April 30, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CANADIAN BIBLE SOCIETY EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER PASSAGE OF C-250
TORONTO The controversial Bill C-250 was passed 59-11 (with three abstentions) by the Senate on Wednesday, a disturbing conclusion for the Canadian Bible Society and for the many Canadians holding orthodox views of the teachings of the Christian Scriptures.
Passage of the bill amends section 318 of the Criminal Code to include "sexual orientation" in the list of identifiable groups protected against those who would "advocate or promote genocide." These identifiable groups are also protected under section 319, which makes it a criminal offence to utter public statements that "wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group."
The Canadian Bible Society views putting an end to hatred and hate speech as a worthy objective, but remains concerned that ambiguities in the wording of C-250 could lead to a conflict of competing Charter rights and thus could be used to silence reasonable debate and the traditional teachings of the Bible and the Church by making the expression of moral disapproval of certain forms of sexual activity a criminal offence.
Biblical texts have some defence under the bill. Charges cannot be laid under Section 318 without the consent of the Attorney General, and an amendment to the bill in the House of Commons added a defence for good faith arguments expressed "based on a belief in a religious text." While these assurances are welcome, they do not go far enough to guarantee that Biblical texts and statements made based on Scripture will be exempt for all time. Religious freedom would have been better served by a clear exemption for religious texts and instruction. A clear definition of criminal hatred would also have been in order to ensure that one group's rights do not supersede another's.
"We don't know yet how this law will be used and interpreted by the courts," says Phyllis Nesbitt, National Director of the Bible Society, "hopefully our concerns will prove unfounded. In the meanwhile, the Society exhorts Canadians to pray that law enforcement and government officials will ensure that the law is not abused, and to continue to hold up the Bible and its teachings as authoritative and worthy of reference and application in our daily lives."
The mission of the Canadian Bible Society is to translate, publish, and distribute the Bible in the languages of the world, and to encourage its use.