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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Freedom To Preach

Stephen Whitworth
Published Thursday January 22, 05:23 pm
An antigay charmer brings his whack facts to campus

Photo Credit: Darrol Hofmeister

A controversial and flamboyant Regina character was at the University of Regina this month.

And unlike his last his visit, this appearance was 100 per cent handcuff-free.

Bill Whatcott — a self-identified socially conservative, gun-owning activist who says churches that allow same-sex marriage aren’t Christian, among many other things — returned to the U of R to preach his “don’t be gay” and anti-abortion gospels after beating a mischief rap stemming from a spring 2014 incident.

Remember? It was in all the news.

Last April, Whatcott and his cross-border sidekick, U.S. activist Peter LaBarbera of the ironically named hate group Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, were arrested on campus after refusing to follow the orders of security and leave after complaints they were distributing antigay propaganda.

At the time, Whatcott said he’d sought permission for a table but had been denied. He showed up anyway.

The two were later charged. They were found not guilty of mischief on Dec. 22, which set the stage for Whatcott’s inevitable triumphant return. That came on Monday, Jan. 12.

I bribed a highly reluctant Darrol Hofmeister with a promise of free lunch, and got a ride to campus to interview and photograph Bill.

I mean, come on. I had to. Whatcott might be the greatest Christian fundamentalist activist in the country. Maybe “greatest” is the wrong word. Most awesome?

Whatcott’s a guy who dies his hair pink and infiltrates Pride parades. He once got “Heterosexual Pride Day” proclaimed in Regina, which earned him both national news coverage and an appearance on the freakin’ Daily Show — where he wrestled then-correspondent Ed Helms in an unforgettable demonstration of heterosexual manliness.

He also inadvertently got me raked over the coals by Sun News’ Faith Goldy, which is a story that’s too long to get into here. But it was fantastic.

My life is much richer thanks to this man and his silly, factually inaccurate and sometimes evil and bigoted beliefs. I totally had to meet him.

And on that Monday, I did.

WHATCOTT: THE MAN, THE LEGEND

We arrived on campus and dumped our coats in the Carillon office (holla!), then went looking for Bill. I had my T-shirt cuffs rolled up to show off my masculine (i.e. fat) biceps.

We found him in an out-of-the-way bit of hallway near the visual arts department, standing beside a small table festooned with posters that looked like they’d been designed by children.

It was everything I’d ever dreamed of.

I introduced myself. Whatcott was very friendly. He could probably tell I’m sort of a fan.

And I turned my recorder on.

Whatcott, not surprisingly, saw his favourable court decision as a victory for free speech. I asked how his day was going. He said the reaction to his presence was “95 per cent polite”.

“For that I’m grateful,” said Whatcott. “I’ve had two students use swear words, but they’re not at all representative of either the students or the protestors. A couple of the protestors heckled me a bit, but it’s a protest so what do you expect?”

I can understand why protestors would heckle. Whatcott’s beliefs range from zany and factually incorrect to batshit bonkers to flat-out ignorant and offensive. Then again, he does have an eccentric’s charm. It also helps that on LGBT issues, he’s harmless: his desire to end same sex marriage has zero chance of becoming law in Canada.

After all, this is Canada. It’s not Russia, where you can be arrested for even talking about being gay, and where trans people can have their drivers licenses revoked. It’s not Nigeria, where being an LGBT person is a felony. It’s not the U.S. Bible Belt, where same sex marriage is still, for the most part, illegal and homophobia is common. And it’s not Iraq, where Islamic State extremists execute gay men by tossing them off buildings.

This is Canada, and Bill Whatcott is relatively harmless. And harmlessness makes him much easier to take.

(Then again, I’m a little concerned about his anti-choice nonsense. Anti-abortion activists in the States have had a lot of success imposing their personal religious beliefs on women [so much for “freedom”, eh?]. I could see that happening here over the next 10 or 15 years if we keep voting in Conservatives.)

But Whatcott was right about the protestors. They were very polite. I loved their signs, which had slogans like “I for one welcome our homofascist overlords”.

I got the sense Whatcott liked them.

“These 18 and 19-year-olds are reasonable,” he told me. “I don’t think any of ’em agree with me, but they are reasonable. And that’s fine.

“And mind you, at one time I was on their side, so maybe if they hang around me a bit — ”

“I didn’t know that,” I interrupted.

“Oh, I was a drug addict, I was, actually, you know, I was politically active enough on the left,” Whatcott said. “I’d go to cross-cultural learning centres and cheer the Sandinistas when they were ambushing government trucks [in Nicaragua].”

“I was that far to the left. I supported marijuana, I supported abortion, I supported all of it,” added Whatcott.

Whatcott’s come a long way. A long, wrong way. Today, he opposes abortion, same-sex marriage, divorce, pre-marital sex, birth control, anal sex, and marijuana use (probably because it can, obviously, lead to sex).

He also supports the tarsands and calls climate change “pseudoscience” — I’m sure much to the disappointment of the NASA scientists who study it.

He is, to sum up, one interesting cat.

“A church like the United Church, which allows gay marriage; I don’t believe that’s a Christian church,” said Whatcott at one point in the interview. “When I use the word “Christian”, I’m thinking orthodox — you believe the Bible’s the word of God.

So with all that’s wrong in the world, why focus on stopping gay people from getting hitched? Why fight to force pregnant women to carry to term?

“For me, the issue of Christians having the freedom to speak on these moral issues... I believe God called me to make that my life, per se,” said Whatcott.

And what a life it is — a life most Whatcott. 

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