Peter LaBarbera, President of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, was invited to speak at the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association in Canada. LaBarbera holds to a firm Biblical view of homosexuality and marriage and, as you might expect, has many secular critics. That is perfectly fine in a free society.
As word of his invitation got out, some pro-homosexual groups complained. One group in particular, known as the “Intolerance Free Weyburn,” actually pressured the government to deny LaBarbera access to the country. Again, though inappropriate, they should be free to petition all they want.
The real problem came when the Canadian Border Services Agency actually followed their advice and detained LaBarbera at the Regina International Airport in Saskatchewan for alleged violations of Canada’s “Public incitement of hatred” law.
Section 319 of Canada’s Criminal Code says:
“Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years …”
According to LaBarbera, they searched his luggage, his computer, and even his cell phone.
Upon entry into Canadian Customs, all my belongings were searched, inc. my laptop + phone, to gather info for “Hate Propaganda” evidence
— Peter LaBarbera (@PeterLaBarbera) April 11, 2014
Everyone, including those sympathetic to “homosexual rights” should be against such gross violations of freedom of speech, conscience, and religious liberty. These concepts are not simply American; they are universal. These are the sort of liberties America’s Founders called “unalienable rights” in our Declaration of Independence and the reason why they were promptly codified in our Constitution. They belong to every person anywhere in the world.
Canada’s law even recognizes that to a certain extent. The law at issue has a religious exemption.
“No person shall be convicted … if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text …”
This is why LaBarbera was ultimately released to speak at the event.
But the damage was done. Don’t be fooled, the chilling effect of such intimidating tactics by the government cannot be overestimated. We all lose when any government feels big enough to intimidate citizens into silence and approval of what it considers appropriate thinking — even when that thinking is supported by the majority of citizens at the moment. It won’t always be so.
But the climate in Canada is such that this was not the end of the matter. LaBarbera ended up being arrested at the University of Regina for exercising his free speech. Yes, for the content of his speech, whatever trump charges they may end up citing.
Some in Canada are raising their voices against this gross violation of freedom, as should everyone in America. Sun News Network journalist Brian Lilley dedicated his “Byline” TV show to the issue:
Freedom — that is the topic of tonight’s “Byline.” I’m wondering what part of free speech the folks at the University of Regina not get? Or freedom of association or freedom of peaceful assembly? Late yesterday afternoon in Regina, two activists were arrested for simply speaking on the campus of that university. Bill Whatcott and Peter LaBarbera were arrested as they set up a display at the University of Regina and attempted to espouse their views about homosexuality. You can agree with those views, you can despise those views, it shouldn’t matter. These men should be allowed to speak. But they were not, they were shut down by campus security and Regina police as students cheered. Did they hit anyone? No. Did they threaten anyone? No. They were simply there with flyers and placers… Their message is the only reason they were picked up by police. Is this what we want in Canada, police arresting you for what you say? If you are thinking “yes, I don’t like what they have to say,” then ask yourself what will happen when they come for you?
The whole commentary is worth your time and is available below.
Let us learn from such violations of freedom and stand against them. We are seeing the beginnings of such violations in America. Just take a look at the recent story of ex-Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, and you’ll be able to see that we stand at a crossroads in our nation. May we always choose that “tempestuous sea of liberty” and stand for the First Amendment and for freedom, whatever the cost.
Mario Diaz, Esq. is Legal Counsel at Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization. Follow him @legalblurbblog.
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