The federal government’s anti-pornography initiative, Bill C-54, is being supported by many pro-family activists as a welcome first step to curb pornography. Christians Against Pornography, however, believes that the legislation cannot be supported and Katherine de Jong and J.K. MacKenzie explain the group’s position below.
Criticism by journalists, authors, playwrights, film makers, lawyers, sociologists and sex therapists have lulled many Christians into the false belief that Bill C-54, recently presented to Parliament by Mr. Ray Hnatyshyn will substantially eliminate pornography. However, a careful analysis of the Bill makes it abundantly clear that such is not the case.
The Bill would legalize a theatrical performance in the form of a play or a film involving “masturbation or ejaculation…or vaginal, anal or oral intercourse” if a theatre owner could prove on a balance of probabilities that the performance had “artistic merit.” The actors engaging in vaginal intercourse would either be committing fornication or adultery, or if husband and wife they could be the source of temptation and sin for viewers.
It is not just the potential conduct of males that is of concern. Women are also tempted by the exhibition of the flesh of the opposite sex. Witness the number of women resorting to performances involving male strippers.
The same defence of “artistic merit” would apply to a performance involving anal intercourse or sodomy, a clear violation of the law of God. The Bill would also legitimize a play or film showing bestiality (sex with an animal) and incest if “artistic merit” could be proven.
The same defence would open the door for performances where sexually violent conduct takes place, or degrading acts “by which one person…defecates, urinates or ejaculates onto another person,” or necrophilia (intercourse with the dead).
The Bill does not define “artistic merit.” As an eminent English Judge, Lord Reid, remarked, “The word ‘artistic’ is not an easy word to construe or apply not only because it may have different shades of meaning but also because different people have different views about what is artistic.” Eventually the Supreme Court of Canada will be required to determine under what circumstances the sexual acts mentioned above could have such merit. The opinion of experts – playwrights, authors, producers, directors, actors, etc. – would be admissible. Although a Court can reject such evidence it cannot reject it without good reason. It would be an exceptional case when that would occur.
In the Lady Chatterley’s Lover case Judson J., in delivering the judgment of three members of the Supreme Court stated, “…my training and experience have been, not in literature, but in law and I readily acknowledge that the evidence of the witnesses…is of real assistance to me in reaching a conclusion.” The majority of the justices held that the book was not obscene.
If the Bill is passed a court could not hold, as a matter of law, that the aforementioned sexual acts, by their very nature, lacked “artistic merit.” The function of the Court would be to define that term and to determine whether or not in any given case the factual situation would warrant a finding that the defence had been proven.
In the ordinary case the onus is on the Crown to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that a crime has been committed. An accused will be found guilty if at the end of the case there is a reasonable doubt that he or she committed the offence. However, a theatre owner would only have to prove “on a balance of probabilities” the defence of “artistic merit” or, in other words, that it is more likely, rather than less likely that the performance had such a characteristic. That is the burden of proof, which is normally required of a person charged with a criminal offence, a much less onerous burden than that imposed on the Crown seeking a conviction in the usual criminal case.
So taking into consideration the availability of expert testimony and the less onerous burden of proof, the likelihood is that some day, somewhere in Canada, a court is going to conclude that vaginal intercourse, which the Legislature says in law can have artistic merit, does in fact have it in the particular play or movie being judged by the court. The same prediction applies to the other sexual acts previously mentioned.
One provision cries out for comment. The Bill would allow a theatre owner to present “erotica” to an under 18 if he could prove it had “artistic merit.” If courts hold that performances involving sexual acts such as those mentioned above have “artistic merit,” then so would the exhibition of the private parts of the body displayed in such performances and, therefore, persons under 18 would be allowed to attend such performances.
If that is what is likely to happen, if the Bill is passed, and if it follows that the conduct which would be legalized would violate the law of God, can a Christian support it? The answer is obviously “no.” God has outlawed fornication, adultery and lust, and as Christians we are obliged to speak out against these things. We cannot stand idly by.
The first step is to write Brian Mulroney and your local M.P., Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6 (no postage required), advising them that you are a Christian and demand the following:
(1) all erotica and pornography including violence, crime, horror and cruelty, whether actual or simulated, soft or hard, written or visual, be outlawed and barred freedom importation.
(2) there be no defences available to anyone involved in erotica and pornography
(3) exhibition of private parts of the body be allowed for genuine artistic or medical purposes only.
In the final analysis, picture the Resurrected Jesus Christ speaking to us about the Bill. What would be His view? If He would not support it, how can we?