A University of Calgary professor's human rights complaint about an anti-gay letter published in the Red Deer Advocate in 2002is being heard by an Alberta Human Rights Commission panel on Tuesday.
Darren Lund is hoping to get the letter classed as hate literature and provide a clear limit on language that can be used about homosexuals in the media.
The letter, written by former pastor Stephen Boissoin and published five years ago in the Red Deer newspaper, said homosexuals and those who defend them were as immoral as pedophiles and drug dealers.
The letter, printed under the title "Homosexual Agenda Wicked,"went on to say that a war had been declared and the "homosexual machine" would be defeated.
The language used prompted Lund to complain about the letter to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. He hopes the case being heard this weekwill set a precedent for what constitutes a hate crime in Alberta.
"I think the letter did expose people to hatred and I think the government, if it's serious about its human rights legislation, it needs to make a ruling in this case and I think it's very clear what they need to do," Lund told CBC News.
Letter led to incident: Lund
Lund argued before the panel that the letter created an atmosphere of hate in Red Deer that may have led to an incident of so-called "gay-bashing" two weeks after it was published.
Two other witnesses, one a former Calgary police officer, the other a psychologist, agreed.
The letter encouraged acts of violence against homosexuals, a police officer who once served with the hate crimes unit testified on Tuesday.
Janel Dodd, who worked with Boissoin at a Red Deer youth outreach centre at the time the letter was published, said earlier in the hearing that the former pastor wrote the letter to provoke a reaction.
"That's why he wrote this letter, I feel — so he could get a public reaction," Dodd said.
"He would come into the office everyday and look at the newspaper and say 'What's the backlash today? Who's going against me today?' He was really, really excited by that."
Boissoin testified Tuesday that he had nothing against homosexuals — in fact he loved them, he said.
He said that love is why he had to speak out about his belief that homosexuality is wrong and a sin.
Boissoin told the panel he did not think the letter caused discrimination toward homosexuals.
After questioning Boissoin, Lund said it doesn't matter why he wrote the letter — what matters is the impact it had.
"It's not even about what were the intentions of the letter or the kind of person he is or what he believes. It's about the way his thoughts were conveyed in this letter and the type of call to action he used that we are really looking at here," Lund said.
Lund has asked the Human Rights Commission for funding for a diversity education program in Alberta as part of his settlement.
The hearing is to resume again on Friday.