Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Great Controversy and Canadian Law

On the Spectrum website there is an article by a pastor formerly pastoring in Canada. Pastor Eddy Johnson says the following about the distribution of the Ellen White book the Great Controversy in his article entitled: Will 'The Great Controversy' Project Harm Adventism?
“The saddest part was the reaction of those who had initiated the “evangelistic” dispersal of the book. Upset when the conference asked them to stop, they accused the leadership of cowardice, apostasy, and bowing to the pressure exerted by the “agents of Catholicism that infiltrated the church.” The incident taught me how difficult it was to explain to determined believers that not every action was Biblically timely or wise. Instead they found comfort in their understanding that good people were always going to be persecuted, even by their own church at times. I believe that the action of the conference was instrumental in protecting the Adventist church from what might have been a very nasty court action (we all know the frenzied appetite of the press for such occurrences).”
Currently the Adventist denomination is promoting a mass distribution of the book The Great Controversy with the Great Controversy Project. One of the concerns of some people seem to be that the book will be looked at as hate literature (in fact that is one of the claims of the Great controversy Project though it is bogus, but apparently has some legs as this will be my second article on the subject). As one of my previous commenter said of previous related article on this blog:
“Yet I have concerns about the core message of GC, for our culture, which appears to me some will perceive it as hateful speech or at least unfounded and harsh accusations.”
Canada has one of the tougher hate law legislations in North America, but does the publication of this 1888/1912 book by the Adventist claimed prophet Ellen White equate to hate speech? First I will put forth the disclaimer that I am against all hate crime legislation. A crime is a crime for it's action it should be dealt with for the action not deemed worse because the motive was something other then emotion or avarice or cruelty. See the article from Reason Magazine for further explanation of the problem of hate crime legislation.

Aside from what should be we have to deal with what legislation has been passed. In this case does the Canadian law open the Adventist church up to a nasty court action. Well first you can have a nasty court action for anything whether you are in the right or wrong. So we as a church or as individuals are always open to that, frivolous lawsuits are all too common. But under Canadian law the publication of the Great Controversy book does not fall into the category of section 318 or 319 of the Canadian criminal code. Hate Propaganda 318 Advocating genocide 319 Public incitement of hatred. As 318 requires the advocacy of genocide of some group"
“Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”
 Criminal code 319 allows: 
          “(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)...
(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;”

Since the Seventh-day Adventist denomination has in their fundamental beliefs that Ellen White the author of the Great Controversy is:
“As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction...” (18. The Gift of Prophecy)
The Denomination has a legal defense against the charge of hate propaganda in the law itself.

The legal or criminal/court threat is of no concern at this time, though the potential for ill considered hate crime legislation may someday create more problems as such crimes restrict constitutional freedoms. The real consideration should be; is this book correct, helpful and wise to distribute. The article by Eddy Johnson goes on to give some further reasons it is ill considered to spread this book throughout the country or world. I am in agreement with the article on some of his objections. Though I would raise a few different objections.

Update from a conversation on Spectrum David Read brought up the problem of the Human Rights Commission of Canada, to which I responded as follows:
David Read is correct, Canada has problems with free speech issues because of their human Rights commission which appears to be corrupt and inept. It appears to be an outgrowth of those who believe in hate crime legislation but could not get the legislation into the law. If the Adventist church got involved somehow with that group and the other high profile authors who are being frivolously tried by the human rights commission I would say go for it because they would win this issue in the end and be heralded for protecting Canadian free speech rights.

From an article on the subject:
“Canada’s ‘human rights’ laws are abominable,” he said, “especially Section 13.1 of the Human Rights Act, which criminalizes any speech that makes a person feel uneasy. So it’s not a matter of truth, or evidence, but of feelings.”
Section 13.1 prohibits speech, including speech on the telephone, or writings on the Internet, that is “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”[4] Whether this is “likely” to happen soon, or in the distant future, the law does not specify. Nor does it define speech that is “likely” to do this. In practice, “human rights” commissions have allowed plaintiffs to define it, based on their subjective feelings.
“Now, finally, there is quite a stirring against the human rights commissions—at least among the newspapers,” De Valk said. “We hope this is beginning to change the environment.”
Canadian newspapers have been increasingly critical of “human rights” commissions since complaints were brought against Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, and Maclean’s magazine. Levant, when he was editor of the now-defunct Western Standard, fell afoul of the “human rights” regime when he published the notorious “Muhammad cartoons” to illustrate a news story about them. Maclean’s, Canada’s most widely circulated magazine, published excerpts from Steyn’s book, America Alone, that discussed the growing Muslim influence in Western Europe.
But Levant, Steyn, and Maclean’s have vigorously defended themselves. Their high-profile cases have led to calls for investigation of the commissions’ procedures and even for repeal of portions of the Human Rights Act—first by newspaper, and lately by members of Parliament. Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have launched their own investigation of the commissions.
“The Canadian government has got to be convinced to act,” De Valk said. “We have a Conservative government and a Conservative prime minister; but it’s a minority government, so the Conservatives can’t go forward without support from the other political parties.”


angelos23 said...

The Great Controversy starts with the destruction of the Jerusalem and then hangs on the reformation for a LONG time before getting to the early advent movement. The Great Controversy is out of context when not studying Desire of Ages first, the same way that studying the book of Revelation makes less sense to study without first studying the gospels.

I would follow the pattern of the annaul feasts. The spring feasts, viz passover, unleavened bread, wave sheaf, weeks are a type of Christ's redemptive work on earth. The autumn feasts, viz trumpets, atonement, tabernacles are the judgment feasts and the types of our eschatology. In keeping with THIS pattern, it would be better to hand out the Desire of Ages first so that the The Great Controversy can be studied in its appropriate context.

Omole Ayotunde M L said...

The Lord will guide His Remnant church...we are just custodians of the Spirit of Prophecy books like the Great Controversy,not the owners....let us keep praying,the Lord will protect the books written by a person inspires by His own Spirit...Let us hold on firmly to d truth without compromise...