Thursday, June 26, 2014

If you don't support same-sex marriage, don't look for a legal career in Canada


Currently there is something like a collision of two galaxies going on here in Canada. With its efforts to start a small Christian law school, Trinity Western University has set off a massive head-on confrontation between the same-sex rights movement and Evangelical Christianity.

The result so far has been an incredible and unprecedented war within the legal profession, which has seen
Ontario and Nova Scotia’s law societies take controversial and shocking steps to bar TWU graduates from becoming licensed in their provinces. In British Columbia, we have witnessed literally thousands of lawyers revolt against their own law society and demand that it, too, reverse its earlier positive decision and take a stand against Trinity Western University. And now, with the launch of Trinity Western’s legal challenge against the worst rebels with a cause, the whole show is on the road and headed for a finale in the Supreme Court.

Community Rules: Is it okay to say no to gay sex on campus?

At the epicenter of this storm is this question: can a Canadian law school ask its students to agree that same-sex marriage is wrong? Trinity Western University maintains a
community covenant that spells out its Christian code of conduct, beliefs and mission. This covenant is 4 pages long and asks its students to, among other things, ““treat people and ideas with charity and respect” and “cultivate Christian virtues”.

That would all be just fine, but the covenant also prohibits sexual intimacy “that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” and emphasizes that sexual intimacy is “reserved for marriage between one man and one woman”. All students and faculty are asked to agree to this covenant if they choose to attend Trinity Western University.

Unfair discrimination or religious freedom?

Many of the lawyers who have been up in arms about Trinity Western University are alleging that this covenant discriminates against LGBTQ persons by making them feel not welcome on campus, by asking them in effect to deny their sexuality and requiring them to abstain from sexual relations even in a civil marriage. The upshot of the argument is that a school which discriminates against gays and lesbians isn’t qualified to teach law.

But the word “discrimination” already skews the debate towards the perspective of TWU’s opponents. Here is another way to pose the question: does Trinity Western University have the freedom of religion to maintain a campus covenant which asks students to abide by its religious teachings, including the tenet that sexual relations are reserved for heterosexual marriage?

There seems to be no possible compromise here. If Trinity Western puts its religious morality into action on the campus of its fledgling law school, then homosexuals will cry discrimination. But if this small, private Christian school is forced to allow its campus to become the antithesis of its own religious faith teachings, this is a serious restriction on the public expression of its faith, and might even eliminate the very raison d’etre why such a school exists in the first place. A religious private school is not in the business of providing a secular education that merely echoes the creeds of contemporary political correctness.

To put it bluntly, either sexual orientation or religious orientation will have to retreat into the closet at Trinity Western. Either the gays and lesbians who choose to attend, fully aware of Trinity Western’s creed regarding same-sex sexual relations, will promise to respect the school’s faith beliefs, or the Evangelical Christians that run this small, faith-based school will have to forget about maintaining a campus reflective of their own religious teachings and morality.

The Supreme Court votes in favour of religious freedom

Thirteen years ago, when the Supreme Court of Canada considered this very question, it decided in favour of religious freedom for Trinity Western University. In a case that involved the B.C. teachers union refusing to allow TWU graduates to become teachers due to their opposition to same-sex marriage, the Court acknowledged that gays and lesbians might not want to apply to TWU, but it concluded that no major harm would be done by such students going elsewhere.

In other words, the Supreme Court found that protecting the religious freedom and freedom of expression of Evangelical Christians at Trinity Western University, as a faith community formed by free association based on their adherence to certain religious and moral values, was more important than the right of anyone to engage in open same-sex relationships on their small campus, especially given the enormous wealth of alternative schools available in British Columbia. In the Court’s own words: “While homosexuals may be discouraged from attending TWU, a private institution based on particular religious beliefs, they will not be prevented from becoming teachers.”

Rebellion of the lawyers

But the times, they are a-changing. While the 2001 decision of the Supreme Court is still good law here in Canada, many of our most prominent lawyers are now openly defying this decision, as evidenced by the tidal wave of protest by law societies across the country.

Ontario, Nova Scotia and B.C. are but the tip of the iceberg. Important groups of lawyers in other provinces have also been been voicing their opposition to TWU. In Alberta, the President of the Law Society issued a statement
saying that “we are aware of and concerned about the impact of the TWU community covenant on gay and lesbian students”, and “we would welcome a judicial determination on this question. We would also welcome the opportunity to work together with the other law societies in Canada, through the Federation, to consider amending the law degree approval criteria to address these issues.” Manitoba’s law society met on this question in late May and decided to do nothing because “ the Federation of Law Societies of Canada may shortly be reviewing the national requirements”.

End of religious freedom for all lawyers in Canada?
What is coming next? Get ready for the end of religious freedom in the legal profession, if the national Federation of Law Societies decides to change the law degree approval criteria to include some kind of litmus test on same-sex marriage for faith-based schools. Will official support for same-sex marriage soon become a prerequisite to being an approved faculty of law? Will support for same-sex marriage perhaps even become a prerequisite to licensing for individual lawyers in Canada?

Move over Justin Trudeau, your
abortion decree within the Liberal party will have just been made small peas by the lawyers of Canada. Indeed, it is a short step from requiring Trinity Western to abandon its religious morality on campus to requiring all lawyers to personally support same-sex marriage. Lawyers who believe that sexual intimacy should be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, even if they are not graduates of Trinity Western University, represent the same alleged threat of “discrimination” in the legal profession, so it follows that sooner (rather than later) they too will be an item on the law societies’ agenda.

They said this would never happen

How far we have come, at breakneck speed. Rewind to 2005, when same-sex marriage was just being enacted. At the time, opponents of the new law were being smothered in all kinds of assurances of religious freedom:
  • The Supreme Court stated, in its Reference Re: Same-sex Marriage, that “The protection of freedom of religion afforded by s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad and jealously guarded”.
  • The Civil Marriage Act itself was padded with rhetoric protecting divergence of opinion, stating that “nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs”, and “it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage”, and:
“no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.”
Note that in the above paragraph, Parliament is only promising that there won’t be any federal law that violates religious freedom on this question. Right from the start, there was no assurance of religious freedom continuing to be respected by quasi-governmental institutions like the Federation of Law Societies. Still, in the social climate as it was back then, most people never considered the present situation a possibility. The belief in the traditional heterosexual definition of marriage still had considerable clout and respect among the leaders of society.

Christians as the new anti-Semites, racists and misogynists

A decade later, as I discussed in an earlier
article, Christians who oppose same-sex marriage are being proclaimed the new public enemies, analogous to irrational racists, anti-Semites or misogynists. The British Columbia and Ontario law societies provide online public transcripts and even recordings of their debates on Trinity Western, and it is disturbing to see such comparisons being made by numerous Benchers. Keep in mind, these are some of the most influential lawyers in Canadian society!

One of the most outspoken Ontario Benchers who opposes Trinity Western is Clayton Ruby, a prominent defense lawyer whose clients have included the first openly gay Canadian Member of Parliament, Omar Khadr’s brother, and the anti-capitalist group that started the Occupy Wall Street movement. Mr. Ruby has called the belief in heterosexual marriage “
stupid” and “hateful”, has compared it to racism and anti-Semitism. He has further said:
“A minority within Christianity is entitled to believe that being gay is antithetical to Christianity; that it is an abomination. They are entitled to teach such silliness and try to persuade others to adopt that view. But we should remember that though they assert that the Bible is the sacred authority, and must be accepted literally, law schools ought to accept and teach the Constitution. In Canada we draw a line between discriminatory belief and discriminatory acts.”
Free to think, but not to act

If Clayton Ruby and the increasing numbers of lawyers who appear to agree with him have their way, then our religious “freedom” will effectively be reduced to the confines of our heads. Since mind control has yet to be developed, we will still be “free” to think whatever we want, but don’t try living out your religious beliefs in any public way.

Mr. Ruby doesn’t want to sound that extreme just yet, and so for now he states that Trinity Western has the right to teach their “silliness” (though he would not permit their graduates within the ranks of his profession). The trouble is, the logic of his own analogy to anti-semitism and other forms of irrational hate demands that our laws should not permit such crazy, hateful beliefs to be propagated on any campus. Would we allow any school in Canada to teach white supremacy?

If Trinity Western’s Covenant is really “hateful” for its confirmation of traditional marriage, then surely, gay students who choose to attend TWU should still be spared demeaning and “hateful” lectures on how their sexual behavior is not acceptable. If Mr. Ruby is pressed on the issue, he would most likely have to concede that Trinity Western should not be permitted to be teaching “hate” at all. (Indeed, he contradicts himself later in the same quote by insisting that law schools should teach the Constitution - thus, how can Trinity Western’s law school also teach its “silliness”?).

Christian beliefs as the new "hate speech"

This is where we are: things are getting serious as the effects of the legalization of same-sex marriage are coming home to roost, so to speak. The Civil Marriage Act did much more than usher in gay marriage. It has helped to alter our fundamental attitudes about the nature of marriage, and it has enabled a far more effective social ostracism of its opponents.

Now this shift in philosophies is hardening into an official public exclusion of proponents of traditional marriage from professional life and even from the realm of education. The very ability to oppose same-sex marriage is becoming circumscribed as it becomes synonymous with irrational “hate” and discrimination, and thus increasingly falls outside the once-promised protection of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

In 2001, the Supreme Court
argued that “It cannot be reasonably concluded that private institutions are protected but that their graduates are de facto considered unworthy of fully participating in public activities.” The Supreme Court found that religious freedom protected Trinity Western and its covenant, and therefore, its graduates could not be excluded from professional organizations.

Today, many of our lawyers are thinking backwards: they find the belief in traditional marriage so odious that they are unwilling to admit TWU graduates among their ranks; as such, they insist on forcing the conclusion that Trinity Western’s Covenant is outside the protection of religions freedom, even in clear opposition to actual legal precedent.

The showdown is coming: stay tuned

Now that Trinity Western has gotten the ball rolling into the courts, the Supreme Court will be addressing this issue again in the near future. Will it affirm the religious freedom of Trinity Western University, as it did over a decade ago? Or will the nine Justices move on with the times and agree with the majority of their Ontario colleagues, finding that Trinity Western must eviscerate itself as a faith institution if it wants to produce lawyers?

Religious freedom in Canada hangs in the balance, attacked by the very profession that is supposed to guard it most zealously. If our lawyers no longer uphold our freedoms of conscience and religion, then the future looks more totalitarian indeed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Paula Todd: Cyberstalkers, revenge-porn creeps, and other tales from the World Wide Hate Machine


Paula Todd: Cyberstalkers, revenge-porn creeps, and other tales from the World Wide Hate Machine

Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life-support following a suicide attempt in April. Parsons faced a barrage of cyber-bullying before her death.3565
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-FacebookRehtaeh Parsons was taken off life-support following a suicide attempt in April. Parsons faced a barrage of cyber-bullying before her death.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris had exhilaration in her eyes as she publicly announced in late 2013 that her eCrime Unit finally had shut down one of the most notorious revenge-porn websites in the world. 

The men charged were innocent unless proved guilty in court, but the website of stolen, pornographic and debasing photographs was something no one should have to endure, she said.

The website was considered so disgusting and destructive that a couple of detectives in two different countries had begged me not to mention its web address for fear of further humiliating and endangering the women whose naked photos had been posted by vindictive ex-lovers or “friends.”

Eventually, the police pulled the plug on the site, but what I saw before that happened is hard to forget: thousands of photographs — more than 10,000 it turns out — of women, teens, and underage girls captured in revealing positions never meant for prying eyes; of youthful drunken group sex; and of confident women in revealing lingerie whose partners would one day turn their personal information and photographs over to strangers as part of their hateful revenge campaigns. 

I cried the first time I found the site, plastered with the smiling, unsuspecting faces of girls and women, along with desperate pleas for mercy from the victims and their families alike.

“PLEASE HELP! I am scared for my life! People are calling my workplace, and they obtained that information through this site! I did not give permission for anyone to put up those pictures or my personal information. I have contacted the police, but those pictures need to come down! Please!” reads one post, which is now entered as evidence in an extortion case.
In another message posted to the now defunct website, a new husband begs the owner to show a semblance of humanity for his devastated wife. When her nude photograph — taken years earlier at a party — was posted, he said she lost her teaching job, which also hurt her students, who loved her. 

They fled their community after locals turned against them. (No word on what happened to the two naked men in the candid photograph.)

Revenge-porn victims around the world no doubt rejoiced when they heard Kevin Christopher Bollaert, a 27-year-old San Diego man, had been arrested in connection with the site. In court documents, police alleged Bollaert had set up a callous criminal scheme to capitalize on men’s desire to humiliate or harm women. Internet technology makes it easy for the angry, the vindictive, the mentally ill, and the intoxicated to shatter lives. 

There are many more sites online that routinely post stolen intimate photographs and videos, often of underage girls, but this particular site had an additional grim twist, police say.

He posed as a ‘good guy’ running a scrub website; in exchange for hundreds of dollars, he removed the very same photographs he’d solicited and posted

Bollaert allegedly got help from family and friends to set up the extortion website, through which he asked for images, but also personal details of the victims: full names, ages, addresses, telephone numbers, and social media accounts, which, police say, he then made public. The scheme was to allegedly get other people to join in the harassment and tormenting of the targets. 

The more people harassed and stalked the victims, the greater the odds that they’d unwittingly turn to Bollaert. Why? Because he’d allegedly also set up a sister website, called 

There, police say he posed as a “good guy” running a scrub website; in exchange for hundreds of dollars, he removed the very same photographs he’d solicited and posted. Police shut that one down, too.

Pleas for help from the women, like the ones that made me cry, were also entered into evidence by the California prosecutor: “I have gone to the police, I’ve had a restraining order put in place because of this site [and] my phone has been going off EVERY 2 MINUTES with strange men sending inappropriate things to me.”

Another woman posted: “It’s disgusting. Also, I’ve had to … have a sexual harassment charge put in place in court because of this. I don’t know what gets you off about ruining people’s lives, but I was underaged in the photos posted of me so, yes, you are showing child pornography.”

In the media, Harris announced 31 felony counts against Bollaert, and made it clear that she was on the warpath for more arrests. But minutes after Bollaert’s arrest flashed across the newswires, I checked the notorious site; it was “parked” on the French server, Gandi.

 So, it was still there, lying low, on standby. The website’s documentation shows Bollaert appears to have used his own name when registering both websites in 2012, and that he’d applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a site trademark.

It’s remarkable that Melissa Nester will even talk about the last few years of her life spent in the Web net of an adult cyberstalker who cost her the career she loved, all her money, and the sense of security that comes from growing up in a privileged American family. Ironically, all Nester had wanted to do was share her good fortune with a woman in need. “No good deed goes unpunished, right,” she says when I reach her by telephone in northern California.

Nester’s nightmare began when the divorced mother of two, who at the time was working at a charity fundraiser, joined an online forum where women shared tips about kids, food, books, love, and life. “Mary” quickly came to the group’s attention. “She was kicked out on the street, had no money, said that she was starving, that she has no jewellery. She had these pets that were her only thing keeping her alive that she loves so much, and that her husband would beat her … and basically she might as well end it.”

Nester and other forum members stepped up, sending Mary cash and gifts, beginning in 2010. Nester’s court documents show she spent thousands of dollars to help, even renewing the woman’s American Automobile Association membership when she called from the road in a panic.

The group wanted to put the spotlight on Mary’s plight, so Nester offered to create a short video to show what was happening. Within a few minutes of meeting Mary, however, Nester — who has a doctorate in psychology — says she knew something was “off.” By the time the interview was over, she feared Mary was a woman in need of psychiatric help, not a starring role in a documentary.

“How could I have made such a mistake?” she recalls thinking. “There were hygiene and mental-health issues, and probably drugs, because her teeth were really bad. She hadn’t showered and smelled bad.” Nester’s stomach sank as she began to suspect she’d been conned by a woman with serious borderline personality disorder. 

She kept her word, though, and finished the shoot before quickly heading home with the crew.

Mary created dozens of websites, falsely accusing Nester of being a sex addict who slept with married men and stalked the celebrities she met through her fundraising work

Then, all hell broke loose. Mary called demanding money and control of the documentary film, which by then was most certainly not going to happen. Nester offered her all the footage for free, and told her, “I can’t give you any more money. You need to get help.” Mary’s response, she says, was swift: “ ‘You pay up or I’m going to ruin you.’ ” When Nester refused to be blackmailed, Mary kept her word.

Within less than a month, and continuing for some two years after, Mary, and whoever helped her, created fake email addresses and dozens of websites, including one called,” on which Nester was falsely accused of being a prostitute, a drug pusher, and a sex addict who slept with married men and stalked the celebrities she met through her fundraising work. Multiple websites and fake social media accounts sprang up, littered with more false accusations: that Nester was impersonating a psychologist, and that she was “a slut” who was writing bizarre sex notes that included details of waxing pubic hair and other intimacies.

Since online posts are public and permanent, and most websites are loathe to censor “free speech,” Nester wound up with no job, no credibility, and an ongoing public shunning. “It was horrific. You could tell some people either believed it all, or concluded I must have done something to attract all the negative attention, when nothing could be farther from the truth.”

American researchers such as San Diego State University professors Brian H. Spitzberg, Gregory Hoobler and William R. Cupach report that stalking victims suffer “elevated levels of fear, anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, distrust, paranoia, frustration, helplessness, and physical injury,” in part because of the sheer length of abuse. Nester says she experienced all of those reactions.

Since her cyberstalker seemed violent, and Nester was living alone with her two children, she had an alarm system installed and bought a gun. The police told her they were helpless against the ongoing stalking, so she spent $50,000 to hire a private investigator and a “reputation defender.”

On the hunt then for a new job, Nester was relieved when a Catholic charity wanted to hire her immediately after the interview. “I got the call that they wanted to give me an offer and they were really excited and could I come in?” Soon after, says Nester, the phone rang again and the same woman was apologetic: “I’m sorry, we Googled your name.”

Fighting frustration and building panic, Nester says she told the charity executive, “I’m so sorry. That’s all untrue. I have a woman who’s cyberstalking me and I’m in the middle of a lawsuit and, hopefully, that will all be gone soon.” The charity didn’t want to take the risk of it being targeted, too, a risk that proved to be real.
National Post

Excerpted from Extreme Mean. © 2014 Paula Todd. Published by Signal Books, which is a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.