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Prisoner of conscience.

Readers of Catholic Insight should beware: Anyone who steadfastly upholds the historic and true teaching of the Christian church on the grave depravity of homosexual acts could soon end up in jail as a prisoner of conscience.

Scott Brockie is well aware of the danger. He is the Toronto print shop owner who ran afoul of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for refusing to print materials for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. As an Evangelical Protestant, Brockie wishes the best for all people, including homosexuals, but simply cannot in good conscience print materials for any gay-rights organization.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal accepted that Brockie's religious convictions are honestly held, but found that his right to freedom of religion in this case was trumped by the right of homosexuals to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On this basis, the Tribunal directed Brockie to provide lesbians, gays and their organizations with the same printing services that he offers to other clients, and ordered him to pay Ray Brillinger, a former president of the Archives, $5,000 in "damages" for having unlawfully refused his print order.

Brockie appealed this decision, and lost. In a unanimous ruling on June 17, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the Tribunal ruling against him, subject only to the qualification that he can refuse to print materials for homosexuals that "could reasonably be considered to be in direct conflict with the core elements of (his) religious beliefs."

For Brockie, printing anything for the Archives would violate core elements of his religious beliefs. He feels the same way about the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League. What's next? Will some court contrive to find some pretence under the Charter for a ruling that a faithful Christian has no right to refuse a print order from an organization dedicated to destroying innocent human life?

As it is, Brockie has conceded defeat in the Archives case. Who can blame him? By standing firm and refusing to pay Brillinger $5,000 in damages, Brockie could have been found guilty of contempt of court and consigned to jail. And there he could have remained so long as he refused to obey the court's unjust order.

Anyone who thinks conscientious printers should defy the courts, by refusing to print letterheads for the Archives, the Toronto Leather/SM/Fetish Coming Out Group, or any other gay rights organization should beware of saying so in print. Under terms of section 13(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code, it's an offence to publish or display before the public any notice that incites someone to infringe the right of anyone not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or any of 14 other grounds.

Granted, subsection 2 of section 13 provides that "Subsection (1) shall not interfere with freedom of expression of opinion." But that means nothing. A similar provision in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code did not stop a tribunal in that province from ordering another Evangelical Protestant--Hugh Owens--to pay $4,500 in damages to three gay men who were offended by an advertisement he took out in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that contained a pictograph of two men holding hands superimposed with a circle and slash--the symbol of something forbidden--as well as a list of Bible verses condemning the practice of homosexuality.

Owens is appealing this ruling. If he loses, he, too, could end up in jail as a prisoner of conscience, unless he is willing to pay damages to gays for expressing his Christian convictions on the sinfulness of sodomy.

The same fate threatens all Canadians who uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality: anyone who so much as prints or publishes a statement opposing gay marriage now runs the risk of harassment by Canada's human rights police and their enforcers in the courts.

Ultimately, though, it's our cynical and craven politicians who are responsible for this travesty of justice. It's they who are allowing our masters in the courts to invoke Canada's so-called human rights codes and the misconceived Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a pretence for trampling upon the basic principles of freedom under law.

Rory Leishman lives in London, ON. His column appears every other issue.
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Author:Leishman, Rory
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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