Important victory for Freedom of Expression – ‘Hate crime’ cases against Valencia archbishop thrown out
A judge in Valencia has thrown out two “hate crime” cases against Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia, Spain, on the grounds that that what the cardinal said in his homily is protected by freedom of speech. The judge also mentioned lack of evidence saying that he saw no “public incitement to violence or hatred” in the cardinal’s homily, adding that “a generic accusation sprinkled with vague facts” is not enough “to trigger a criminal investigation.”
Cardinal Canizares had voiced support for “the precious good of the Christian family” in his 13 May homily and denounced what he called a push by politicians and the “gay empire” to promote “radical feminism” and “gender theory,” calling it the “most insidious of all.” In in the same homily, he also questioned the background of refugees coming to Spain.
As a result, the Valencian LGBT group Lambda filed a criminal complaint against the cardinal on 3 June, claiming his homily contained “homophobic and male chauvinist statements” that incited hatred. The Spanish Immigration Network also filed a legal complaint against Cardinal Canizares accusing him of xenophobia.
While Cardinal Canizares was under investigation, gay rights activists deliberately acted in a provocative way that was a direct insult to Catholics. They combined images of Our Lady of the Forsaken, patroness of Valencia, and Our Lady of Monserrat, patroness of Catalonia, and depicted the two Madonnas kissing as promotion for the Valencia gay pride parade. Cardinal Canizares was joined by thousands of Valencians in an act of reparation for this offensive action.
Freedom of speech groups campaigned in the cardinal’s defence. The Thomas More Law Center, based in the US, supported the cardinal stating that his homily expressed an “opinion widely held by Spaniards” and even launched a “Je suis Canizares” campaign A petition was organised in support of Cardinal Canizares during the trial by the Spanish free speech advocacy group called HazteOir (Make Yourself Heard). Global organisation CitizenGO, which seeks to defend life, the family and fundamental rights worldwide, also organised a petition that was signed by 200,000 people worldwide. These signatures were officially presented to Valencia City Council to show them that concerned citizens around the globe would be watching to ensure that Cardinal Cañizares was not punished for his support of the natural family.
Cardinal Cañizares sent a personal message of thanks to his supporters:
“Your signatures and your support have touched me, you have moved my heart. Thank you very much. I know that you have joined this CitizenGO petition with affection for me, but I also know that you are aware that what is at stake is not me, but religious freedom and the right of Christians to publicly express our faith and our convictions. It’s time to stand up and not be afraid. Coraggio and avanti!”
This is an important victory not only for Catholics—or even just for Christians—it is a victory for all religious individuals who want to see their freedom of expression preserved.