Roman Catholic, evangelical, and other groups across a broad front in Canada are urging the defeat of Bill C-250 in parliament. Pushed by pro-gay interests and almost certain to pass, it would add "sexual orientation" to the list of protected groups in the "hate propaganda" sections of the country's criminal code.
All the groups say they oppose hate-motivated attacks and inciting hatred against anyone, but they warn the bill is too vague (it doesn't define hatred; judges will do that), it doesn't distinguish between the "person" and "sexual activity," and it trashes free-speech rights.
"This bill could silence reasonable public discussion about the immorality of certain sexual practices and even implicate the Bible," warned Bruce Clemenger of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Indeed, that has already happened: A federal court in Saskatchewan ruled in December that the Bible amounted to hate literature. The decision received next to no notice in the nation's press. The case involved Hugh Owens of Regina, who ran an ad in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on Gay Pride Day in 1997. It featured only four Bible references (Romans 1:26-32, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 21:13, and 1 Corinthians 6:9) without quoting from them, an equal sign, and two stick men holding hands inside a red circle with a diagonal slash through it-similar to highway and street signs forbidding certain actions. Mr. Owens said he was seeking to draw the public's attention to biblical teaching about homosexuality.
Three homosexuals sued Mr. Owens and the newspaper under the provincial human-rights code. It forbids publication of text and symbols that would expose people to hatred, ridicule, or "affront of dignity" on account of their sexual orientation. A one-woman panel of the human-rights commission ruled in their favor, saying the inclusion of Bible verses elevated the ad to violation of the code. She ordered Mr. Owens and the newspaper to pay each man $1,500 (WORLD, July 21, 2001).
The federal court rejected Mr. Owens's appeal in December, noting that "the biblical passage which suggests that if a man lies with a man they must be put to death exposes homosexuals to hatred."
If Bill C-250 becomes part of Canada's criminal code, preachers had better consult their lawyers before going into the pulpit to discuss homosexual behavior as sinful or read Bible verses dealing with homosexuality.