A judge found New Westminster erred in cancelling a contract with a church to rent ballroom space because one of the event’s facilitators was an anti-LGBTQ advocate

A city violated the free expression of a church when it cancelled an event because of the participation of an anti-LGBTQ activist, according to a decision by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

In a ruling that came down in support of free speech, Justice Maria Morellato said, “In a free and democratic society, the exchange and expression of diverse and often controversial or unpopular ideas may cause discomfort.  It is, in a sense, the price we pay for our freedom.”

The decision comes as the federal Liberal government has proposed a new law, Bill C-36, which would bring back a civil remedy for hate speech complaints and would include a new definition of hate speech in legislation, based on previous court decisions.

Experts have pointed out that courts define hate speech narrowly, meaning that much of what might be considered as such by the average Canadian doesn’t qualify as hate speech under the law – instead falling into the so-called “awful but lawful” category. For instance, courts have said advocating for the lessening of rights of certain groups doesn’t fall into the category of hate speech.

The judge found the City of New Westminster erred in cancelling a contract with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, also known as Grace Chapel, to rent ballroom space for a Christian youth conference. The city canceled the booking because of one complaint that one of the event’s facilitators, Kari Simpson, was an anti-LGBTQ advocate.

The judge said the city should have done more to look into the content of the youth conference itself, and the views of the speakers, before cancelling.

“I am very aware that the City was attempting to protect LGBTQ rights when it made its decision to cancel the Youth Conference.  This is laudable and such minority rights must be considered,” the judge said.

“Yet, an important step in the City’s decision making process was missed.  The City did not reach an informed conclusion; rather, it proceeded to make its decision on the basis of assumptions about the Youth Conference and what it would involve.  It based its assumptions about the content of that conference solely on one of the facilitator’s ostensible views without considering what would actually be expressed at the Youth Conference.”

Simpson runs the group Culture Guard, and has been an activist for decades. Simpson’s campaign against books depicting gay couples being available in schools led to a defamation suit that ended in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2008. The court decision described her as “a widely known social activist opposed to any positive portrayal of a gay lifestyle.” In recent years Simpson has been campaigning against an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in B.C. schools.

Read full article here.

Anja Karadeglija – National Post – 2021-07-21.

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