Canadian bill would remove religious exemption from 'hate speech' laws, critics warn

Christians say quoting Scripture could be criminalized if legislation passes

Rainbow flag flying together with Canadian flag in London, Ontario, Canada
Rainbow flag flying together with Canadian flag in London, Ontario, Canada | Getty Images

Lawmakers in Canada are considering legislation which, if passed, could criminalize the act of quoting Scripture in defense of biblical marriage, sexuality and other Christian views.

The proposed Bill C-367, currently under review in the House of Commons, would repeal “religious exemption” in Section 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which critics say could open up Christians and other religious groups to “hate speech” charges over any comments or criticisms of the LGBT movement.

Bill C-367 specifically targets Paragraph 319(3)‍(b) and Paragraph 319(3.‍1)‍(b) of the Criminal Code, which prohibits any conviction on hate speech charges 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.”

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If the religious exemption is removed, any religious or faith-based expression that refutes or condemns gender ideology, child sexualization, and other similar topics could potentially be deemed by Canadian courts as “hate speech” and lead to criminal prosecution for Christians and other religious groups.

Introduced by Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet in November, Bill C-367 has only an initial reading in the House of Commons, and it’s unclear when or if the legislation will advance.

While Blanchet and other lawmakers say Bill C-367 comes in response to recent antisemitic demonstrations in Canada — including one in which a Muslim activist called for God to “exterminate” what he called “Zionist aggressors” — some organizations like the Canadian pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) warn the legislation could lead to more criminal prosecutions against Christians.

In February, David Cooke, CLC's campaigns manager, wrote, “No longer will we be allowed to share God’s design for human sexuality and marriage in public. No longer will we be able to speak out in the name of God against drag shows for kids, child drag, or child sex change. 

“All this could be misconstrued as ‘hate speech’ against the LGBT community. Even our pro-life message could be spun as a ‘hate crime’ against women.”

Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, says if passed, the bill “would be a devastating legal tool to attack people of faith in Canada and allow the politicians working through the courts and police to send devout believers to jail for quoting the Bible, Quran, or other religious texts.”

“The same methods that overseas dictators and despots use to silence and strangle Christianity are now being used by political enemies in the West, with this current bill being only the latest example,” King said in a statement shared with CP.

He called on Christians and Canadian citizens “of faith of all stripes” to make their voices heard by Canadian government officials. 

“Canadians that enjoy the fruits of democracy need to wake up,” he added. “Any politician in the West who pushes for this kind of legislation and is selling ‘protection and unity’ by advancing hate speech laws is an enemy of freedom, and democracy, and willing to undermine the religious and speech laws that protect all citizens to advance their special interest or to inflict damage on their political enemies.”

Over the last decade, Canadian lawmakers have passed a number of bills aimed at curbing speech in deferment to the LGBT lobby.

In 2017, Canada's Senate passed a law against the correct use of gender pronouns by adding protections for gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code.

Last September, lawmakers in Ontario, Canada, approved a ban on any form of communication that might potentially cause an LGBT-identified person to “feel harassed” or “offended” following a massive parental rights rally.

The bylaw approved by city councilors in Waterloo, located about 45 miles southwest of Toronto, came in response to a new policy enacted by several local school boards. The policy states that parents will not be told if their child decides to change their pronouns or identify as the opposite sex, non-binary or gender fluid.

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