Letters, We Get Letters...
Hey kids! I’m a tad overworked today, but that shall not stop me from answering some reader mail! (Gee, I hope no one notices the re-used illustration.)
Slap reader Michelle writes in regarding last month’s post about a human rights case underway in Alberta:
You state “This is not a gay rights case, let alone a â€œpivotalâ€ one.” … I must disagree with you.
This case is very much about the rights of all sexual minorities to not be subjected to the kind of abuse that Boissoin called for in his letter. The christianist right wing has chosen to actively claim that their right to spew crap about GLBT people supercedes the rights of GLBT people to live peaceful, lawful lives.
While Egale may have chosen to “stick its head in the sand” on this one, it remains very much a valid issue of the rights of sexual minorities not to be harassed by the religious inciting others to violence against “the immoral”.
Thanks for writing, Michelle. It’s a tricky case, all right! And, admittedly, I have conflicting thoughts about the whole thing.
For the record, I agree with Canada’s hate speech laws in that inciting hatred and violence toward identifiable minorities should not be considered free speech. I think this is consistent with laws against personal and corporate defamation.
That said, Boissoin’s letter is up for interpretation, and I think it’s dangerous to declare sufficiently vague speech as being illegal hate speech. Freedom of speech means that sometimes we have to hear things that we don’t agree with—and that goes for everybody. The author wants to outrage the gay community and, in his eyes, prove that we are out to stifle religious expression. Frankly, I don’t take this sort of strategy seriously.
I’m not qualified enough to know whether or not the letter should be classified as hate speech, but hasn’t the overall reaction been wonderful? The attention the letter has received shows that the public is willing to arbitrate what’s acceptable, and the resulting human rights case shows that we will not leave attempts to push the limit unchecked. It’s really encouraging!