Deborah Gyapong: January 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

MP Keith Martin scrum on freedom of speech

Welcome readers from The Corner and Little Green Footballs. Be sure to go here for a post that gives some good links to help you navigate the stories of the complaints against Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant. And you may find my one-sided conversation with the former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler interesting. And be sure to go on to FreeMarkSteyn for frequent updates on this snowballing debate. And Americans, don't think your freedoms are not at stake as well.

Liberal MP Keith Martin has introduced a private member's motion to axe controversial Section 13 from the Canadian Human Rights Act.

His motion reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be deleted from the Act.

He said he became interested in the threat to freedom of speech posed by this section of the Act because constituents made him aware. Ezra Levant blogged about this development today and calls it "huge."

Here's part of what he said today in a House of Commons foyer scrum: "Constituents of mine brought it up to me recently and they've shown me the legal implications of what's been going on. And I think the debate over freedom of speech must happen in our country and really I think it's fairly simple. We have hate crimes legislation thankfully in our country. If something is deemed to fall under hate crimes then it should go into a court, it should be dealt with through the courts and be dealt with accordingly. Anything else that is not deemed to be a hate crime people should be allowed to say whether you agree or vehemently oppose it. Thankfully, we have a country where we're allowed to speak our mind. "

I have video, but alas the file is too big to upload here or on YouTube. And I'm technically challenged.

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Bizarre column by Johann Hari

Independent columnist Johann Hari describes Mark Steyn as a racist in this interview with British writer Martin Amis. His comments, like the law students' complaints against Steyn's book America Alone, deliberately distort the book's contents. Steyn corrects Hari's errors here. (Scroll down a bit to find his letter to the editor. It's the second.)

Who is Johann Hari? A while back I came across this bizarre first person column in which he brags about seducing neo-Nazis and Islamic extremists. He despises their ideas, of course, he just finds them sexy....or something. Is this a case of Stockholm Syndrome? or what?

To me, it looks like the incarnation of appeasement. "If only I can make them like me, then they won't be so scary." His actions give new meaning to the old 60s slogans: "Make Love, Not War" and "Free Your Mind and Your Ass will Follow." Hari seems to be too young to be a Boomer. I guess maybe he's one of our Frankenstein spiritual children, carrying those stupid mottoes to extremes even the Flower Power Generation couldn't have dreamed of.

Perhaps his aim is to prove their "hypocrisy," which seems to be the greatest sin someone can practise. Unless you are Al Gore living in a mansion that needs as much electrical power as a small town.

Hari writes:

It sounds much worse if you state it bluntly. But, OK, I'll rip off the plaster here, now, at the start of the article: I slept with a neo-Nazi. And an Islamic fundamentalist. And, yes, technically, they both thought gay people should be killed. There? Happy now? Let me explain. Sometimes, as a journalist, I do undercover work (please, no gags).

How precious. Don't continue to read his true confessions if you are at all squeamish about TMI.

The Hari column reminds me of this great essay in First Things Magazine called The Revenge of the Conscience by J. Budziszewski.

Budziszewski writes:
Guilt, guilty knowledge, and guilty feelings are not the same thing; men and women can have the knowledge without the feelings, and they can have the feelings without the fact. Even when suppressed, however, the knowledge of guilt always produces certain objective needs, which make their own demand for satisfaction irrespective of the state of the feelings. These needs include confession, atonement, reconciliation, and justification.

Now when guilt is acknowledged, the guilty deed can be repented so that these four needs can be genuinely satisfied. But when the guilty knowledge is suppressed, they can only be displaced. That is what generates the impulse to further wrong. Taking the four needs one by one, let’s see how this happens.

The need to confess arises from transgression against what we know, at some level, to be truth. I have already commented on the tendency of accessories to suicide to write about their acts. Besides George Delury, who killed his wife, we may mention Timothy E. Quill, who prescribed lethal pills for his patient, and Andrew Solomon, who participated in the death of his mother. Solomon, for instance, writes in the New Yorker that "the act of speaking or writing about your involvement is, inevitably, a plea for absolution." Many readers will remember the full-page signature advertisements feminists took out in the early days of the abortion movement, telling the world that they had killed their own unborn children. At first it seems baffling that the sacrament of confession can be inverted to serve the ends of advocacy. Only by recognizing the power of suppressed conscience can this paradox be understood.

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Women who once had abortions stay Silent No More

When Stephanie DeJong of Port Hope, Ont., fell in love for the first time at 17, she had unprotected sex with her boyfriend and became pregnant. He told her to have an abortion.

"My whole life I wanted to be a mom," DeJong told a gathering in front of the Supreme Court of Canada Jan. 24 sponsored by Canada Silent No More, an organization that seeks to help those who have been hurt by legal abortion.

Eventually, she went to the abortion clinic, paid $50, and sat down for the counselling session. She was told what the doctor would do, what tools were involved. She was told the procedure would not hurt. She received a pill "to make you feel better."

While she was under sedation, lying on a table with the doctor and other staff around her, she watched as they performed an ultrasound.

"I saw on the screen my baby. I saw its head. I saw its hands. I saw its feet," she said, sobbing.


From The Master's Artist--on freedom of expression

From my post last night at The Master's Artist:

It's one thing when a publisher comes up with a list of prohibited words and phrases. You can always look for a more compatible home for your manuscript, or publish yourself. It's quite another when the government tells you that certain words or phrases are unacceptable on the basis that they are likely, however vaguely, to subject some person or group to contempt or hatred. Especially when the words in question happen to be truthful, or form part of Christian doctrine.

But that's what's happening in Canada. When various Christian individuals and groups have run afoul of Canada's federal and provincial human rights commissions, their plight often remains under the radar of the mainstream media. But now human rights complaints have been leveled against Maclean's Magazine, Canada's equivalent of Time or Newsweek, for running an except of Mark Steyn's bestselling book America Alone. And just recently the publisher of the now defunct Western Standard, another Canadian news magazine, had to appear before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for running the famous Danish cartoons.

But Ezra Levant turned the tables and posted scenes from his "interrogation" on YouTube. Hundreds of thousands have watched these most entertaining, sobering, outraging videos. Ezra in fight-mode is quite a sight to behold.

There's more. The hyperlinks will work over at The Master's Artist---a great group blog by writers who are Christian.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Great interview with George Weigel on faith and reason

Thanks to the WebElf Report Blogroll, I came across this great article on the CERC site, that includes a fascinating and profound EWTN interview with George Weigel on the theological foundations of Islam and how they affect world affairs. It's a deliciously long interview, so grab a cup of tea.

Weigel says:

The Pope has made very clear that the Church is interested primarily in talking about two things: religious freedom, and the separation of political and religious authority in the state. As the Pope said in his Christmas address to the Curia in December 2006, these are achievements of the Enlightenment that the Catholic Church worked hard to assimilate, finally doing so at Vatican II.

Unless Muslims can find Islamic warrants for religious freedom and the civil society, aggressive Islamists and jihadists will remain a danger to the world and to their fellow Muslims. That means talking about the things the Pope put on the agenda, not drifting off into platitudes. In my book, I discuss at some length a process of "retrieval and development: by which ancient religious traditions can "grow" their understanding of their roles in modern society. That's what the Catholic Church did from Leo XIII through John Paul II. And that's what the Islamic world must do today: for its sake, and everyone else's.


Warren Kinsella does not support the Steyn or Levant complaints

Sometimes in the midst of all the name-calling and polemics flying across the Internet, something interesting and truthful emerges when people decide to adopt a civil tone.

Thus, I find this post in the comments section of a Western Standard Shotgun Blog by Warren Kinsella most interesting. He writes:

I have not written, anywhere, that I actually support the complaints against Messrs. Levant and Steyn. I don't. The complaints don't meet the threshold for the types of issues with which human rights bodies should be concerned. Both cases, if they proceed any further - I strongly suspect they won't - actually risk delegitimizing future complaints involving fact situations that are far more harmful.
I am curious whether Warren Kinsella also thinks the complaints against Calgary Bishop Henry for a pastoral letter explaining Catholic teaching on marriage met the threshold? Though the complaints were subsequently dropped, they were not dismissed, and cost the diocese a considerable amount in legal fees.

What about the case of the Knights of Columbus Council in B.C. that was forced to pay $1000 to each complainant for their hurt feelings even though the human rights tribunal found the Knights within their rights to refuse to rent their hall for a lesbian wedding reception?

What about youth pastor Steve Boisson's letter to the editor? In this case, it is my understanding that the same Alberta Human Rights investigator Shirlene McGovern who interviewed Ezra Levant recommended to the tribunal that the Boisson complaint be dismissed, but the tribunal decided to hear the complaint anyway and found him guilty.

Or Chris Kempling's letters to the editor? What about Clive Owens and that Saskatchewan paper' which ran the ad with the Bible references to some verses in Leviticus? (Thankfully, that decision has recently been overturned by the Court of Appeal. But at what expense to the defendants?)

What about Scott Brockie, the Christian printer who refused to print material he considered gay advocacy on religious grounds? Or the case of London Mayor Diane Haskett who, along with the City of London, was fined $10,000 for refusing to declare a gay pride day on religious conscience grounds? Here is an example of a government body forcing people to say something that is against their religious beliefs and conscience.

Some Christians who speak up against homosexual behavior have written or said things I consider immoderate or intemperate. Some make me cringe. I think some of these people are an embarrassment to those who have tried to make logical and measured arguments in the public square. Some have possibly lacked charity, or at the very least a good sense of timing.

But not all. And none should have been subject to human rights complaints. And Bishop Henry? Bishop Henry is loving, wise, and thoughtful in addition to being courageous. I've seen how he behaves under fire even towards individuals who are attacking him. He radiates kindness and good humor. Yet he has been persecuted for publicly professing Catholic teaching. Anyone who simply disagrees with the prevailing securalist orthodoxy has been branded homophobic and hateful.

But branding is all the name of the game now, right? I made a brief foray into politics, and jumped from the CBC into the Canadian Alliance War Room for the 2000 election.

I will never forget---though I can forgive because it is a command from God I take seriously--the anti-Christian attacks and smears that daily emanated from the Liberal War Room and from the mouths of various Chretien cabinet ministers. All the vile insinuations and outright accusations that Christians are theocrats with a hidden agenda to take away people's rights and freedoms, and stupid creationists to boot. I know lots of Christians but none of them are theocrats. None want the church to run the state and hold the levers of power. None want a Christian-style Taliban government. But that's a politically-correct stance to take these days.

Warren's Barney stunt may have seemed cool to him and succeeded in perhaps making Stockwell Day a "laughingstock" among the secularists, but I found it hurtful. Every attack on Day's faith was an attack on mine and every other Christian. Every bit of ridicule and derision, of quotes taken out of context and twisted, of things blown out of proportion, deeply concerned me and many others.

Though most people assume that Christians are in the majority because most Canadians self-identify as Christian, those who take their faith very seriously are in a minority. It was during those days in the War Room that I deeply experienced what it was like to be a vulnerable minority that was under attack by the society at large, by my own government no less. It was deeply painful. And not a little scary, because the very illiberal tendencies that my group was being accused of were being acted out before my eyes through organs of government like human rights tribunals.

I can understand how vulnerable minorities feel when the only news about them is negative, when everyone is tarred with the same brush, when the religious leaders they hold dear are ridiculed or even blasphemed. When the actions of a minority are used to characterize the whole group. But I don't think that human rights commissions are the appropriate route for addressing these grievances.

During Ezra's appearance on Steve Paikin's The Agenda, the two Muslim lawyers also agreed that using human rights tribunals was not the way to go.

One of them tried to make an argument about what free speech is for. I wish he could have expanded on it more, because this is what I think he might have said. (I've met him a couple of times, and he seems to be a reasonable person.) Free speech has a purpose. It has an end, which is the furthering of truth, allowing for freedom of conscience and belief, and ultimately the promotion of the common good.

Free speech does not exist so we can use the f-word all over public radio and television, or hurl racial epithets, or blaspheme or dispresect each other's religions. It does not exist so we can, like pedophile Robin Sharpe, write fictional violent child porn. It does not exist so we can be as disgusting, as lurid or as hateful as we want. It does not exist so we can demonize our opponents. But what we all have to realize is that on the way towards our discovery of truth in the free marketplace of ideas, we may have to tolerate a certain amount of garbage. There must be a high threshold for state interference. It is better that we try to cultivate virtue in our families and our communities rather than have state-imposed behavior codes imposed on our lack of self-control and lawlessness.

I found I am not cut out for politics. I hate the way spin these days has little regard for truth, only for gaining an advantage, for the pursuit of power. I hate the way the ends seem to justify the means.

During the debate around same-sex marriage, Liberal strategy included painting anyone who supported keeping the traditional definition as "anti-Charter," anti-human rights and thereby anti-Canadian. Does anyone besides me see how dangerous that is? That "strategy" thus painted half the country as anti-Charter, anti-human rights. Yet it is the traditional Judeo-Christian conception of human rights, grounded in our human dignity as made in the image of God, as God-given, that is the most shining and transcendent conception we have. If human rights are granted by the state, they can be taken away by the state as they are increasingly in Canada. Our human rights precede the state.

I do not want to see us go back to the days where homosexuals had to hide who they are in order to keep a job or find housing. But what I fear is that all religious believers who uphold a traditional view of family and marriage and sexual morality are being forced into a new closet. Efforts to support multiculturalism are favoring some groups over others, and that builds resentment. The big problem is that we've lost confidence in who we are in the West. Thus we don't know what we are welcoming people to and integrating them into anymore.

We need to uphold a robust sense of pluralism where differing conceptions can live side by side. We're going to have to work on our civility and our appreciation of the human dignity of those with whom we disagree, but that is something that has to percolate up from the grass roots. It cannot be forced upon us by governments.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Great report on the Mark Steyn freedom of speech controversy

My press gallery colleague Brian Lilley does a great, balanced, job of showing the issues at play in the human rights complaints laid against Maclean's Magazine for running an excerpt of Mark Steyn's book America Alone.

You can read his report here, or listen here.

What's great about this is 1) it is one of the only mainstream news reports on this issue 2) you actually get to hear one of the complainants Khurrum Awan, Mark Steyn and Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Unfortunately, I think that most Canadians will probably agree that government should censor opinions that might harm vulnerable groups. They will have a huge difficulty in sorting out the difference between censorship--using state power to silence people---and censure--which is using other means such as boycotts, protests, letters to the editor, starting one's own publication, etc. to protest opinions that one finds objectionable. They will not see how this will affect them, so they will not care.

Maybe if I framed this issue in terms of Christianity, which is the one religion that everyone feels absolutely free to criticize and defame, the issue might be more easily understood.

Most Canadians think that some Catholic bishop calling for say a boycott of the movie The Da Vinci Code is censorship when it is nothing of the kind. No, my Canadian friends, censorship is when George W. Bush or Stephen Harper and the arms of their governments tell you you CANNOT go see The Da Vinci Code because it is hateful against Christians, and fines the Hollywood producer and the writer thousands of dollars or throws them into jail. And uses government power to prevent you from seeing the movie or reading the book by fining anyone who shows it or sells it or publishes it on the Internet. When government tells you you CANNOT ever again speak or write publicly against Christians or Christianity ever again. Period. That even if what you wrote about a Christian who went off half-cocked and did something awful and outrageous, you could not write about it even if it were true.

Of course, if that--government forbidding criticism of Christianity--were really happening, then there would be a huge outcry from the masses. Then maybe they would understand why some people are raising alarms attempts to use the government to censor Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Great op ed by Dorothy Cummings in The Catholic Register

She writes:

Anti-Catholics want to take away our school boards. Annoying, yes. But groups that want to take away Catholics' and all other Canadians' freedom of speech are frightening. And that makes me see the newspapers' slurs in a new light. Yes, I wish they wouldn't say nasty or snarky things about Catholics, but paradoxically I'm glad they have the right to do so. For one thing, the press alerted us to pedophile priests and priests with crushes on teenage boys. For that, I am grateful.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that we Canadians cannot take our freedom of speech for granted. Although the ancient sport of Catholic-baiting creaks on in the nation’s presses, certain Canadians and certain Canadian publications have been singled out for thought crimes. Any citizen who feels offended by another’s published opinions has the option, it appears, of applying to drag that individual or publication before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal or its provincial counterparts.

The accuser does not have to pay costs. The defendant and the taxpayers may end up paying thousands of dollars. When the Canadians being prosecuted were neo-Nazis and anti-gay evangelicals out West, we didn’t notice much. When B.C. Knights of Columbus were fined for not renting out their hall for a lesbian wedding, we got a little worried. But now that Maclean’s magazine’s Mark Steyn is being dragged before human rights tribunals by the Canadian Islamic Congress, for predicting an Islamic Europe, and Catholic Insight is facing the same treatment by an Alberta gay activist for disliking homosexual sex, quite a lot of people are terrified and angry. Who’s next?

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J. Mark Bertrand on technology and procrastination

J. Mark Bertrand writes over at The Master's Artist:

There are a million ways to procrastinate, but tinkering with the arrangement of your desk is one of the best. It looks a lot like work, or at least the prelude to work. Deadlines loom, and you convince yourself that moving the pencil holder to one side and the stapler to the other will smooth the process to such an extent that any time lost along the way will be more than made up. You're not delaying; you're sharpening the sword before a big battle. Best to put as keen an edge on it as possible, right?

Wrong. It's best to get down to business. Once you're hip deep in a project, it's amazing how little you need all the technological advantages. The same thing is true of research. Some of us -- myself included -- tend to use research as a way of putting off the task. If I could just read a couple more books on the subject, I'd be ready to go. Research is good, just like technology is good, but laziness is endemic to the species, twisting everything to suit its ends. Deep down, we all know we can do without the added expertise, just as we can do without the better computer.

Historically speaking, the only thing required for the writing of novels is coffee, which explains why they both caught on in Europe around the same time.

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Pro-lifers grow stronger, wiser since Morgentaler ruling

Twenty years ago, on Jan. 28, 1988, the Supreme Court struck down Canada's abortion law, leaving Canada one of the only countries in the world with no restrictions on abortion.

More than two million unborn babies have died since that court decision. But pro-life spokespersons say their movement has grown stronger and wiser since the court decision to strike down what was an already feeble law.

The pro-abortion movement will celebrate the anniversary of the so-called Morgentaler decision - named after Montreal's Dr. Henry Morgentaler -with clinking champagne glasses, law school lectures and symposia, and a few small but colourful demonstrations across Canada.

Supporters see the decision as a watershed in women's rights and Morgentaler as a hero who was willing to risk jail for their cause.

Pro-life organizations will mark the anniversary by mounting low-key awareness campaigns.

Joanne Byfield, president of LifeCanada, a national educational pro-life umbrella group, said the estimate of 100,000 abortions a year may be low, since the previous law's reporting requirements were struck down with the law.


Why is mainstream news media ignoring Ezra Levant's plight?

Ezra Levant writes:

But why isn't this newsier in Canada?

Four years ago, when the RCMP raided Juliet O'Neill's house to seize privileged evidence that had been leaked to her, the media went on the warpath for weeks, reporting on the subject and toasting O'Neill as a free speech hero. So said the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

I agree that an actual raid on O'Neill's house to seize documents is indeed a big news story, and it does touch upon issues of the free press. But is not a two-year-long government investigation of the political thoughts of a Canadian publisher newsworthy as well?

The small sliver of opinion on the blogosphere that has spoken out against me on this matter has focused, in the main, on my own personality or political stripe -- I can count on two fingers the blog posts that actually support human rights commissions. The bulk of the opposition to me is personal. Is that the same thing in the mainstream media -- for personal or political reasons, or competitive reasons, they're declining to cover a story of government censorship? My interrogation is not as dramatic as a raid on O'Neill's home for documents, but it is just as troubling. More, even -- O'Neill's "crime" was receiving leaked documents. My crime was having illegal thoughts about poltiical and religious subjects.

Perhaps another reason is that the bulk of the media is rather shy about this entire subject, given that the vast majority of them hid under their desks during the initial cartoon kerfuffle. The Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression sure did. When we were taken to the human rights commission, they thought it more important to issue a press release about freedom in Uganda. At least they were better than Amnesty International, which condemned the publication of the cartoons. Like "free speech" advocates who went on vacation, editors and producers who were AWOL -- or worse, enforced the cartoon ban in their own media organizations -- might not want to remind themselves or their audience of that now.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ezra Levant's closing statements

Ezra Levant posted his closing statement before the Alberta Human Rights Commission at his website.

As I suspected in watching his other YouTube'd videos, Ezra is hoping to lose so the case will go to a higher court where higher standards, such as the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty, will apply. Well, I suspected correctly.

He writes:

Before the interrogation I spoke with my lawyer, Tom Ross. He outlined the obvious alternatives as to how to approach answering Officer McGovern's questions. The first option would be to try to actually win the case within the rules of the system, by coming across as reasonable as possible. Tom thought that we might have a chance, since our publication of the cartoons was so bland, and obviously done in good faith. If we came across as agreeable and submissive, he thought we might win
If you look at the response that Ezra filed with the commission in response to the initial complaint, and the attached magazine article that explains the rationale behind the running of the cartoons, you will see a most measured, reasonable response. Obviously Ezra has chosen to make this into a kind of theatre using the new media.

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Gluten Free Girl---I can relate to you and I love your blog!!!!

I saw this blog mentioned as I was posting and it caught my eye, because like Gluten Free Girl, I have to avoid gluten in my diet, and years of eating it have done a number on my digestive tract.

She writes beautifully. Check this out:

There are so many ways to know a person, it seems.

The sound of his high-pitched guffaw when he really lets go. The twitchy dance he does when it's time to go to the restaurant. The touch of his fingers on mine as we drive in the car. The rapid tumble of words he uses to describe his day. The taste of a thick piece of salmon, seared on the skin side and juicy to the fork's touch, which he made late at night after cooking all day long.
The photos are good, too. The whole blog looks great. Looks like I'll be a regular. And she has a book for sale, too.

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The Pope has it right--we have to be able to disagree without violence

In the upcoming dialogue with Muslim scholars, according to this detailed story:

The pope then proposes a concrete application: the formation of a dialogue
group that would seek common ground. This terrain must be found on a number of

a) The first is that of identifying values capable of guaranteeing
"mutual respect, solidarity and peace". "Respect" here also means that there are
differences that must be guaranteed and welcomed. For example, a Muslim
can say to a Christian: I do not agree with what you believe, that Jesus has a human and divine nature. You Christians are polytheists, because you place other gods, your Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, beside the one God. I say: let us seek to live in mutual respect.
You have the full right to say that the Islamic conception excludes the Trinity, the divine-humanity. But leave me the right to say, for example, that Mohammed was not sent by God. I can
acknowledge that he was a great personality on the human and political level, a social and spiritual reformer, that he also brought negative contributions, but not that he was a prophet. Do I have the right to say that, or not?
As you have the right to say that you do not believe in the divinity of Christ - and in this you are consistent in your faith - we, too, have the right to say
what we think about Mohammed[3]. In short, there is no such thing as a "taboo"
topic, but there are only taboo means and methods, because these are violent and

[Now this is a paraphrase of the pope's remarks by a journalist, so take that as a caveat.]

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We need more people to challenge error says Benson

Iain Benson, the executive director of the Ottawa-based think tank the Centre for Cultural Renewal, responds to Gary Wise's blog post suggesting that Ezra Levant should be disbarred for his remarks before the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC). As another poster comments in Wise's comments section, Levant was not acting as a lawyer, but as a defendant.

Benson is an expert on religious freedom matters. Here's what Benson wrote in Wise's comments section.

Dear Mr. Wise:

You've missed the point.

The issue with Ezra Levant isn't some "law" of his own making it is whether the re-publication of some cartoons from Denmark (intended there, by the way, to raise the issue of censorship) create a breach of the Alberta human rights legislation and whether human rights should even cover such matters as "hurt feelings."

I have acted as counsel for a Human Rights tribunal, appeared before them and appealed their decisions on behalf of clients in more than one Canadian province.The think-tank I direct has, for over 15 years, monitored cases involving freedom of conscience and religion in Canada. I tell you this.

There is a steady and growing group of people in Canada concerned with the kinds of things that human rights tribunals and Commissions do in the name of human rights. Along with Alan Borovoy, Canada's leading civil libertarian, I believe that human rights tribunals are going well beyond what they should be looking into.

They pose an increasing threat to the exercise of genuine civil freedom.You are, with respect, naieve if you do not see the threat to genuine freedom of expression, the press and other fundamental freedoms from challenges such as this one to Mr. Levant.

What was it Huey Long said? "When fascism comes to America it will come in the name of democracy"? Well, he wrote that before the new human rights regimes found their feet and decided to put them to use stamping on the freedoms of citizens.

There is a reason that civil libertarians have on more than one occasion in recent years appeared on the same side of legal arguments with religious communities and individuals to challenge developments that in every other way satisfy the claims of the "new Anti-liberals."

We need more people with the courage to challenge error where it appears and fewer lawyers who are insufficiently informed about what is going on in Canada.

Ezra Levant, unlike some others less wise than himself, is not one of these.

Iain T. Benson

Barrister & Solicitor

Executive Director

Centre for Cultural Renewal (Ottawa)

It is also interesting to note that the Calgary Imam who launched the complaint against Levant also faces human rights complaints himself from a group of Muslim women who claim he discriminated against him in his mosque!!!!!!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

DVD breaks open the mystery of the Eucharist

OTTAWA - The upper room, where Jesus held the last supper and where the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, is also known as the cenacle.

Thus it is fitting that a new DVD prepared by organizers of the June 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City is called Encounters at the Cenacle. On the DVD, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, chief executive officer of Salt + Light TV, describes the Eucharist as a “living memory.”

“It’s a memory of something that happened a long time ago but continues to happen today,” he said. “So what Jesus celebrated in the Eucharist at the Last Supper, we continue to celebrate that today and to have the very same effects that took place when Jesus gave Himself, His flesh and blood, to His disciples.”

“We are not only recalling an event of the past, but we are brought into it,” said Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet. “We are brought to the event itself through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pope to celebrate mass ad orientem

I love this pope. From Whispers in the Loggia.

In another significant liturgical turn at the very top, B16 will celebrate tomorrow's annual Sistine Chapel Mass for the Baptism of the Lord in the ad orientem stance -- that is, facing away from the congregation and toward the cross that stands at the chapel's back wall.

In an explanatory note from the Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations picked up by the Italian wires, the papal MC Msgr Guido Marini announced that the Mass, to be conducted according to the post-Conciliar "Ordinary Use" approved by Paul VI, would employ the main altar of the Sistina. As a result, the note said, "at certain moments the Pope will have his shoulders [back] to the faithful and his gaze toward the Cross."

As the chapel's original altar is not freestanding, versus popolorum celebrations there have required the construction of a temporary altar and platform. While John Paul II celebrated his first Mass after his 1978 election using the permanent altar and no freestanding altar exists in the Pope's private chapel, a public papal liturgy has not been celebrated using the "common orientation" in recent memory.

"The celebration at the old altar is being restored so as not to alter the beauty and harmony of this architectural jewel," the note said, "preserving its structure from the celebratory point of view and using an option contemplated by the liturgical norms." The change of orientation, Marini's statement said, would seek to enhance "the attitude and disposition of the whole assembly."

Ezra Levant's stirring defence of freedom

Here are excerpts from Ezra Levant's opening statement to the Alberta Human Rights Commission when he appeared yesterday:

Alberta Human Rights Commission Interrogation

Opening remarks by Ezra Levant, January 11, 2008 – Calgary


I am here at this government interrogation under protest. It is my position that the government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures. That is a violation of my ancient and inalienable freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and in this case, religious freedom and the separation of mosque and state. It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights


As Alan Borovoy, Canada’s leading civil libertarian, a man who helped form these commissions in the 60’s and 70’s, wrote, in specific reference to our magazine, being a censor is, quote, “hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions. There should be no question of the right to publish the impugned cartoons.” Unquote. Since the commission is so obviously out of control, he said quote “It would be best, therefore, to change the provisions of the Human Rights Act to remove any such ambiguities of interpretation.” Unquote.

The commission has no legal authority to act as censor. It is not in their statutory authority.


We have a heritage of free speech that we inherited from Great Britain that goes back to the year 1215 and the Magna Carta. We have a heritage of eight hundred years of British common law protection for speech, augmented by 250 years of common law in Canada.

That common law has been restated in various fundamental documents, especially since the Second World War.

In 1948, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Canada is a party, declared that, quote:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights guaranteed, quote

1. “ human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

(c) freedom of religion; (d) freedom of speech; (e) freedom of assembly and association; and (f) freedom of the press.

In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed, quote:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;

b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

Those were even called “fundamental freedoms” – to give them extra importance.

For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher or anyone else to an interrogation to be quizzed about his political or religious expression is a violation of 800 years of common law, a Universal Declaration of Rights, a Bill of Rights and a Charter of Rights.


It is procedurally unfair. Unlike real courts, there is no way to apply for a dismissal of nuisance lawsuits. Common law rules of evidence don’t apply. Rules of court don’t apply. It is a system that is part Kafka, and part Stalin. Even this interrogation today – at which I appear under duress – saw the commission tell me who I could or could not bring with me as my counsel and advisors.

I have no faith in this farcical commission. But I do have faith in the justice and good sense of my fellow Albertans and Canadians. I believe that the better they understand this case, the more shocked they will be. I am here under your compulsion to answer the commission’s questions. But it is not I who am on trial: it is the freedom of all Canadians.

You may start your interrogation.

I expect these words to go around the globe. It is interesting that the news media, so far, have only played up some of Levant's more "over-the-top" comments, instead of his stirring defense of inalienable rights that no state has the right to take away. They are also playing up the subjective state of hurt feelings and fear of the complainant. In our post modern world where truth no longer seems to matter, only subjective feelings, I fear for the outcome of this case.

There are two clashing views of human rights at play in the West today. One of them stems from the notion that our rights come from God and are based on our being made in His image. It is where our notion of equality before the law comes from. This notion is deeply imbedded in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Because of each human being's intrinsic human dignity, endowed by our Creator, our rights precede the state. The state's job is protecting those rights. The other view is that the state somehow, through constitutions or charters "grants" rights, rather than recognizes pre-existing rights. This is a dangerous conception, because what the state grants, it can take away or circumscribe to the point that the "rights" become meaningless. We are seeing this now.

It's the same thing with conceptions of Rule of Law. Is the rule of law something that transcends man-made laws? Is it embedded in some kind of objective, natural law that presupposes truth and justice? Or is the rule of law whatever a democratic society decides the rules and laws to be. Alas, Canada is moving rapidly in the direction of the latter understanding. The law, as interpreted by unelected judges, (with portions read into the law that Parliament never intended) is increasingly being seen as having all-encompassing claims on every aspect of our lives. The totalitarian implications in this are deeply disturbing. What will happen when, as is increasingly happening, the rule of law no longer resembles transcendent notions of justice? When the government is telling everyone to say "black is white" and "two and two makes five" at the pain of fines or jail terms or worse?

Our fundamental freedoms exist FOR something. They have a purpose. And that purpose is not so we can have the freedom to use the f-word all over the place or to run artistic exhibitions that are blasphemous and disgusting, though we may have to tolerate this in the process. The purpose of our freedoms is so that men and women are free to discover and to proclaim the truth and remain free to assent to it or not. Its purpose is so that truth--even if it is hard to take--stands a chance of being heard in the public square. Totalitarian governments do not want truth to expose their crimes. Truth is the first casualty of any crackdown on our human rights. It is most alarming that in these human rights commissions truth is not a defense.

One of the prices of freedom is accepting that others will have the freedom to disagree in ways I find offensive. Thus, while I will censure this artist as disgusting and blasphemous, and I will fight his receiving any taxpayers' dollars to fund his offensive parody of art, I will oppose any attempts to use the levers of the state to censor him and shut him up. I also stand against anyone who would issue threats against him or in any way harm him physically. It is sad that the Left in Canada will fight for the right of artistic depictions of pornographic pedophilia, as this B.C. Human Rights Decision states, but supports the use of the state to suppress conservative opinion and expression or even the everyday decisions of mainstream publications concerning news value. Why isn't journalistic freedom given the same cachet as the rights of a pedophile to write violent pornographic fiction in his diary? Something is seriously wrong with this picture. My guess is that those who support the freedom of pornographers and pedophiles have an antipathy to the moral claims of most of the great religions of the world and want the light shed by these moral traditions to be extinguished. They want their secular fundamentalism to be enshrined.

If they can temporarily enlist the help of Muslims who are crying victim, they will use them as useful idiots in their steps towards a state where all religious expression is privatized and all public expression of any religion, including Islam, will be banned from the public square. Of course, there are radical jihadists who see the secularists as their useful idiots. Anyone who looks at how extremist jihadists look at homosexuality or radical feminism, wonders why there is this strange alliance between jihadists and leftists.

I trust most Muslims came to the West because they like to have the freedom to worship or not worship in the way they please. I hope we see many more rise up against the the totalitarian impulses (both non-violent and violent) of some of their co-religionists around the globe. But I would understand if the vast majority are afraid, because the violent minority has even intimidated most news establishments in the West from running the Mohammed cartoons when the deaths and riots made doing so become an important aspect of the news.

The New York Times, for example, used a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary made from elephant dung, to illustrate its story about the cartoons.

In my 25 years as a journalist, we always assumed that truth was a defense, and so were notions of "fair comment." It is a sad day for Canada that truth and fair comment are no longer defenses and that unelected government officials, operating in secret, measure the extent of hurt feelings in making their determinations. This has got to stop.

I hope that all people of good will in Canada, Christian, Muslim, Jeiwsh, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, Humanist, whatever their beliefs, will fight to see the fundamental freedoms that have made the West a beacon of hope to the rest of the world (you note that people are still coming here in droves).

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spiritual diabetes---hey! I thought I'd come up with that first

Great commentary by Coach Dave Daubenmire:
Yesterday as I took a rare trip to the mall I passed by the Walden’s Book Store and I was shocked to see that the featured book displayed at the entrance of the store was Joel Osteen’s “Becoming a Better You,” Christian cotton-candy for the masses.

“Wow,” I thought out-loud. “A secular bookstore is featuring a Christian book.”

What is wrong with this picture? Self-help Christianity is all the rage. If we were capable of helping ourselves, if WE were the answer to our problems, Jesus put on His earth suit for nothing.

I expect this type of “preaching” from Dr. Phil, or Oprah, or a myriad of “pychobabalists” who dot the world of plasma TV’s. But it is tragic that the best selling Christian books in America today happen to be of this ilk. “Self-help Christianity” (Your Best Life Now, Purpose Driven Life, Becoming a Better You) has replaced the Bible as the most popular reading among church-going folks.

Read the whole thing. (Hat tip, Robert Jason) All I can add is Amen!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bishop Henry calls for overhaul of human rights legislation

From the Western Catholic Reporter:

Calgary Bishop Fred Henry is calling for an overhaul of legislation governing human rights commissions (HRCs).

"Human rights laws, designed as a shield, are now being used as a sword," Henry wrote in a Dec. 31 email from Calgary, in what he described as an increasingly "bizarre" series of events.

The recent filing of human rights complaints against Maclean's Magazine for an excerpt of Mark Steyn's bestselling book America Alone, and against Catholic Insight Magazine for articles outlining Catholic teaching on homosexuality, are only the latest in a series of cases that have targeted freedom of speech and religious freedom.

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Memoir provides glimpse of American Christian subculture

From my post at The Master's Artist today:

We've lamented here and at Faith in Fiction many of the same things that Frank Schaeffer writes about in his memoir Crazy for God: How I grew up as one of the elect, helped found the religious right and lived to take all (or almost all) of it back. We have lamented the marketing juggernauts that elevate certain pastors and authors as stars, the kitsch masquerading as art, the lack of intellectual rigor, the lack of artistic rigor, and the silly rules about what cannot be shown or written about in order to be acceptable to North America's Christian subculture.

The memoir is a compulsively readable account of Frank's growing up at L'Abri as the youngest child and only son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, of two compelling figures who had a massive impact on the evangelical world. I came late to any awareness of Francis Schaeffer, having come across some tracts smelling of mildew in our church's small library. I then read Edith Schaeffer's book about the Swiss retreat centre she and her husband founded. I liked what I read, especially in Francis' Schaeffer's insistence that the factual side of the Christian story cannot be separated from the "upper story" of deep spiritual and psychological truths. I know of others, however, whose lives were permanently changed by an encounter with the Schaeffers at L'Abri. There's a five-point Calvinist preacher here in Ottawa who converted from Judaism after going there. Hearing him makes you feel like your hair is being singed. Uncompromising, courageous and, well, pretty black and white in his theology and unwilling to suffer fools.

Their son Frank's book will be a disappointment to anyone who hopes for a hagiography of his parents. But for those of us who care about art, who care about genuine portrayals of real people struggling with the questions of faith and sometimes doing a botched job of it, I can't recommend this book enough. I also expect it to be wildly popular among the same people who loved Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies, and as controversial. It is a warts and all portrait, not only of the parents but of the author.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sheila Wray Gregoire: "I deserve it."

I think the drive to do this comes from our consumer driven society, where we measure our pleasure based on how many toys we have. Think about how much of our fun and leisure actually comes from things: we watch TV, we make friends on the internet, we spread out in our large houses, we buy ready-made gourmet meals. Our fun comes from money.

Back in the 1930s, fun, I think, came more from relationships. You sat out on your verandah and talked to people. You socialized. You didn’t need stuff. Today we don’t know what to do without it. And if we all deserve to be happy, and it’s stuff that makes us happy, then we all deserve nice stuff, don’t we?

Just look at the size of our homes. In 1950, the average house was 983 square feet. In 1990, it had increased to 1500 square feet. And today, in Canada, it’s over 2000. At the same time, our families have shrunk and we entertain far less frequently. We have bigger homes that we don’t share. Few of us could imagine living in those post-war square houses from the 1950s, but many families grew up in them and did just fine, because society didn’t believe to the same extent that it was stuff that defined you. Today we do, so the stuff better be good.

Censure vs. censorship

Back in the days when I worked at the CBC, I recall booking the Canadian Civil Liberty's Association's general counsel Alan Borovoy and having him explain in a pre-interview the difference between censure and censorship. Censure--the free, public criticism of odious ideas--was a good thing in Borovoy's eyes. Censorship--the use of government organs to stifle freedom of expression--is not.

Seems like this basic distinction is not being taught in Canadian law schools. In fact, if we look at comment below from one of the four law students involved in the human rights complaints against Mark Steyn and Maclean's Magazine for an excerpt of Steyn's book America Alone, we see that censure has now become the evil, but censorship is fine, at least in practice given Daniel Simard sees no problem in using the tools of the state to force Maclean's to heel.

Simard writes:

Moving on, as I’m sure you are all are aware, I am party to a human rights complaint waged against Maclean’s magazine for the publication of an article written by Mark Steyn. Because of this, I have been one of the hot topics in the blogging world, and as a result of this and some of my posts, I have subjected our site and staff to increased scrutiny, censure and attack.

I want you all to know that I had no intention of dragging lawiscool into my personal disputes. Admittedly, I underestimated the unscrupulousness of my frantic foes and lacked the foresight necessary to obviate lawiscool’s subjection. I am grateful that you all are bearing with me and supporting me in my right and privilege to convey my messages through our blog. I also want you all to know that I grappled with the thought of excluding posts related to my dispute, but, rather than accede defeat to my crazed critics I decided it would be unjust to restrict the publication of fair and reasonable commentary.

Would Simard prefer to have no scrutiny as he and his team use government power to try to force a private publication to bend to their will? Would he like to be able to inform on people in secret the way people used to inform on their neighbors in Stalin's Soviet Union? Does he want to reserve all government levers to himself and people who agree with him and use all the punitive power of the state to censor opinion with which he disagrees?

Mr. Simard is now experiencing the power of censure. Why can't he see that he can use the same power of censure to rebut Mark Steyn's arguments one by one? All the censure does is cost Simard some embarrassment and unwanted notoriety. It won't cost him his job, his livelihood, or his conscience rights. It won't force him to pay a huge fine, or put into his privately owned publication words that he would never choose to publish on his own. Many Canadians disagree with Mark Steyn. I'm sure Simard would find a ready audience for his censure. But no, he seems to prefer to sneak over to file a complaint with government censors.

It's most interesting to note how LawIsCool shuts down the ability of people to put in opposing points of view in their comments section. That is their right. How would he feel if a human rights commission ordered LawIsCool to give equal time to opposing points of view after costing them a fortune in defending their right to close their comments section? He wouldn't like it I am sure. But I guess, to paraphrase George Orwell, some people are more equal than others and their rights to freedom of speech more equal than others.

Daniel Simard objects to being attacked, yet he seems to have no problem in attacking others and calling those who object to his tactics "crazed critics." He accuses his "foes" of being unscrupulous, when his blog has rewritten comments by other posters, and has called legitimate commentary "spam" when spam specifically refers to mass electronic advertising for Viagra and other such things.

Obviously, Simard's law school needs to teach its budding lawyers some basic definitions of words like censure and censorship. It also needs to give them a grounding in basic logical fallacies. The ad hominem attack is one of them.

I am much more concerned that the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the B.C. Human Rights Commissions have agreed to hear their complaints. There may be a silver lining in this depressing cloud. Now a spotlight will be shined on how these commissions have abused freedom of speech and freedom of religion and conscience for a long time. There is a litany of cases. See here.

Most of the Christian defendants have been too small fry to get much media attention. Catholic Insight Magazine is the latest to bear the brunt of human rights complaints. This small-circulation magazine does not have the same resources as Maclean's. Some Christian defendents, like Scott Brockie, have ended up with legal bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Please write your political representatives, both federal and provincial. Ask them to rein in human rights commissions. Don't let our precious freedoms be crushed. It's interesting to note that a former Auditor General wrote a scathing report about the Canadian Human Rights Commission back in 1998.

Too bad no one paid attention and did something. But then, they were mostly only going after Christians in those days, so who gave a hoot.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mark Steyn on the human rights complaints against him

From this week's Maclean's Magazine.

Since the CIC launched its complaint, I've been asked by various correspondents what my defence is. My defence is I shouldn't have to have a defence. The "plaintiffs" are not complaining that the article is false, or libellous, or seditious, for all of which there would be appropriate legal remedy. Their complaint is essentially emotional: it "offended" them. And as offensiveness is in the eye of the of­­fended, there's not a lot I can do about that.

But, given that the most fundamental "human right" in modern Canada is apparently the right not to be offended, perhaps I could be permitted to say what offends me. I'm offended by the federal and British Columbia human rights commissions' presumption that the editing decisions of Maclean's fall within their jurisdiction. Or to put it another way, I don't accept that free-born Canadian citizens require the permission of the Canadian state to read my columns. The eminent Q.C. who heads the Canadian Human Rights Commission may well be a shrewd and insightful person but I don't believe her view of Maclean's cover stories should carry any more weight than that of Mrs. Mabel Scroggins of 47 Strathcona Gardens. And it is slightly unnerving to me that large numbers of Canadians apparently think there's nothing wrong in subjecting the contents of political magazines to "judicial review."

Let's take it as read that I am, as claimed, "offensive." That's the point. It's offensive speech that requires legal protection. As a general rule, Barney the Dinosaur singing "Sharing is Caring" can rub along just fine.

Also, Michael Coren weighs in again, pointing out that the man whose name is on the human rights complaints against Maclean's has said some far more negative and potentially dangerous things against Israelis, remarks that were repudiated by several Muslim and Arab groups. Note that Coren is not advocating we use the levers of government to shut him down. He writes:

The appropriate response to the man's violent fantasy was obvious. I chose not to invite him back as a guest. And if I had done so, your response should have been to change the channel.

The same applies to Mark Steyn and Maclean's. If you don't like it, don't read it. Even if you are under the age if 18!

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Amazing essay on military tactics and the success of the Surge

Please read this whole essay, both part one and part two. (Thanks to Small Dead Animals for the tip).
When Michael Moore makes a hugely successful film praising Saddam’s paradise and calling these people who bomb women and children in marketplaces “freedom fighters,” and when an election turns and places into Congressional power a political party dedicated to reproducing that helicopter tableau as soon as possible... what would you do? Because if you guess wrong and the Americans leave, you will be taken out into the street in front of your family and have your head sawed off.

I think the Surge has had spectacular success not because of the additional troops so much as for the fact that when the media and the Democrats demanded we cut and run… we did not cut and run. We doubled down. When the calls for defeat and dishonor were at their loudest – sad to say a not unwarranted street rep we had made for ourselves – somehow, somehow we simply just hung on and gave them not a retreat but a charge.

Jesus Christ, but that must have gotten someone’s attention. Yes, the Surge is working. But I believe it is not a surge of boots that is doing the work so much as it is a surge of hope.

And hope… well, hope is a dangerous thing. For every day that Iraq returns not only to normal but to free normal is a day remembered. It is a day to which other, darker days may be compared.

Every day of success, every newly opened shop, every school and soccer game free of secret police and each and every night devoid of the terror of arbitrary arrest and execution is something to lose. It is something the murdering bastards of al Qaeda cannot give but can only take away. We have taken their sword from them. They wield it now only against themselves. They will do it, too: more pain and more death are coming, for that is all they know how to do. But hope walks the streets of Baghdad now, hope in the form of decent and brave young men and women who have held a line against all odds and perhaps bought with their courage and their blood the time we need for that hope to spread.

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Dr. Sanity diagnoses paranoia on the political scene

She writes in a long post that should be read in its entirety:

In fact, paranoia is really nothing more than the use of reason and logic in the service of the irrational and bizarre.
  • Are you poor? Someone must have robbed you of what you are entitled to!
  • Are you angry and experiencing hatred, but like to think of yourself as a loving, compassionate sort of person? Then the object of your hatred magically becomes the one who!
  • Is your genius not universally recognized? You must have powerful enemies that prevent you from achieving the success you know should be yours.
  • Have you made mistakes in your life? Someone has clearly tricked you into acting a certain way otherwise you wouldn't have.

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Controversy over former atheist Antony Flew's There is a God

Denyse O'Leary reviews Antony Flew's book There is a God and looks at the controversy over his switch from atheist to believer based on the scientific evidence. As she blogs over at Mindful Hack, some mainstream media folks claim he didn't write the book. Most interesting, but her observations certainly describe my experience of most msm folks.

Here's an excerpt from Denyse's review at The ID Report.

Many media celebrities are comfortable with a view of reality in which science is about facts and God is about fantasies or irrelevancies. If Flew had had a big religious conversion, joined a sect, and was now banging on doors handing out tracts, they could laugh and forget him. Silly old man. Too bad after all these years ...

But that's not what happened. He did not have an experiential religious conversion. He changed his mind based on the evidence from science, particularly evidence that has come to light only in the past fifty years. He believes, based on the evidence, that there is a mind behind the universe, that the universe is top down not bottom up. Worse still, he reveals in the book that many leading twentieth century scientists - including Einstein, who has often been described as an atheist - thought the same thing. He explains why they thought so and why he thinks so, in a way that is well within the grasp of an average reader. Such a careful elucidation is devastating to the recent, intellectually shallow anti-God campaign, puffed by the same legacy media and typically driven by people with a big mad on about Judeaeo-Christian religion - and little else to recommend them to broad public attention.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

UN passes resolution against defamation of religions

The resolution goes under the innocuous title "Combating defamation of religions" – but the text singles out "Islam and Muslims in particular". It expresses "deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism".

Here's another story:

The resolution denounces “laws that stigmatize groups of people belonging to certain religions and faiths under a variety of pretexts relating to security and illegal immigration.” Muslims, it says, have suffered from “ethnic and religious the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001.” This is the fault, in part, of “the negative projection of Islam in the media.” The UN voices its “deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.”

No mention is made in the resolution of the rampant persecution of Christians around the globe.

Concerns raised about government-imposed censorship in Canada

Here's a link to one of the stories I've written on the human rights complaints against Maclean's Magazine.

HUMAN RIGHTS complaints against Maclean's magazine, for running an excerpt of conservative columnist Mark Steyn's bestselling book America Alone, have raised alarms about the rise in government sponsored censorship in Canada -- especially against Christians.

Read the rest here.

Rex Murphy weighs in on the National:
Why is any human rights commission inserting itself between a magazine, a television show, a newspaper and the readers or viewers? Is every touchy, or agenda-driven sensibility now free to call upon the offices of the state and free of charge - to them - not their targets - to embroil them in "justifying" their right to write and broadcast as they see fit? The Western Standard magazine, during the so-called Danish cartoon crisis got hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for publishing the cartoons that all the world was talking about. The action drained the magazine’s resources - but it was free to the complainant.

Meantime real human rights violations - threats of death against Salman Rushdie, riots after the cartoons, death threats against the artists, the persecution of Hirsi Ali, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, neither inspire nor receive human rights investigations.

Maclean’s and its columnists - especially of late - are an ornament to Canada's civic space. They should not have to defend themselves for doing what a good magazine does: start debate, express opinion, and stir thought. And most certainly they should not have to abide the threatened censorship of any of Canada's increasingly interfering, state appointed and paradoxically labeled human rights commissions.

Meanwhile, don't forget about the human rights complaints against Catholic Insight Magazine.

TORONTO - An Edmonton resident has filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Catholic Insight, a small Toronto-based magazine of opinion, news and analysis.

The magazine, which has a monthly circulation of about 3,500, announced the news in a press release Dec. 20. The magazine said that it has been advised by the commission that Rob Wells, who has made similar complaints against three Canadian web sites and Ron Gray, leader of the Christian Heritage Party, has filed a nine-point complaint against the magazine on the grounds of offending homosexuals.
The Catholic Register has this editorial.
Even if we do not agree with all the more combative positions taken by Steyn and Catholic Insight, their right to express their opinions should be defended. Freedom of speech and the press are not frills in a democratic society; they are what make democracy work. Without a vigorous exchange of opinion, commentary and information, engaged citizens do not have the informational tools they need to make reasonable judgments about public policy. The “clash of ideas” in public discourse is what winnows out the nonsense from the commonsense.

Yes, there are limits to free speech. The adage that we do not yell “fire” in a crowded theatre holds true; nor can we legally advocate physical harm or violence against anyone, either individually or as members of a group. We have strong laws against libel and slander.

Yet if we wish to be able to express our own opinions bluntly and honestly, we have to be willing to accept the right of others to do the same. If we do not like what we read or see in the media, we can fight back with our own words.

A fundamental aspect of freedom of religion is freedom to express our beliefs in public. If people like Steyn and Fr. de Valk are muzzled, who will be next? And at what cost?
For daily updates go to Free Mark Steyn.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year writer friends

Two inspiring posts for the New Year over at The Master's Artist, especially tailored for writers.

Mary E. DeMuth wishes you a Happy Writerly New Year!

and Dee Stewart offers

3 Lessons for The Master's Artists before the Watchnight of 2007