Anti-Gay Activist Charles McVety: Extraordinary Claims Campaign “hateful”

December 7, 2010

This morning at an hour that I much prefer to be sleeping through Gretta Vosper of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity and I faced off against Evangelical Christian Reverend Charles McVety on the topic of the Extraordinary Claims Campaign ("Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence: Allah * Bigfoot* UFOs* Homeopathy * Zeus * Psychics * Christ") on the John Oakley Show on AM640 .  Though a high profile show and certainly great for the Campaign,  It would probably have been more productive to have been asleep (nightmares and all).  But since radio shows are no time for ranting, I apologize if the following comes across as rant-like, but I think you'll enjoy some of these thoughts.

McVety - the leader of the anti-gay marriage campaign in Canada who recently referred in a media release to transgendered people as "perverts" - believes that our Campaign and its call for evidence for claims like Allah and Christ, constitutes hate speech as defined by the criminal code.  Never mind that section in the Code is specifically for speech which actually " incites hatred against an identifiable group " and " in such a way that there will likely be a breach of the peace " or which " wilfully promotes hatred ".  Our Campaign totally fails this test.  By calling for evidence for beliefs, we neither have created hatred nor are we wilfully trying to promote hatred.  The original Atheist Bus Campaign ("There probably is no God...") was also similarly criticized, but it too succeeded in sparking a great debate and failed to breach the peace.

On the other hand, McVety calling transexuals (not ideas people choose, but actual people who have no choice in their sexuality) "perverts", would, if anything, so quality.  It's also interesting that legitimate defenses to the hate speech clause are if the matter " were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds it was believed to be true " or " were expressed in good faith, it was attempted to establish by argument and opinion on a religious subject ". I would say we qualify for both of these defenses.  Most of the contentious subject matter is on matters of religious opinion, and we are certainly engaging on matters of public interest, while our skepticism is believed true by the Centre for Inquiry and its spokespeople.

Now perhaps I shouldn't lose too much sleep over McVety's opinions.  He also stated that Richard Dawkins sparked the Extraordinary Claims Campaign (totally wrong), that the "Origin of Species" explicitly advocates atheism (Darwin couldn't have been more careful to maintain strict agnosticism in his magnum opus) and that CFI wants to ban bibles in schools, despite the fact that only last week I debated him on the news and stated explicitly - and repeatedly - that while we didn't want bibles distributed by Gideon in classrooms we believe bibles did belong in school libraries (unlike the Catholic and equally tax-payer funded schools that have banned atheistic literature outright).  Actually, McVety acknowledged that point, only to return fire by retorting that relegating bibles just to the library was equivalent to banning them!

Today's radio show featured 4 or 5 callers, all but one of whom were totally critical of the Campaign.  But host John Oakley informed me that the callers his producers were fielding were actually 50-50 on both sides.  Apparently, quite a few they couldn't put on the air.  All Oakley's notes told him was that their main thrust was "McVety is out of his mind".  I don't know what exactly they plan to say, explained Oakley.  I have some ideas.

To give McVety a break, there was one caller I need to comment on.  With the original "There's probably no god..." Campaign we got continually taken to task for targeting specifically Christianity, which of course wasn't the case.  But in order to make it very clear of our aims, with this new Campaign we have Allah and Christ both on the main ad, and several other deities dealt with on our website.  So it was very surprising to get a caller who reflexively shot us the same line about how we wouldn't be so tough if we were targeting muslims.  It wasn't clear if he realized we actually did have Allah on the ad, but when it was pointed out to him, his response was odd. He still had a problem. We weren't discussing Allah enough in the Campaign.

But that's of course the fault of the journalists and members of the public (like himself!) who overwhelmingly come at us from a Christian perspective and choose to make Christ the issue. It's ironic that we keep hearing from Christians that they're not offended, but rather are worried that we're offending muslims.  Yet the muslim community has been quiet, at least thus far, on this new Campaign. I think such remarks betray their own insecurity which they choose to externalize upon some other faith group rather than come out and admit it.

Just a few thoughts, as I need to vent.  It's amazing how much attention this Campaign is getting, all of which serves to prove our aim, which is to spark this kind of debate.  Today McVety claimed that our Campaign would lead to no productive debates but only to hatred. He then launched a debate with Gretta on the existence and miracles of Jesus.

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