COLUMN: Fair comment in an often unfair world

There’s at least one student at a nearby elementary who would likely call me a hypocrite – or worse – if he happened to notice a letter to the editor I published earlier this week.

The letter – penned by Mike Schouten (under my headline, Intolerance not akin to bullying) – explains that local anti-bullying campaigns have been hijacked by homosexual advocates and various forms of media.

Arguable, but fair comment, in my opinion.

Schouten concludes his letter: “It’s time Canadians stood up to the bullying of the homosexual community. Their militant efforts to force all of us to not only tolerate but to accept and even celebrate their choice to practise a completely unnatural lifestyle needs to be stopped!”

Still arguable and less fair but, I would argue, still worthy of publication in a culture that celebrates free speech.

Others disagree.

In publishing his letter Wednesday – effectively giving Schouten a forum for his pronouncements – I’ve already been accused of inflicting hatred on the world.

This was certainly not the message I tried to instill in a young student at a recent school camping trip near Gibsons. As one of four parental chaperones, I’d noticed over the course of the three-day trip that one student in particular was repeatedly – and loudly – calling a friend “a homosexual.”

Out of earshot of his classmates, I mentioned hearing his banter; he quickly noted he was merely joking.

Thought so, I nodded. Problem is: it’s not really funny to many who overhear it, as it’s neither clever nor an insult.

I suggested that, out of respect to my gay friends, I should offer my two cents, for what it’s worth.

Now, just two weeks later, I published a letter that likely offends these same friends.

I would hope most realize I print letters regardless of my opinion. I know many do not. Often, in our newsroom, word gets back to us how critical/wrong/mean-spirited the editor is on our letters page.

Fact is, sure I choose them. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I like them, and I sure as heck don’t write them.

In this case, I disagree vehemently with Schouten’s opinion, but I’ll defend his right to say it.

In truth, I’m not sure to what specifically he refers to as “the abuse of these efforts by gay lobbyists to force their ideology on, specifically, the youth…”

Perhaps he’s referencing the recent parent disputes with the Burnaby School District’s attempts to combat homophobia.

Or maybe he’s noting that our television screens (if not the movie screens) have promoted acceptance of what Schouten clearly considers a perilous lifestyle.

Maybe it’s another issue entirely.

(I’m only certain he’s not referring to the spate of gay-teen suicides in the United States last year, nor the taunting and bullying gay people have experienced throughout our history… but I digress.)

Regardless of its genesis, Schouten’s opinion is sure to enrage some and engage others, and it is that much more significant when one considers that he received the backing of the Christian Heritage Party as candidate for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale in the May 2 federal election.

All the more reason to quote him – and others who run for office – accurately and often.

As voters, we don’t need to be blindsided by having candidates suddenly coming out of left – or right – field on issues, should they ever win.

One caller Thursday morning suggested I should have, as editor, reworded Schouten’s letter so that it was less of a call-to-arms for homophobes.

I respectfully disagree.

If I were to make his letter more tame – less unpalatable – not only would it be unfair to him, it would be unfair to you.

And then I can only imagine what you’d call me.

Lance Peverley is editor of the Peace Arch News.


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