, it will just order him to condemn himself?”
Levant continued: “We don’t even ‘order’ murderers to apologize to their victims’ families. Because we know that a forced apology is meaningless. But not if your point is to degrade Christian pastors.”
The ruling also ordered Boissoin to refrain in the future from making “disparaging” comments about homosexualist activism and the homosexual lifestyle, whether it be “publishing in newspapers, by e-mail, on the radio, in public speeches or on the internet.”
The term “disparaging” was not defined in the judgement, creating a low threshold for potential violation.
The decision also attempted to silence Boissoin from future criticism of the tribunal process and of the complainant for having initiated the complaint, stating Boissoin was “prohibited from making disparaging remarks in the future about (the complainant) or (the complainant’s) witnesses relating to their involvement in this complaint.”
This sets a dangerous precedent, since it prohibits Boissoin from speaking out about his experience before a government tribunal.
Despite the judgement against him, Boissoin told The Interim he will not be silenced by the tribunal.
The pastor also stated that although his letter was strongly worded, it had been misrepresented by the complainant in the media. “I did not have what I believe is an equal opportunity to not only speak what my context and the interpretation of my letter was – after all I’m the one who wrote it, I should be able to interpret it,” Boissoin said. “What I felt at the tribunal hearing – and in the public – there’s been a lot of this, where people have had the … liberty of interpreting the letter for me.” One such misrepresentation concerned the headline over the letter, “Homosexual agenda wicked,” which was chosen by the Red Deer Advocate and not Boissoin.
Another misunderstanding concerned the context of the letter: it was not directed toward the average homosexual, but toward local homosexualist activists who were introducing their lifestyle in the local public school system to children as young as six, Boissoin said.
Despite the persecution for his Christian convictions, Boissoin said he felt no animosity toward the complainant or the tribunal officials attempting to censor him. In fact, he often prays for their conversion, he said.
He also bears no hatred toward active homosexuals or those with same-sex attraction and ministers to them just as he ministers to heterosexuals. “God’s truth has to be presented with a message of love,” Boissoin said. “And then I leave it with them and I pray for them. And that’s all I can do.”
Boissoin is hoping to appeal the decision, lest it be used as a precedent to censor other clergy like Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight, who is facing his own human rights complaint, from publically promoting Christian moral teaching.
Darren Lund, the University of Calgary education professor who lodged the human rights complaint, told the National Post he is no longer interested in a forced apology saying it “wouldn’t accomplish anything.” He told the paper he dropped the demand for an apology, yet the tribunal still ordered one.