William Whatscott of Saskatoon is a homophobe.  He believes that homosexuals are “sodomites” who spread filth and disease. He says his beliefs are rooted in religion because the Bible preaches that homosexuals are full of “sin and depravity.”  Whatscott was branded a human-rights violator and fined $17,500. On appeal his case is now before the Supreme Court.  The court will have to decide whether free speech trumps anti-hate legislation.

This is a tricky business.  It means judges and human rights bureaucrats  have to decide to decide whether speech is merely offensive and speech that’s downright hateful.

If we are determined to ban speech that is truly hateful, then why not staqrt with the Bible and the Koran?  Our holy books are laced with homophobia, intolerance, anti-Semitism, enthnic cleansing and wife-beating.

If we need a law to protect us from idiots and bigots and hate-mongerers, then who will protect us from the law itself?  To whom shall we award the job of deciding which speech is harmful and which is not, which speech the public will be allowed to hear and which speech it will not?  Hate-speech laws are a double-edged sword.  And the sword we use against those who offend us might some day be turned back on us.

This whole case would be a non-issue in the United States.  Calling homosexuals “sodomites” is protected by the First Amendment.

Should free speech trump hate laws?

What do you think?


  1. 1
    SUZANNE Says:

    To answer your headline: yes.

    In fact, there shouldn’t be hate laws.

  2. 2
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Suzanne, are you intimating that free speech is an absolute right, that it should be ok to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre or to write and preach that Jews are “Christ-killers”. Surely not.

  3. 3
    Jim Says:

    There is a difference in between someone making a hate comment and someone making a hate speech, My criterion is that if the person is telling the truth, leave them alone. However if they are promoting hate or discrimination thru comments or speeches which are untrue or ambiguous, nail them. The operative word here is ‘promoting’. The great Patrick Moynahan once made a remark to the effect that ‘Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts’. For Pete’s sake do not bring in any U.S. ways of thinking. They think that Sodomites are people who eat too much salt.

  4. 4
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Neil writes:

    “This whole case would be a non-issue in the United States. Calling homosexuals ‘sodomites’ is protected by the First Amendment.”

    …and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms is anything but. The culprit is the very first section, the “reasonable limit” clause, which is used by the courts to curtail rights way beyond the “you can’t shout ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre” type of reasonable limit.

  5. 5
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Alan Dershowitz once said something to the effect: “I like my anti-Semitism out in the open where I can combat it.” Outlawing hate speech drives it underground where it’s difficult to deal with and where it has the opportunity to fester.

  6. 6

    In the States , it seems that the broadcasters are self-regulating- Dr. Laura, Howard Stern dumped for using derogatory terms for blacks. Whether their dismissal was a loss is another matter,but people are very careful of what they say in public.

    The goal should be to protect people`s safety,not their feelings. Of course,by constantly demeaning others,it becomes easier to launch pogroms against them. Look at rawanda,or Egypt ,more recently.

    The problem is where universities consider anything they disagree with to be hate speech,and the bar is set very low. It takes a lot of care to make the distinctions,but the choice should be made.

    And Jim.. very good,very good.I`ll quote you.

  7. 7

    Free speech does not include a free ride for libel or slander, and that’s what homophobic speech is. Whatcott is a spreader of filth.

  8. 8
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Lady Janus,

    It’s true you do have a remedy in the courts (if you can afford them) but I certaainly don’t think censorship is the answer.

  9. 9

    I “HATE” this subject, because I can’t decide. I agree with all of you, but if I had to answer Neil’s question…???
    Imagine the judges of the Supreme Court trying to decide.

  10. 10

    Neil, I’m not an advocate of censorship, either. But, as you pointed out, yelling, “Fire!” in a theater is actionable by law. So should be incitement to hate. Take libel and slander out of the civil courts and put them in the law courts. Then let’s see how Whatnot spews…

  11. 11
    Jim Says:

    Neil gave us a list of some of the no-no’s in the Bible and the Koran but didn’t mention
    (which is O.K.) one more, which is – ‘he “knew” her’. Now, if one asks the Supreme Court to rule on the meaning of this phrase (may I interject here,that if we have a conservative court we might get a straight-laced ruling, whilst at another time, with a liberal court we might get more of a laissez-faire answer which might echo Trudeau’s retort when he said ‘the nation should stay out of its citizens’ bedrooms’ [or something like that], they would have to read the Bible to see if they could determine the intent of the author(s). Now, the problem is, is the Bible exoteric in form, and esoteric in content. In other words, everything that is written explicitly is also read tongue-in-cheek, wherein there is another meaning to the reading.. How would the Supreme Court interpret this duet “An eye for an eye” and “Turn the other cheek”. On the whole, are these statements to be looked at as condemnable ambiguities? Would the judges’ ruling be highly prized by an additional meaning and now the ambiguity has been erased to be replaced by another deeper meaning, so deep in fact that it cannot be assimilated in terms of precision and and observation. If a man shouts ‘fire’ in German in an English theatre in Montreal, and nobody moves of course, is he guilty of something, other than disturbing the peace?. What would happen to a Montrealer letting go in English?I hate the thought that I could end up in jait because the cop interpreted what I said one way and I meant it another way, such as “Officer, I knew her” (not in the Biblical sense). Officer “Your under arrest” (In the Biblical sense).

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