Thursday, December 27, 2007

BC Catholic: There IS someone left to speak out




There IS someone left to speak out

By Paul Schratz

For years Canada's human rights commissions and tribunals have been relentlessly taking on those foolhardy enough to stand in the way of politically correct behaviour.

Dare criticize homosexual behaviour? Bang goes the gavel: guilty of hatred.

Object to your church hall being used for a lesbian wedding reception? Bang, you're guilty of hurting people's feelings.

On and on the list has grown over the years, with human rights tribunals ushering in homosexual education in schools, ordering a printer to produce material for an organization he is morally opposed to, and yet interestingly refusing to go to bat for individuals whose consciences are being tested.

Pastor Martin Niemoller's often-quoted poem They Came for Me comes to mind. The poem is about how totalitarian forces target one group after another until no one is left to speak out. It seems particularly appropriate upon hearing of the latest targets of the human rights police, because they're as diverse as they come.

First, human rights complaints have been brought against the Christian Heritage Party, one of its electoral district associations, and its leader Ron Gray because of articles on homosexuality that the party posted on its web site.

Two of the complaints are about a story titled "Report: Pedophilia more common among `gays.'" The other is for commentaries by Gray in which he compared the lack of debate on homosexuality in Canada to the Cone of Silence in the old TV comedy Get Smart.

(The Cone of Silence was a device that was supposed to help individuals talk securely but usually rendered them unable to hear each other.)

The complaints received absolutely no media attention, which was to be expected. Interestingly, however, within days of the news that the party was being taken to the tribunal, Mohammed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress launched human rights complaints against Macleans magazine for publishing "flagrantly anti-Muslim" remarks.

The magazine ran an excerpt from conservative columnist Mark Steyn's bestselling book American Alone in which he raised alarms about the rise in government sponsored censorship in Canada, especially against Christians.

Complaints have been lodged with the Canadian, British Columbia, and Ontario Human Rights Commissions. The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the B. C. Human Rights Commission have both agreed to hear the complaints, while Ontario's has been considering it.

So far the long arm of the tribunals, where allegations don't require the financial investment or the standard of evidence that would be required in a court of law, has been extensive, to the point of ordering a couple to close their B and B because they didn't want unrelated men sleeping together in their home. Frankly, until now the media have been indifferent, even when anti-Muslim complaints were lodged against the conservative and now defunct news magazine The Western Standard.

However, with the targeting of Macleans, the alarming power of the tribunals and commissions has captured the mass media's attention. Now that a member of the mainstream media is threatened, the story is being reported around the world.

Canadian Catholic News reporter Deborah Gyapong interviewed former B.C. lawyer Iain Benson, who now specializes in religious freedom issues. He called such charges "dangerous," saying "a free and democratic society must allow the maximum freedom of speech and the press, particularly on matters such as the nature and extent of Islam in Canada, just like the nature and extent of atheism or Catholicism in Canada."

With the outcry over the Macleans complaint, it may be a case of better late than never. Perhaps there will still be someone to speak out after all.