A Christian pastor convicted of committing a ‘hate crime’ because of his views on homosexuality has been exonerated by a judge in Alberta, Canada.
Stephen Boissoin was brought before Alberta’s Human Rights and Citizenship Commission after sending a letter to a local newspaper in 2002 in which he criticised homosexual practice.
The Commission ruled that the letter broke provincial law and banned Mr Boissoin from publicly expressing his views on homosexuality for the rest of his life.
He was also fined $7,000 in damages and ordered to issue a public apology to Darren Lund, the homosexual activist who made the claim against him.
However, last week Justice Earl Wilson overturned the ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, and declared that Mr Boissoin’s letter did not constitute a hate crime.
He said: “The language does not go so far as to fall within the prohibited status of ‘hate’ or ‘contempt'”.
Justice Wilson ruled that Lori Andreachuk, the chair of the 2007 human rights panel, had made many errors in her ruling and had no power to impose a speech ban on Mr Boissoin.
Mr Boissoin hailed the decision as a victory for “freedom of speech and religious expression in Canada”.
In the letter Mr Boissoin expressed his view that a ‘gay rights’ agenda was influencing the school curriculum, warning: “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.”
While Justice Wilson’s ruling will limit the application of Alberta’s hate speech laws, free speech campaigners have warned that the law is still in effect.
John Carpay from the advocacy group Canadian Constitution Foundation, said: “I am pleased that the Human Rights Panel Order against Reverend Boissoin has been overturned.”
“Unfortunately, the law that was used against Reverend Boissoin to subject him to expensive and stressful legal proceedings for more than seven years, is still on the books”.
Last month the British Government backed down over its attempts to remove an important free speech protection underlining the fact that criticising homosexual conduct or encouraging people to refrain from such conduct is not, in itself, a crime.