Boissoin’s lawyer…pointed out that not only did Justice O’Brien throw out the AHRC’s decision, but ruled that a human rights panel had no constitutional authority to preside in such circumstances.
Pastor Stephen Boissoin, who was found guilty in 2007 by a provincial human rights tribunal of “hate speech” for writing a letter to the editor expressing his views on homosexuality, has been strongly vindicated after the Alberta Appeals Court dismissed an appeal of a lower court decision in Boissoin’s favor.
The court also ordered Boissoin’s accuser, homosexual activist Dr. Darren Lund, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary, to pay Boissoin’s attorney fees.
Appeals Court Justice Clifton O’Brien concurred with the lower court that Boissoin’s letter “was not likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt within the meaning of the Alberta statute.”
In 2009, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Earl C. Wilson overturned the 2007 ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which ordered Boissoin to desist from expressing his views on homosexuality in any sort of public forum, ordered him to pay damages equivalent to $7,000 to Lund and called for Boissoin to personally apologize to Lund via a public statement in the local newspaper.
In the letter, published in 2002 in the Red Deer Advocate, Boissoin had criticized homosexuality as immoral and dangerous, and called into question new homosexual rights curricula permeating the province’s educational system.
“Children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights,” wrote Boissoin.
In quashing the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s judgment against Boissoin, Justice Wilson said there was nothing in the letter to suggest it was encouraging anyone to discriminate against homosexuals in areas that lie within provincial jurisdiction and are set out in the statutes, such as housing, employment, or access to goods and services.
“The language does not go so far as to fall within the prohibited status of ‘hate’ or ‘contempt’,” Wilson wrote in his decision.
Lund appealed Justice Wilson’s decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which handed down its decision last week.
In his ruling dismissing the appeal, Justice O’Brien also criticized the AHRC for not considering an affidavit filed by the managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate, Joe McLaughlin.
In that affidavit McLaughlin said that his newspaper “disagrees” with Lund’s claims that that paper exposed homosexuals to hatred by publishing Boissoin’s letter, and argues that “Advocate editorials, commentary and letters written in critical response to Boissoin’s letter are more likely than not to promote tolerance of homosexuals rather than discrimination.”
McLaughlin also observed that Boissoin actually expressed “sympathy, love and fellowship for some homosexuals” in his letter, taking aim at the “machine” that supports their cause, rather than individual homosexuals.
“While we do not agree with or support much of what Boissoin says, we believe his views are honestly felt, based on his understanding of the Bible,” said McLaughlin. “We believe that he has a right to express his views, and the Advocate has the responsibility to publish letters on issues of wide public interest.”
“Matters of morality, including the perceived morality of certain types of sexual behavior, are topics for discussion in the public forum,” concluded Justice O’Brien. “Freedom of speech does not just protect polite speech.”
Boissoin’s lawyer, Gerald Chipeur, Q.C., who is an allied attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), pointed out that not only did Justice O’Brien throw out the AHRC’s decision, but ruled that a human rights panel had no constitutional authority to preside in such circumstances.
“This was a watershed case,” Chipeur said. “Very important, in terms of freedom of expression and religious liberty. Going forward, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for religious or political debate to be found in breach of Alberta’s current human rights laws.”
“Christians and other people of faith should not be fined or jailed for expressing their political or religious beliefs. There is no place for thought control in a free and democratic society,” Chipeur remarked. “The tools of censorship should not be available to prohibit freedom of religious expression in Canada. The court rightly found that this type of religious speech is not ‘hate’ speech.”