Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What kind of man are you? What are you going to do?

What part of 'freedom of speech' don't the Edmonton police and municipal government understand? I'd expect this kind of thing in Toronto or Vancouver, but less so even "Redmonton"... Two thousand leaflets attacking gays and lesbians have put a Christian activist in western Canada under investigation by Edmonton police for hate crimes. The flyers by Bill Whatcott of Regina refer to gay marriage as "sodomite marriage" and use graphic language to describe the alleged sex practices of homosexuals. [...] "The material is offensive and it's an affront on the basic tenets of our society, which is about multiculturalism, tolerance and peaceful co-existence," Const. Steve Camp, of the Edmonton police hate crimes unit, said. The Pride Centre of Edmonton said it would take the case to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission if no criminal charges arise from the police investigation. I have a big problem with this being investigated as a "hate crime." Were any direct threats made? Do the flyers contain anything beyond disgusting, incoherent rhetoric? Being offensive isn't a moral or ethical wrong, and it certainly shouldn't be (absent any compounding criminal acts) criminal. Also improper (and rather scary) is the stated vendetta against Whatcott - if he hasn't actually committed a crime, he's to be brought before a virtual Court of Star Chamber regardless. Hey, why aren't actual criminals treated with double jeopardy provisions like this? If they can't be convicted in court, string them up on vague charges of having caused "offense to society" with their theft, assault, murder, etc. being threats to "tolerance and peaceful co-existence!" It's win-win! Last month, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal fined Whatcott $17,500 for handing out similar material. [...] But he says he won't stop because he has a right to free speech. He told opponents: "Tough, you live in a democracy." If only that were true. Yes, he's appalling. But forbidding him to speak his mind - ugly and bigoted though it is - only means we couldn't be sure he's appalling. There is (or should be) no right not to be offended. What's so hard about merely letting Whatcott discredit himself with hateful bombasticism?

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