A case against Rev. Ken Campbell is now being heard before the British Columbia Human Rights Commission – the second time the pastor from Tumbler Ridge, B.C., has faced a tribunal for the same publication.

Campbell, an ordained Fellowship Baptist minister, broadcaster, and Christian activist formerly based in Milton, Ont., placed a full-page ad in the April 18, 1998 Globe and Mail for his group, Choose Life Canada. It was headlined, “Supreme Court of Canada has no business imposing ‘bath-house morality’ on the churches and in the living rooms of the nation!” The ad was a response to the Vriend decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that Alberta must protect homosexuals from discrimination.

The ad declared that the decision was “the latest insanity from Canada’s appointed judiciary ordering the elected provincial parliaments to affirm the normalness of buggery, and forcing the church and church-related organizations to deny the teachings of Christ and his apostles as to sexual morality.” Homosexuality, the ad said, is “conduct which no civilized society embraces as normal in its legislative agenda.” The ad was “a civilized response to the barbaric agenda of a militant special interest lobby bent on making the world their closet.”

“I woke up at 3 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning in 1998 with this thing stirring,” Campbell told The Interim. He sent to the ad to the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, and the Globe and Mail. The first two refused to print it; the last ran it unedited. “We realized it was a keg of dynamite,” Campbell said.

It was. The ad made headlines across Canada. Philip Shea launched a complaint against the ad to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, arguing that the ad incited discrimination against homosexuals. The commission rejected the complaint last year. Commissioner Keith Norton said that although the ad “is highly offensive, it is nevertheless an expression of opinion that does not fall within the purview of the Code.” Campbell had argued that Norton, whom he calls a friend, faced a conflict of interest, because he is a gay activist. Campbell and Norton met 50 years ago, when Norton was a student at Pickering High School and Campbell ran a bible study group there.

On Oct. 16, a hearing began before the B.C. Human Rights Commission over the same advertisement. Kevin Stacey filed a complaint of discrimination, calling the ad “an offensive attack on homosexuals.” He is seeking $5,000 for his suffering, $30,000 for an agency working with homosexual youth, and the price of a full-page ad in the Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail (about$50,000).

The Globe and Mail is a national newspaper, so a complaint could also be filed in B.C. Campbell moved to Tumbler Ridge, B.C., after the complaint was made.

The newspaper’s lawyer made a persuasive presentation to the tribunal, and the complaint against it has been dropped.

The 68-year-old pastor is ready to fight. He argued that as the complaint was made not against himself but against Choose Life Canada, which was deregistered before the complaint was filed, “I’m a nobody here representing a nothing.” He also contended, “You can’t have a law that bans discrimination on two mutually exclusive categories, sexual orientation and religion.” And finally, he maintained that the hearing was a case of double jeopardy.

North Shore News columnist Trevor Lautens believes the last point is obvious. No one can be tried twice in the criminal justice system for the same crime. “It’s a total charade of anything like fair and natural justice to be appearing in two different provinces before a human rights tribunal on the same set of circumstances,” he told The Interim. “Only a very vindictive group could think about it. Of course it could only happen under kangaroo courts, our quasi-judicial human rights tribunals.”

The hearing is expected to wrap up before the end of October. Tribunal decisions are usually reserved until months later.

Iain Benson, executive director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal, suggests there is hope the decision will be in Campbell’s favour. The complaint against him was accepted under the regime of Mary Woo Sims, a lesbian activist who was fired as head of the tribunal by new premier Gordon Campbell.