By Jonathon Van Maren
As the Trudeau government moves forward on Bill C-6—the so-called “conversion therapy ban”—with support from many members of the Conservative caucus, one of the primary progressive tactics is once again on full display. While critics point out that this bill could theoretically jail parents for speaking with their children about unwanted same-sex attraction and the many other ways this legislation restricts freedom of speech, supporters insist that this is all fearmongering (while refusing to amend the legislation to alleviate those fears.) We are seeing an example of what Rod Dreher calls “The Law of Merited Impossibility”: It won’t happen, and when it does, you bigots deserve it.
Those who believe the “conversion therapy ban” is not the first step towards greater restrictions on freedom of speech for Christians are not watching what is taking place across the West. Last week, for example, The Times reported that in Scotland, “Activists who promote the view that a trans woman is not a woman will be breaking the law if a court rules their campaign was intended to stir up hatred, the justice secretary has confirmed.”
Scotland’s justice minister Humza Yousaf is resisting calls to add a “dwelling defence” in the hate crime legislation currently being redrafted and expanded, which would mean that those accused of “hate crimes” would avoid prosecution if they committed the alleged offence in their own home. Yousaf responded by insisting that people will not be “hauled in front of a court or thrown in jail” for saying what might be considered “offensive views” on LGBT issues and others, but added:
“But if it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that your behaviour was threatening or abusive and it can be proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that you intended to stir up hatred, then you will be prosecuted. And it’s not, for me, a defence that simply because this happened in your home, where you might have 10 people, 15 people… you might have a mansion and have 50 people round, and you’re stirring up that kind of hatred. That to me is not an adequate defence.”
In short, as the definition of hate and thus the definition of a hate crime changes, the definition of “stirring up hatred” will inevitably follow. At that point, stating your view that a biological man is not a woman in your own home could result in your being subject to prosecution. Again, just as in the case of Canada’s Bill C-6, the government has had ample time to respond to the concerns of critics by amending the legislation. They are refusing—because they want an expansive view of hate crimes and the maximum ability to prosecute in the future.
The same thing is happening in Norway. According to Out Magazine: “Norway Has Made Biphobic, Transphobic Speech Illegal.” The Norwegian government recently “expanded its penal code that previously only protected lesbian and gay people from hate speech to include gender identify and all forms of ‘sexual orientation’…The penal code states that those who are guilty of hate speech face a fine or up to a year in jail for private comments, and a maximum of three years in jail for public remarks.”
Again, we see that private remarks—inside homes or churches, for example—are specifically prosecutable. Out Magazine did cite one critic of the legislation—Anine Kierulf, an assistant professor of law at the University of Oslo—but Kierulf was upset that the law didn’t go far enough and complained that prosecuting bigots should be easier. “There are a lot of very hateful things you can say about the protected groups,” she said. If folks like Kierulf get their way, any sermon or homily detailing the biblical position on sexual morality will put folks behind bars or churches out of business.
Even to many Christians in Canada and elsewhere, mentioning the possibility of prosecution for expressing Christian truths seems to be fearmongering. We have lived in peace for so long that the idea of something so totalitarian taking place seems surreal. But ask yourself this: If our governments did not want at least the option to prosecute—and LGBT groups certainly do—why do they refuse to amend the legislation to respond to concerns? Why are they leaving the option on the table? I think we know the answer to that, and we already see the consequences unfolding in other nations. Finnish politician Päivi Räsänen, a former cabinet minister whom I’ve interviewed twice, has been interviewed by police several times already for simply stating the biblical view of sexuality in public.
That could happen here, too.
To take action, check out ARPA Canada’s recommendations here.