21-June-2001 -- Catholic World News Brief |

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SASKATOON, Canada, Jun 20, 01 (CWNews.com/LSN.ca) - The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (HRC) has ordered both the Saskatoon StarPhoenix newspaper and Hugh Owens of Regina to pay C$1,500 to three homosexual activists for publishing an ad in the Saskatoon newspaper quoting Bible verses regarding homosexuality.

The ruling issued Friday by the sole adjudicator, feminist lawyer Valerie Watson, also prohibits Hugh Owens, who purchased the ad, from "further publishing or displaying the bumper stickers submitted in evidence in a newspaper or any other medium," and prohibits The StarPhoenix from accepting the ad for any future publications.

On June 30, 1997, Owens placed the ad in the StarPhoenix to coincide with Gay Pride Week. His intention, as a committed Christian, was to draw people's attention to the Biblical teachings on homosexuality. The ad gave four Bible passages from Romans, Leviticus, and First Corinthians, which condemn homosexuality. The list was followed by a mathematical equal sign, which was followed by two stick-figure men holding hands. This drawing was contained within the universal prohibition symbol (circle with a slash across it). Viewed in its entirety, the purpose of the ad was to indicate that the Bible says no to homosexual behavior.

Homosexual activists Jeff Dodds, Jason Roy, and Gens Hellquist, submitted complaints to the Saskatchewan HRC while Catholic, Lutheran, and Jewish religious leaders testified on behalf of Owens' religious freedom. Meanwhile a witness on behalf of the complainants, the Rev. Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (who recently attempted to "marry" homosexuals thus sidestepping legal boundaries), said the Bible did not condemn homosexuality and called Catholicism and Judaism, "extreme," and said that fundamentalists were "satanic."

In the ruling, Watson conceded, "There is no question that Mr. Owens believed that he was publicly expressing his honestly held religious belief as it related to his interpretation of the Bible and its discussion of homosexuality." However, she also ruled the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code issues a "reasonable restriction on Mr. Owens' right to freedom of expression" since she determined that as a result of the ad the complainants "were exposed to hatred, ridicule, and their dignity was affronted on the basis of their sexual orientation."

Commenting on the case during the hearings, University of Western Ontario law professor Ian Hunter wrote, "If Mr. Owens cannot express his opinions through a paid ad in the StarPhoenix, can he express them from a street corner soapbox? From the pulpit of a church? Should he get himself elected, in the House of Commons? Do we have the right to express anti-consensus views anywhere in Canada?"

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