Archive for the ‘Homosexuality’ category

Free Speech in Canada

June 6, 2008

Canada is a democracy, with a proud long tradition of human rights, and free speech. Right?

Think again. One Canadian citizen, Mark Steyn, who is well known for his politically incorrect views on Islam, “Eurabia” and the threat Islamic fundamentalism poses to western civilization (I sometimes read the pieces he writes for the Investigate magazine, although I do not agree with everything he says), wrote the (in)famous book, America Alone: The End of the world as we know it, arguing that due to Islamic immigration and high birth rates, Muslims would take over Europe, turning it into “Eurabia” and leaving America alone as the only bastion of western civilization. A piece from the book was published in a well known Canadian magazine, Macleans Magazine, in an article avaliable here, entitled “the future belongs to islam”.

Not unsuprisingly, Muslims in Canada didn’t like what Steyn wrote. And not having learned about tolerance and free speech (to be fair to them, there is very little tolerance and free speech in the Muslim countries), one fundamentalist Muslim group, the Canadian Islamic Congress, took a complaint about the article to a “Human rights” commision in British Columbia. Unfortunately, the “human rights” protected by the human rights commision don’t include the right to free trial (there is a 100% conviction rate at the tribunals for complaints made, the comissars who run the trial have no legal training, there are no case law or precedents, no rules of evidence, and the fact the information may be truthfull and published with reasonable intent is absolutely no defence) or freedom of speech. Instead they are about the freedom from speech, and freedom from expression, for the left wing’s favoured minorities. Although the trial of Mark Steyn is still in progress, we have the results from other cases bought before these “Human rights” tribunals.

Mark Steyn isn’t the only Canadian to be bought before these Human Rights Tribunals for offending Muslims. Erza Levant, the author of the conservative magazine Western Standard was bought before the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commision for re-pubishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, which had been printed in Denmark earlier. He was investigated, which included long questioning sessions on his views towards Islam, and why he published the cartoons.

Criticism of Islamic fundamentalism, isn’t the only type of free speech punished by these “human rights” tribunals. In 1997 Hugh Owens published an advertisement in the Saskatoon newspaper, the StarPhoenix arguing that homosexuality was morally wrong, and refering to (but not quoting) several bible passages on homosexuality (including one, Leviticus 20:13, about stoning homosexuals to death) The Saskawatchen Human Rights Tribunal upheld a complaint that the advertisement exposed homosexuals to hate, ridicule and belittlement, and ordered both Owens and the paper to pay $2 000 in fines. The paper introduced a policy of not running “anti-gay” advertisements.

Also that year, in London, Ontario, mayor Dianne Haskett refused to proclaim “gay pride day” or fly the rainbow flag on city property. The city council was fined $10 000 for its homophobic actions. Another Canadian city, Kelwona, British Columbia, issued a proclamation for gay pride day, omitting the word “pride”. The provinces Human Rights Tribunal called his action a “mean spirited” “insult” to homosexuals.

The following year, in Missauga, Ontario, printer Scott Brockie refused to print material for a gay rights group on the grounds that doing so would go against his religous beliefs. Sadly, the Ontario Human Rights Commission didn’t care much about his human right to practice his religion, and he was ordered to publish the material, after being fined $5 000.

Four years latter in Saskatchewan, Bill Whatcourt, and his Christian Truth Activists organization was found guilty of distributing pamphlets claiming homosexuals were born gay. In response, he was fined $17 500, and given a court order not to distribute pamphlets criticising homosexuality.

In 2005, Pastor Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper Red Deer Advocate calling homosexuality immoral, dangerous, and saying it should not be promoted in schools. Two weeks after the publication of the letter, in the town of Red Deer, a gay teenager was physically assualted, but there was no evidence that the letter had anything to do with the assualt other than the timing coincidence. That was enough for the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal to convict Boissoin of hate speech against homosexuals.

Fortunately, nobody has gone to prison for free speech in Canada yet. The same can not be said about Sweden, which has similar hate speech laws. In 2003, Pastor Ake Green was sentenced to one month in prison for a sermon in his church, calling homosexuality “abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society”, and calling homosexuals “perverts, whose sexual drive the devil has used as his strongest weapon against God”. Although I agree that homosexuality is immoral, I do not share the hate views of Ake Green, and instead hold the belief that it is their actions (of having sexual relations with a person of the same gender, and whom they are not married to (and I don’t believe in gay marriage)) that are morally wrong, not merely being attracted to a person of the same sex.

However, regardless of ones feelings towards homosexuality, or Islam, one basic principle of democracy and freedom is free speech. And that includes the right to say things that may offend some people (such as homosexuals and Muslims). While we may be glad that we do not have hate speech laws in New Zealand, it may not stay that way. The Labour Government went as far as launching an inquiry into the issue, before it was stopped as part of it’s confidence and supply agreement with United Future. Although Labour looks set to loose the next election, who knows if when they return to power their disdain for free speech, that they showed in the Electoral Finance Act, won’t be shown in new hate speech laws. For the meantime, enjoy free speech, and the fact we live in a free society (except in election year), where one is free to express almost any political opinions one wishes. And lets hope it stays that way.


Changes to society

May 31, 2008

Over the last two weeks, two items have got attention from the media, which highlight two trends in our changing society, both of which the socialist left have been behind.

The first is the descison by a California court to legalise gay marriage. As a social conservative I am very disapointed by the descison. To those who argue that same sex couples should have “equal rights” including the “right to marry”, the words of new London mayor Boris Johnson “if gay marriage was OK … then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog”, give a pretty good reason to keep marriage within its traditional definition (i.e. between a man and a woman). Fortunately there is hope that gay marriage (called henceforth in this post fake marriage) in california will be short lived, as there is a ballot initiative for the 2008 elections to change the constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. A referendum on the issue in 2000 saw 63% of Californians oppose fake marriage. On the other hand, opinion is more liberal now than 8 years ago, and California is one of America’s most liberal states. Regardless of the final outcome in California, it is only one part of a growing wordwide trend towards fake marriage (and an extension of the trend of legalising homosexuality (sodomy) over the last forty years). In 2001 fake marriage was legalised in the Netherlands, and since then in Belguim, Spain, Canada, South Africa, and Massachusetts (and now California) in the US. Equally concerning, is the shift in public opinion, with is some US polls support increased by 12% in one year, with support strongest amongst the young. Micheal Kinsley wrote an excellent piece for the time magazine here, about the “quiet gay revolution”, concluding that in 20 years time “gays will have it all”. I, sadly, completely agree with him and find it hard not to forsee a future in which fake marriage is the norm in all western countries in my lifetime, and the view (which I am proud to hold) that homosexuality is morally wrong, will be seen as wrong-headed by society in the same way rascism is (rightly) seen today.

Also in the news, just out yesterday, is a new survey showing the percentage of New Zealanders who smoke falling to 19.9%, with only 18.7% doing so on a daily basis. This is a big decrease from 1996, when 25.2% of Kiwis smoked daily, and over 30% in 1986, and over 35% in 1976 (the 1976 and 86 data is for all smokers, including non-daily ones). there have been similar trends in most other western countries. Between 1974 and 2005, the percentage of British men who smoked fell from 51% to 25%, while amongst women the percentages fell from 41% to 23%. In the US, 38% of American men smoked in 1980, only 23% do so today, while the decline in American women over the same period is 29% to 18%. Australia has seen similar trends, with smoking decling from around 40% of the population in 1976, to under a fifth tin 2001 (see article here). The trend is truly pleasing to those who dislike the ill effects on people’s health by smoking, and truly alarming to the tobacco industry. The decline in smoking has not only seen the number of smokers fall, but the number of cigarettes smoked per smoker has also gone down. In New Zealand tobacco consumption fell by half between 1990 and 2005, a much greater decline than smoking rates, showing that smokers are cutting back as well as quiting. In the UK, the average number of cigarettes smoked per day per smoker declined between 1979 and 2005, from 22 to 14 in men, and 17 to 13 in women. Similar trends have been shown in the US. Also good news is the rapid fall in youth smoking, with only 13% of year 10 (14-15 year olds) students in New Zealand smoking now, compared to 29% in 1999. Tjis shows that as the older generation of smokers are dying, quiting or cutting back, there isn’t much of a new generation to replace them. The long term net effect of this is that one day, and I would not be surprised if this occured in my lifetime (although given the addictive nature of nicotine it will take a long time) we may have a smokefree New Zealand (and eventually world). Although the number of smokers will never be zero, unless the government bans it (something I am completely opposed to, but would not be surprised if it happens one day in the distant future), in future it will not be a normal part of society, and only done by a small number of people in private (one related issue I have not covered in this post is the corespending rise of smokefree areas, which now extend into not only all public indoor areas in NZ, but also some parks, and in one Californian town, in the street (and I don’t think it will be too long before we see street bans here).

These two changes to society have occured quite rapidly. In the space of two generations, we are likely to see homosexuality go from being illegal in most of the western countries to fake marriage being the norm. And in the case of smoking, from a normal part of everyday life for almost half the population, which is allowed almost everywhere, to something which can only be done in private in certain designated areas outside (once nanny state bans it in the street and peoples homes, if not completely) to being done by only a small minority of people (I guess under 5% in 2050). These are not the first big changes to society to take place. The abolition of slavery, women getting the vote, legalisation of abortion represent other rapid and major societal changes, with the latter two occuring in one generation.

The key message is that sometimes things which are a normal and acceptable part of society can become frowned upon and rare in a short space of time (e.g. smoking and slavery), while other abnormal taboos may become commonplace and accepted equally quickly (e.g. women having the vote, abortion, homosexuality). These can happen for good or ill (the abolition of slavery being the greatest victory for freedom in the history of mankind, while in my opinion the legalisation of abortion constitutes the biggest mass murder ever). For social conservatives who are interested in what kind of society we are going to live in the future, we need to study these changes, and see (and hope) we can replicate them in areas where we want to see changes. For instance, wouldn’t it be great if sex outside marriage, and alcohol abuse, made people social outcasts and were rare, instead of being the norm. And wouldn’t it be great if we had laws that protected the right to life of the unborn, and abortionists seen as the evil mass murderers that they are, like nazi war crinimals. I know that my views on abortion are very controversial, but the fact that abortion is legal, accepted in society, and most people think it is right, doesn’t make it okay, any more than the fact slavery was once legal, accepted in society as morally right by most people as morally right, made it okay. Although I concede that such changes are unlikely to happen in the forseeable future, we can learn from the examples of smoking and homosexuality that big changes can happen to society, faster and more completely than anyone expects.