Pastor Boissoin vs. Goliath
by Mark Penninga (first published in Reformed Perspective Magazine, July/Aug 2008)
Most of us know the Biblical story of David and Goliath very well. It is a story of courage, strength, and justice. Most of all, it is a story of how God used David, a shepherd boy, to defeat the giant Goliath.
We are in our own David and Goliath situation today with Christians throughout the country being stomped on by Canada’s human rights commissions (HRC’s). Alberta Pastor Stephen Boissoin is one example – and his story needs to be told. His ordeal with the Alberta HRC forces us to question how we will respond. Are we going to be like the men of Israel who shook in their boots whenever Goliath came out to challenge them? Even worse, will we just shrug our shoulders and not care? Or will we be like David, who courageously fought back with the Lord’s strength because he realized it was God’s Name that was being dishonoured?
If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard at least a bit about two high profile cases involving Western Standard magazine publisher Ezra Levant and Maclean’s columnist Mark Steyn. These two were hauled off to human rights commissions because of things they had published and written.
But while these two journalists have gotten most of the media attention there are many lesser-known cases involving people who do not have a lot of money or a media empire behind them to help fight their case. Canada’s HRC’s have been carrying out their persecution for years and few people seemed to care. I know of at least two cases involving businessmen from Reformed churches in Canada who have been hauled before these commissions for refusing to do work which was not in keeping with their faith.
Before explaining Pastor Boissoin’s case, it is helpful to know a few things about the Human Rights Commissions. Long time Calgary newspaperman Nigel Hanniford’s has written a policy paper entitled “the Commission of Human Wrongs.” In it he explains that the commissions were established across the country in the 1960’s and 1970’s “to provide quick, inexpensive remedies outside of the regular court system for victims of discrimination in the areas of employment and accommodation.” But by the 1980’s the commissions began to be used by activists as an easy tool for censorship. The reason why these commissions are so effective in the hands of these activists is because they do not follow the standard proceedings of justice. Here are some examples of how HRC’s are open to exploitation:
· – If a case is accepted, the complainant does not have to pay any of the costs, even if they lose the case. On the other hand, the defendant must cover all of their own legal expenses, even if they win. Therefore, simply being brought before a HRC is a penalty, even if you are not guilty.
· – It doesn’t matter if any harm actually occurs. It’s enough that something is likely to occur, regardless of whether it ever does.
· – Regular legal defences of truth, fair comment, and lack of intent to harm don’t apply in the HRC’s. In other words, you can be convicted for simply saying the truth, and nothing but the truth, if someone finds that truth offensive.
· – The regular rules of evidence that apply in courts are lax and even neglected completely. For example, when I attended the BC Human Rights Commission trial involving Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine, the “prosecutor” was allowed to use quotes from Internet bloggers as evidence against Steyn. How can anybody defend themselves against every random thing some person might blog about them?
· – Pastor Boissoin has also reported that at least one HRC (Alberta) is also in a conflict of interest because it hands out grants to groups that it thinks promote equality and diversity (including Alberta Parents Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). And they claim to be impartial and objective?
Pastor Boissoin’s case
Stephen Boissoin lives in Red Deer, Alberta. He is the director of a Christian drop-in centre for youth in the city. Back in 2002, in the midst of the public debate about the definition of marriage, Boissoin wrote a letter to the Red Deer Advocate in which he argued that there is a “militant homosexual agenda” to teach children that same-sex acts are “normal, natural and even productive.”
One of the readers of this letter was offended. Darren Lund, who was then a local school teacher and is now a University of Calgary professor, filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission (HRC), arguing that Boissoin’s letter was “hate-mongering.” He also claimed that the letter to the editor led to an assault on a homosexual youth that happened two weeks later.
Given the points made about the HRC proceedings it was not too much of a surprise that Pastor Boissoin was found guilty by the Alberta HRC. The weak standard of justice meant that Boissoin could not do much to defend himself. A regular court could have considered how Boissoin actually lived a life that was very respectful of everyone. As a Today’s Family News story reported, the young people who attend Boissoin’s drop in centre strongly defended his character. “Over half the kids here are gay or bisexual – for a fact – and Steve has never said, ‘You can’t come in.’ He treats everyone equally, blind, deaf, black, gay,” Maggie, a 17-year-old volunteer who calls herself ‘very gay,’ told the Herald.” A regular court would have also thrown out the argument that this letter led to an assault on a homosexual youth. The only evidence that Lund gave for that was that the victim of the assault claimed to have read the letter and felt unsafe. It did not matter whether the actual assailant was motivated, or even read, the letter by Boissoin.
Feelings were enough to subject Boissoin to a lengthy trial and huge expenses. But that was not the end of it. On May 30 of this year, he was given his fine. He has to pay $7,000 (including $5,000 to Lund, for the “ridicule and harassment” he endured), write a letter of apology, and he was ordered to never again publish “disparaging remarks” about homosexuals in “newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet.” In other words, this pastor is not allowed to preach what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Thankfully, Boissoin is not backing down. He is appealing the decision and rallying support for his cause. He is an example to us all that being persecuted for standing up for our faith is not something to become angry or cynical about. In an article on his website he writes “As hard as this persecution has been I publicly praise God for giving me the convictions that put me in this troubling position. I would rather be here and suffering tenfold worse than to be one that does not know or trust in Him!!!” Pastor Boissoin has his own website where you can find out more: www.stephenboissoin.com.
What can be done?
When David saw Goliath spewing out his insults against God and the Israelites, he decided to do something about it. Even the reprimand of his older brother didn’t stop him. He was willing to take on Goliath, even if it meant his own death.
I’m not claiming that Canada’s human rights commissions should be attacked – we rightly believe that we must respect our authorities. The HRC’s may not be legitimate bodies, but it is the responsibility of our federal and provincial governments to address this. But, like David, we can’t stand on the sideline like everybody else. We must respond, keeping in mind that we must be respectful.
So what exactly can we do? Here are some suggestions:
Action suggestions for “Those who just don’t have any time”
1) Pray – All Christians must have time to pray. Bring these HRC’s before God in prayer. Pray also for courage for our leaders, that they will be willing to take steps to address the commissions.
2) Get informed – if you don’t know much about these cases, it would be a good idea to question the information sources you rely on to stay informed. How much of your news is coming in through the secular channels? If you don’t have much time, consider cutting out some of your time in front of the TV and replacing that time with some good news sources. One way to stay informed is to subscribe to ARPA Canada’s free e-newsletter. It comes out every two weeks with news and action suggestions. Just go to www.arpacanada.ca to sign up.
3) If you have been blessed with more finances than you need, send a cheque to some of the Christians or others who are currently facing charges and have to pay their own legal bills (though do make sure that your money is going to a properly administered account). These people need a lot of money to fight their cases. Website addresses for some of these cases are included in the sidebar article “” that accompanies this piece. They include contact information or the ability to donate online. If you don’t have access to the web, phone us toll free at 1-866-691-ARPA (2772) for the same information.
Action suggestions for those who do have more time
1) Do the above steps, but also write a letter or make a phone call to both your provincial and federal elected representatives (since HRC’s are both provincial and federal), calling for changes to the HRC’s or even their disbandment. There is currently a motion before the House of Commons to look into the HRC’s. Encourage them to act on this quickly.
2) Get involved with a local ARPA group or encourage other people around you to get involved on this issue.
3) Draw more attention to the abuses in the HRC’s by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
4) Do some of the actions suggestions that are available on the ARPA Canada website (www.arpacanada.ca) and e-Luminary newsletter.
Other recent HRC cases
Mr. Nichols, a 71 year old Saskatchewan marriage commissioner, has been fined $2,500 for refusing to conduct a marriage ceremony for a homosexual couple. Mr. Nichols was charged and found guilty despite the fact that he referred the couple to a different commissioner who was willing to perform the ceremony. He recently requested funds to help him appeal this decision. On June 18 he filed an appeal. To find out more, and how to support Mr. Nichols go to www.orvillenichols.com.
Christian Horizons is an evangelical Christian organization that provides homes to thousands of disabled people in Ontario. They required that their employees sign a contract in which employees promised to uphold a number of lifestyle requirements, including refraining from sex outside of a heterosexual marriage. One employee entered into a lesbian relationship and consequently was approached by her employer because of this violation of her contract. After leaving her job, she took her case to the Ontario HRC. This spring, the OHRC ruled that Christian Horizons must not only pay a fine plus lost wages, they also have to put all of their employees through a training session to teach them to be open to alternative lifestyles. In addition, they have to get rid of their lifestyle requirement contract.
Christian Horizons is only appealing part of the ruling and has agreed to no longer require employees to sign a lifestyle contract.
Catholic Insight magazine
The magazine Catholic Insight is currently facing a charge from the Canadian HRC as a result of a complaint from homosexual activist Rob Wells. His complaint consists of snippets of quotes taken from the magazine over the past 14 years. The magazine has pointed out that most of these quotes have been taken completely out of context.
Though they received notice on July 4 that their case had been dropped they have already had to spend $20,000 defending themselves and neither the court, nor Rob Wells will pay for any of those costs. .
Christian Heritage Party
Rob Wells (see the previous case) has also launched a complaint against both the CHP and its leader Ron Gray. Like the other cases, this one involves articles dealing with the topic of homosexuality. It remains unclear how a HRC can even take a political party to trial.
Go to the ARPA Canada website (www.arpacanada.ca – click on Issues and Research> Justice and Freedom) for an excellent video interview with Ron Gray on this case. Go to www.chp.ca and click on the link for “A Crucial Case for all Canadians” to find out how to donate to his defense fund.