Author of anti-gay letter appeals human rights ruling

A former pastor who was fined by the Alberta Human Rights Commission over an anti-gay letter, and told to stop making disparaging comments, is appealing the order.

A former pastor who was fined by the Alberta Human Rights Commission over an anti-gay letter, and told to stop making disparaging comments, is appealing the order.

Stephen Boissoin said Monday he believes the panel overstepped its powers when it banned him from publishing disparaging remarks about homosexuals.

"I believe it's a definite impingement on my Charter rights as a citizen of Canada," he told CBC News.

"The Charter clearly states I have the rights of freedom of speech, I have the rights of freedom of religious expression. My opinion obviously should be just as valid, just as protected as any other Canadian's opinion."

In 2002, Boissoin wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate that compared gay people to pedophiles and drug dealers. It was published under the headline "Homosexual agenda wicked."

The provincial commission recently fined the Concerned Christian Coalition, and  Boissoin, its former executive director, $7,500 for breaking the province's human rights law by exposing homosexual people to hatred and contempt.

Two-thirds of the fine is to be paid to Darren Lund, the man who made the initial complaint to the commission, and the rest to Janelle Dodd, one of Lund's witnesses who used to work with Boissoin at a youth outreach centre.

Lund said the ruling's intention is clear: "To curtail a person who obviously has the desire to make some very inflammatory and false comments about a community that is already vulnerable to a lot of violence."

Boissoin filed an appeal of the commission's ruling to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta last week, and has set up a defence fund on his website.

Eric Adams, an assistant law professor at the University of Alberta, said he believes banning all disparaging comments likely won't be accepted by the courts.

"I suspect that a judge is going to consider that 'disparaging' is too broad and too vague," he said.