Published September 13, 2004 on

An Open Letter to the Reverend Jerry Falwell

Dear Rev. Falwell,

It is perhaps a small irony that the inspiration for this letter appeared on a Sunday. Specifically, I speak of this reference to you in the July 13, 2003 issue of Parade magazine: "The Rev. Jerry Falwell does two versions of his programs. In Canada, criticizing homosexuality can be classified by law as 'hate speech' (not so in the U.S.), so Falwell alters his message north of the border."

I found this absolutely astounding -- for more reasons than one. The first was the degree of censorship in our neighbor to the north. A minister cannot deliver a simple sermon on personal morality for fear of government reprisal? What would the criminal act of "criticizing homosexuality" subsume -- preaching that the bible condemns certain sexual behaviors? That gays need Jesus just like everyone else? Anyone who knows you knows that you are no Fred Phelps and have in fact expressed your disapproval of him. So can nothing more than traditional Christian (and other religious) teaching on sexual matters now constitute "hate speech"?

A related jolt came from realizing that this is yet another example of how the "limited welfare state" refuses to recognize any limits. We all know that Canada is a much more heavily-governed nation than our country, but we tend to think of this as involving only "economic" issues (e.g., socialized medicine), not "personal" ones. But when the freedoms of religion and speech are so flagrantly violated, can there be any doubt that this government is seeking to control people's minds as thoroughly as their money?

What I found most shocking, however, was that you would actually go along with this. I simply cannot see you making any compromises with the witnessing of what you believe is the gospel truth -- certainly not because of Caesar, no matter what he threatened. So I must ask: How much further will you go? You really have to answer that for yourself, if for no other reason than there can be no doubt that the Canadian government will go further. Twenty-five years ago, could anyone have foreseen such a law? And yet, can anyone deny that it is the culmination of the trends of all those years, trends that still continue? Consider the Old Testament passages on homosexuality, which are far more severe than any of your sermons. Twenty-five years from now, will the bible itself "be classified by law as 'hate speech'" -- in the U.S. as well as Canada? Is it really that inconceivable?

Actually, it can be -- if someone stands up this trend now. Rev. Falwell, why not commit "civil disobedience" by doing something outrageously radical -- namely, speaking your mind freely? Isn't LIBERTY a righteous cause to challenge the State? Yes, obviously the Canadian government is not bound by our First Amendment, so on what grounds should you take your stand? The firmest of all: "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," from which no government can exempt itself. Canada is another country, not an alternate reality. No nation can deny the "Truth" of the "unalienable Rights" of "all Men." We cannot allow borders to loom as barriers to the idea of freedom -- and the freedom of ideas.

If you're at all curious, I will mention on a personal note that I don't share your views on any number of subjects, including religion and sexuality -- all of which is completely irrelevant. The struggle for the freedom of "all Men" means a struggle for the freedom of each man. Rev. Falwell, the choice has been thrust upon you, but the decision will be yours.

"Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

  Your fellow American,
        Barry Loberfeld

Postscript: On November 30, 2007, the Human Rights Panel of Alberta found that “Mr. Stephen Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc., contravened Section 3 of the Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act by causing to be published in the Red Deer Advocate” a statement that “was likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt because of their sexual orientation.”

On May 30, 2008, the body ordered, among other “appropriate remedies,” that “Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals. … Further, all disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.”