Erika Kubassak - Guilty of assault on Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes. (SELECT to read the full decision)

 

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Legal Canada - Ontario - Guilty! Assault on gay pastor not "trivial"

August 29, 2004

Guilty! Assault on gay pastor not "trivial"
Self-proclaimed prophetess blamed voice of God

"I called my sister in New Brunswick, as I had done on one previous occasion. I said 'I love you, I care for you,' and explained what was happening. I said, 'If anything happens, tell our parents that I love them.' I did not tell my partner, but I was absolutely convinced, the night before, that I wouldn't make it through the next day."
Rev. Brent Hawkes in Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights, by Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell


The morning of our marriage we were driven to the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCCT) by a security professional in a vehicle with darkened windows. The driver, trained to ensure we weren't being followed, drove along side-streets, until we approached the police barricades that protected our church. We were told to remain in the van until the police were ready for us. Emergency response vehicles stood by in the streets. Mounted police on chestnut horses were in a row on a side-street. When the van's door opened, we were instructed to move quickly through the line of the police and into the church where our body guard was waiting for us.

All this, because intelligence sources had given credibility to threats against life and property that had been generated as a result of MCCT's plan to issue a legal government record of marriage to us and our friends Anne & Elaine Vautour. We had arrived for the regular 11:00 a.m. Sunday Service on January 14, 2001, three hours before our marriage was scheduled to be performed.

The church sanctuary was packed for the morning service, beyond the 500 to 700 people that normally attend each Sunday. Several first-time visitors were in attendance, drawn by the history that was being made there that day. Not everyone was pleased by the progress.

Erika Kubassek received a wake-up call at 9:00 a.m. that morning from God. This wasn't unusual for Kubassek, who describes herself as a prophet. She has a history of mounting campaigns fuelled by faith-based bigotry, and justified by her claim of being God's instrument. That morning, Kubassek's divine mission involved a trip to our church to object to our marriages and denounce homosexuals.

"The woman turned a look of damnation on him and shoved a fistful of papers in his face. Even from a distance you could see in her eyes a naked, savage hatred. Here was the venom that had poisoned so much given form. Here was the fear and ignorance that had crippled so many lives, both those of the oppressors and those of the oppressed. It was a voice that represented self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and intolerance. It did not speak for God"
From Just Married by Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell (Doubleday, 2002)

Kubassek sat through most of the service, until a time came when people were invited to step forward to the front of the church for a blessing and a prayer for healing. Kubassek went to the front of the church, turned to the congregation, waving papers, shouting, "Hear the word of God! Homosexuality is a sin and is unnatural ...."

Reverend Hawkes, wearing a bulletproof vest under his clothes, stood between Kubassek and the congregation, outstretched his arms, and asked the crazed women to sit down, reminding her that she was interrupting a worship service. Kubassek pushed the Reverend, who fell back, uninjured. Security soon rushed to the Reverend's assistance, removing Kubassek from the sanctuary where she was arrested by police.

Kubassek was charged with assault, but two courts in Ontario failed to find her guilty, deeming her offense to have been trivial. To the Crown's credit, they pressed forward on the case. On August 26, a panel of three justices from the Court of Appeal for Ontario reversed those lower decisions.

"The principle de minimis non curat lex (the law does not concern itself with trifles)," the court wrote in its decision, was "not available in the circumstances of this case."

"Being gifted, the Lord advised me to go. What I do, I do in obedience to God's word ... My husband and I are called to speak out about issues of morality. We both have spiritual gifts that have been confirmed in many places. I told him that I had to go. I received a message from the Lord ... I've spoken out on many issues. I am a prophetess. I have prophetic gifts and that is my calling."
Erika Kubassek, Ontario Court, Dec. 19, 2001

A trifling matter is "Where there are irregularities of very slight consequence, it does not intend that the infliction of penalties should be inflexibly severe. If the deviation were a mere trifle, which, if continued in practice, would weigh little or nothing on the public interest, it might properly be overlooked."

Kubassek's offense, however, was not trivial for Rev. Hawkes, nor for many of us who were praying under threat of violence that day within our own place of worship. Her action was also an offense to the public interest of maintaining safe places of worship, free from the interference of other intolerant faiths and their dysfunctional faithful.

"In reaching the conclusion that Ms. Kubassek’s conduct was not trivial," Justice Catzman wrote on behalf of the court, "I have considered both the assault itself and the context in which it took place. Ms. Kubassek’s act of pushing or shoving Rev. Hawkes was intentional. Although he suffered no injury, he did fall backwards and almost tripped over a pew that was behind him. It is instructive to recall the circumstances in which the assault took place. The respondent chose to come to Metropolitan Community Church that Sunday morning. She chose to come to the front of the church for a purpose unconnected with the invitation extended to the congregation. She chose to deliver a message that she knew would fall on unreceptive ears. She chose to ignore the request of the senior pastor of the church not to interrupt the service. She chose to push or shove him to the side so that she could finish what she had to say. That he tripped, but did not fall or suffer injury, was purely fortuitous. She could fully have expected (as the trial judge found) that to go up to the front and preach to the congregants in terms she knew would be offensive could cause a disturbance. Against this backdrop, the push or shove that she intentionally Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes in Ontario court.  Artist:  John Sproule, Torontoapplied to Rev. Hawkes cannot appropriately be characterized as an “irregularit[y] of very slight consequence … a mere trifle, which, if continued in practice, would weigh little or nothing on the public interest” (These words are taken from the statement of the de minimis principle in The Reward (1818), 2 Dods. 265, 165 E.R. 1482: see para. 19. ). To minimize the assault by ascribing to it the designation “trifling” or “trivial” is to ignore the realities of what transpired between Ms. Kubassek and Rev. Hawkes that Sunday morning."

Ms. Kubassek was found guilty but she was discharged absolutely. It's not in anyone's interest to criminalize a victim of spiritual abuse. Ms. Kubassek's behaviour is, at least in part, the result of the faith she has placed in a religion polluted with intolerance and hatred.

Canadian courts have made it clear that bigots cannot stop us from taking our rightful place in our communities. The latest judgment from Ontario's Court of Appeal makes it clear that attempts to interfere will be taken seriously. Ms. Kubassek's action that day was not only an assault on a gay icon, it was an assault on the expansion of human rights, and not a trifling matter.


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