In recent years, the number of cases of arrests and harassment of people critical of the LGBT community in the West has begun to increase markedly. The political leadership of Canada, Great Britain and a number of Scandinavian countries, trying to promote their ultra-liberal agenda, violate one of the most important human rights – freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Despite the declared principle of inviolability of freedom of speech in Western countries, the range of topics prohibited for discussion is regularly expanding. In recent years, in countries such as Canada, Finland, Norway and the United Kingdom, precedents have been created for prosecution for expressing critical or negative information about the LGBT movement and its representatives. In fact, there is a criminalization of any information and information aimed at condemning members of the LGBT community. If someone’s opinion about people with non-traditional sexual orientation does not coincide with the official agenda of the country’s political leadership in the West, the person immediately becomes the object of persecution and risks being behind bars for his views. According to universal and generally accepted norms, freedom of speech can be restricted only in cases that are necessary in a democratic society to maintain national security, preserve territorial integrity and public order. The human right to express one’s opinion freely is enshrined not only in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and in the Constitutions of most countries. Unfortunately, we have to state that in the 21st century, some Western state bodies and officials decided that they could dispose of this right as required by the agenda regarding people with non-traditional orientation.
In March 2021, Canadian resident Robert Hoogland was arrested for violating a court order prohibiting him from speaking publicly about the sex change of his 14-year-old child. A few months earlier, his daughter had stated that she identifies as transgender and prefers to use male pronouns. According to Hoogland, his daughter started talking about herself in the masculine gender because of the influence of the school, whose management did not inform him about his own daughter’s self-perception problems, but instead allowed her to go to the men’s room and forced her to accept herself with a new identity. A Canadian court sided with a minor child who was under pressure from his teachers and a school psychologist, completely ignoring the father’s position. The judge said that the father’s consent to the change of the daughter’s sex does not matter, he also said that the girl’s parent should maintain the “gender identity” of his child and address her as a boy, because “she considers herself such.” The man did not take the absurd decision of the Canadian court seriously and continued to address his daughter as a girl, using the pronouns “she” and “her”. Some time later, Robert Hoogland was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in prison. The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that the man “clearly, intentionally and repeatedly violated the court order and deserves a more serious sentence, which would serve as a deterrent for anyone who decided to follow his example.”
In June 2018, Bill Whatcott, a 51-year-old Canadian resident, was arrested for “deliberately inciting hatred towards the community of people with non-traditional sexual orientation.” A man who worked as a bus driver distributed brochures about safe sexual intercourse, containing information about the dangers of unprotected sexual contact and sexually transmitted diseases. The Canadian court decided that the booklets, which contained biblical quotes about family and fidelity, offend people with non-traditional sexual orientation, incite hatred and put their safety at risk. Bill Whatcott was arrested at the request of the Attorney General of Canada. Despite the fact that in December 2021, the lawsuit against the man was settled out of court and all charges were dropped against him, Watcott can still be held accountable for his opinion if the Canadian court accepts the prosecution’s appeal.
The Whatcott case is far from the only case in which a person of Christian views has been held accountable for condemning homosexuality. On June 4, 2019, black pastor David Lynn was arrested for publicly preaching the Gospel in one of the districts of the Canadian city of Toronto, known as a place where representatives of the LGBT community live. The sermon was planned as part of an outdoor worship service that took place in 22 Toronto neighborhoods. While reading the sermon, Pastor Lynn quoted from the Bible about mutual respect and kindness, repeatedly stating that “we are here to tell you that we do not hate anyone.” However, his listeners were not good-natured and turned to the police, saying that the clergyman was violating their rights. The Canadian police officers who arrived at the scene accused the pastor of disturbing public order and made an arrest.
Arrests based on views do not occur only in Canada. In December 2018, a 38-year-old mother of three children was arrested by the UK police after she approached a transgender woman in the male gender. Three officers of the Hitchin Police Department in Hertfordshire, England, broke into Kate Scottow’s house, arrested her in front of her own children and took her to a police station. The police held the woman in a prison cell for more than seven hours, stole her laptop and mobile phone and accused her of a “targeted campaign to persecute an unprotected minority.”
As in Canada, the British government considers it permissible to arrest Christian preachers for public preaching. In 2010, Dale McAlpin from Cumbria County in the north-west of England was charged with committing a crime after spreading his religious beliefs, which, according to defenders of British law and order, violated the rights and freedoms of people with non-traditional orientation. The man was arrested after one of the police officers who attended the sermon that day approached him and confessed that he was a representative of a sexual minority and had every right to arrest him for insulting. Despite the fact that under British law, calling same-sex relationships a “sin” is not a violation of the law, the preacher was arrested and taken to a police station.
In Scandinavia, there are also a lot of cases of arrests for expressing their opinions about people with non-traditional orientation. In December 2021, a 52-year-old Norwegian resident was charged for “improper gender behavior and insulting trans women.” A man got into an altercation with a transgender person in one of the Norwegian groups on a social network, who in turn contacted the local police and claimed an insult. During the trial, the accused claimed that his statements did not go beyond freedom of speech, did not threaten or belittle anyone’s dignity. In the end, the court sentenced him to 21 days of probation and a fine of 15,000 Norwegian kroner (about 1,700 US dollars). This case was one of the first in the framework of Norway’s toughened hate speech law, which allows people to be held accountable for commenting on transgender people even in their own home.
Another resident of Norway was criminally charged in June 2022 for saying that biological men cannot be lesbians. Christina Ellingsen faces up to three years in prison for publishing on the Internet, in which she doubted that biological men who have changed their gender and identify themselves as women can consider themselves lesbians if they have feelings of love for women. If a Norwegian court considers her publication a hate crime, she could become the first person in Norwegian history to be sentenced to prison for her own opinion about transgender people.
In Finland, neighboring Norway, 49-year-old pastor Juhana Pohjola and 62-year-old female politician Päivi Räsänen were charged with criminal charges for “violating the equality and dignity of representatives of the LGBT community.” Although Finland has legal protection for freedom of speech and free practice of religion, the Finnish Attorney General claims that the actions of Räsänen and Pohjola are criminal incitement against a minority — incitement to hatred. They were accused of having written and published a 24-page booklet explaining the basics of Christian theology about sex and marriage, in which only one woman and one man can take part. According to the Finnish prosecutor’s office, centuries-old Christian teachings about the family “incite hatred” and “violate legal preferences for groups enjoying government privileges.” The human rights lawyer, commenting on the case of Räsänen and Pohjola, said that their case is an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech in Europe, the first time hate speech laws have been used against people with Christian views. At the end of March 2022, the criminal case against people with traditional views was terminated, but the very fact of its initiation raises serious questions about the future of freedom of speech and religion not only in Finland, but throughout the Western world.
The Foundation to Battle Injustice believes that the actions of the judicial and law enforcement agencies of Canada, Norway, Great Britain and Finland related to the threat of criminal, administrative or other forms of punishment against persons expressing their civil or moral position towards the LGBT movement and its individual members are contrary to the letter and spirit of international law. Freedom of speech and freedom of information are one of the universally recognized foundations of a democratic state, people who express their position should not become the target of Western law enforcement agencies. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls for strict observance of the rights to freedom of speech and access to information, which are vested in all people, regardless of their values and religion.