If there is one thing that Bill Whatcott doesn’t do, it’s miss an opportunity to proclaim what he believes. A big part of what he believes is that freedom of speech, justice and Christian activism are in short supply.
To Whatcott, freedom of speech includes the right to denounce those things he considers morally wrong and destructive as well as the option to uphold, and even crusade for, those things he believes are right. There are no grey tones to morality for Bill right is right and wrong is wrong. And while some disapprove of his methods and others agree with them, few dare stand up for their convictions in quite the way he does. He’s been arrested on eight different occasions, had his character maligned by the mainstream media, become the object of hate literature, been compared to the Taliban, and now, stands in danger of losing his livelihood as a licensed practical nurse.
He tells of being arrested “when I was a pagan.” “I deserved it,” he explained “and it (the punishment) was lenient. It’s far better to be arrested for holding a knife and dealing crack cocaine than as a pro-lifer.”
That’s the part of the conversation when Bill brings up the matter of justice. Because of his fearless stand on the issues of abortion and homosexuality, Bill faces the permanent suspension of his licensed practical nurse status and, consequently, the loss of his job in the Regina Health District.
“Many of the nurses I work with are supportive,” he says. “But seven or eight of them filed complaints that I was sleeping during my shifts. They also accused me of pouring urine over patients’ beds.”
Those charges resulted in a disciplinary hearing from the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (SALPN) in March of this year. Although Whatcott claims that a member of that disciplinary board considered the charges “unsubstantiated,” he was grilled, not only on his views concerning abortion, but on other social, non-work related issues such as homosexuality, gun control and capital punishment.
In the interests of justice, Tyler Benson, a justice advocate and pro-life supporter, was present at that hearing. Although he questions how much good his presence did, Benson conceded that his being there had at least one positive effect. “To witness the events,” he said.
“One of the panellists was very defensive. I believe that my being there probably prevented some accusations that otherwise might have been fabricated.”
While Whatcott denies guilt in the nurses’ complaints, he does not deny his “up front, in your face” kind of activism that has landed him in trouble with the law, the public and even with some pro-life supporters.
At the recent Welcome Week held on the campus of the University of Regina, Bill was handing out pamphlets criticizing the practice of homosexuality. Earlier this summer, he became the centre of a heated controversy when, without the agreement or endorsement of local pro-life groups in the city, Whatcott conducted a demonstration involving graphic images of aborted babies at Prince Albert’s busiest intersection.
Although Denise Hounjet-Roth, President of Campaign Life Coalition Saskatchewan, doesn’t agree with all his methods, she says she appreciates his commitment to his convictions. “At every opportunity he is there,” she says. In spite of the anger and opposition generated by his pamphlets and warnings, she believes that Whatcott “handles it quite well. All his statements are related to Scriptural principles.”
Hounjet-Roth went on to explain that while in Prince Albert, six police cruisers surrounded them and officers demanded that demonstrators relinquish their signs.
“They started to take them away,” she said. ” We were told to give them up or we would go to jail. Bill refused to give his up.”
According to Hounjet-Roth, some posters showed a baby in the mother’s womb, another was of a born child. “But because some people phoned and complained,” she said, “the signs had to be removed.”
Doug Dahl, managing editor of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, says no charges were laid in the case but Bill Whatcott lives daily with other consequences of his commitment to truth.
Whatcott said “I’ve had hate stickers put on my locker at work, and I’ve been falsely accused at work. I’m going to court on Oct. 25 for handing out ‘Murdered Babies’ pamphlets and I can only work some night shifts on a friendly unit.”
As a result of the Prince Albert incident and the SALPN charges, Whatcott appeared on the Heart of the Matter radio broadcast from Wisconsin and on the John Gormley radio show in Saskatchewan. Seventy-two hours later he received a letter from the SALPN telling him he had been found guilty of all charges.
“I find out on Oct. 11 whether my nursing career is ended,” he said. In the meantime, Whatcott has a family to care for. He has plans to open a fast-food outlet and he works part-time delivering newspapers. He’s also got a handful of supporters that stand with him. That kind of commitment makes Bill an embarrassment to some but a model of Christian activism to others.
“Without Bill, Saskatchewan activism is limited,” says Hounjet-Roth. “The fight has only begun and I think that’s why Bill scares some people. He has conviction – Show the Truth did not happen until he got here.”
There is no question that things happen when Bill Whatcott is in the area. Whether it’s demonstrating for family values or against abortion and homosexuality, Bill can be found somewhere near. His manner is rough, abrasive; his speech, at times, crude but there is no doubting where he stands in relation to his values. In a shot at inactive Christians, he says: “It’s a lot easier to get people to a March for Jesus where they eat hotdogs and feel good than to deal with these issues.”