Bible Citations Add Up to Hate Speech, Panel Says
Christian Ordered to Pay Activists Over Newspaper
SASKATOON, Saskatchewan, JULY 13, 2001 (Zenit.org).- What do Romans 1,
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 have in common?
References to them can be "hate speech," says the Canadian province of
Saskatchewan's Human Rights Commission.
In a ruling last month, the commission ordered both the Saskatoon
StarPhoenix newspaper and Hugh Owens of Regina to pay $1,500 to three
homosexual activists for publishing an advertisement with the references to
four biblical verses condemning homosexuality, the National Catholic
The ruling also bars Owens from "further publishing or displaying the bumper
stickers" upon which his newspaper advertisement was based, according to the
On June 30, 1997, Owens placed an advertisement in the StarPhoenix, on the
occasion of Saskatoon's Homosexual Pride Week. His ad listed four Bible
references followed by an equal sign and the universal prohibition sign -- a
circle with a slash -- containing two stick-men holding hands.
In its decision against Owens and the StarPhoenix, the human rights
commission judged that, "while the stick-figures are more neutral," it is
the "combination of the prohibition symbol with the Bible passages that
exposes homosexuals to hatred."
The three homosexual activists had filed a complaint with the human rights
commission, noting that provincial and federal human rights codes both
include "sexual orientation" as a protected category.
The commission ruled that the provincial human rights code can place
"reasonable restriction" on Owen's religious expression, since the
advertisement exposed the complainants "to hatred, ridicule, and their
dignity was affronted on the basis of their sexual orientation."
Father Paul Donlevy, vicar general for the Diocese of Saskatoon, testified
before the panel that the Catholic Church understands sexual orientation may
not be chosen, but nevertheless "every person is called to holiness ... and
homosexuals are called to the same sexual morality as any other unmarried
He told the Register: "I certainly hope this decision is appealed. It's a
great concern that simply referring to biblical scriptures can be called
hate speech. Soon, we'll be so politically correct, we won't be able to
Homosexual litigant Gens Hellquist said he was pleased with the tribunal's
decision. "There are standards for what's fair comment regarding Jews and
racial minorities," he said, "and now the commission has set standards on
fair comment regarding homosexuals."
Hellquist added: "Owens' agenda is really scary. He didn't say it in so many
words, but he really believes that judges should put homosexuals to death."
For his part, Owens, 50, an evangelical Christian and career corrections
officer, says he placed the newspaper advertisement as "a Christian
response" to Homosexual Pride Week.
"I put the biblical references, but not the actual verses, so the ad would
become interactive," he said. "I figured somebody would have to look them up
in the Bible first, or if they didn't have a Bible, they'd have to find
Owens denies that, as a Christian, he wants homosexuals put to death, as
some inferred from the biblical passages. But he does believe that "eternal
salvation is at stake," both for those engaging in homosexual acts and for
himself, if he fails to inform them about "what God says about their
Owens believes his case is clearly a collision between religious freedom and
sexual orientation rights. He is planning to appeal the decision, and thinks
his case may end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.