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Supreme Court hears religious freedom case

Defending the right to speak publicy on moral issues

After a decade of court proceedings, the Supreme Court of Canada on Oct 12 will hear the case of an Edmonton anti-gay activist accused of promoting hatred in Saskatchewan.

Bill Whatcott asked the Court to strike down laws limiting freedom of speech and religious expression. More than 20 groups backed him, including the Catholic Civil Rights League.

In 2001 and 2002, Whatcott distributed anti-gay flyers in Regina and Saskatoon on behalf of the Christian Truth Activists group.

The pamphlets used graphic language and said schoolchildren were being taught propaganda about gay people.

Whatcott originally lost a discrimination case brought against him before the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission but later convinced a Saskatchewan Court of Appeal he was exercising his right to freedom of expression and religious practice.

Four people who received the flyers filed complaints with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.

All four complainants claimed the flyers were homophobic and promoted hatred against them because of their sexual orientation.

Whatcott has argued he was exercising his right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. He added that if the content of the flyers exhibited any form of hate, it was toward sexual behaviour and not sexual orientation.

The case could affect the rights of religious groups to speak publicly on moral issues.