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Eight Short Essays

Eight Short Essays: Article 4


Article 4: Leviticus, Canadian Law and Homosexuality

The Q'ran and the Torah consider utterly immoral for a man to have sex with another man; in fact, Leviticus, one of the five books of the Torah, a holy book common to both Jews and Christians, prescribes the death penalty for such an offence.1

Of course, this is not the only case where consensual sex is considered a criminal offence punishable by death according to Leviticus. There is also the case when sex is between a man and a woman within certain degrees of kinship,2 a man or a woman and a beast3 and between a man and a menstruating woman.4 To which, of course, we must add the case of adultery.

This being said, to whom falls the duty to carry out the sentence found in Leviticus? We do know from the Gospels that in some cases anyway, the individuals who judged the crime were also the ones who saw to the sentence being carried through, like in the case where a woman found guilty of adultery was brought to Jesus Who suggested that the first to stone her should be without sin.5

Of course, it could be said that Leviticus assumes that the judging, sentencing and execution is to be carried by people who have been chosen for that purpose, behaving as part of society's justice system. This is certainly one way this text has been interpreted before. Before I examine this option, certainly more in line with our way of thinking, let me examine the more extreme one where it is up to the individual to apply without delay the penalty appropriate to the crime.

The death penalty has been abolished in Canada. There are no laws in the Canadian Criminal Code against sex between humans and beasts, a man and a menstruous woman, or partners of the same sex, nor for that matter against adultery, as long as the humans concerned in those acts are all consenting adults.6

Canadian law does not permit individual citizens to judge and sentence people: the police alone can arrest people, the Crown Attorneys alone can put forward charges and the Courts alone can judge and sentence people (usually with the help of a jury as far as the verdict) and the prison system sees that the sentence is carried through. The Parliement of Canada oversees and amends the Canadian Criminal Laws that are applied by the Courts. The Supreme Court of Canada makes sure that every law is compatible with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (Some laws can include a «Notwithstanding Clause» which shields them from the supremacy of the Charter; but they must be voted anew every five years.)

Furthermore, there is a «Hate Crime Law» in the Canadian Criminal Code to protect groups from attacks on the basis of creed, color, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Those guilty of fomenting hate against people of a religious or ethnic group are incarcerated and their writings, banned.

This being said, it should be clear that killing an adult because he had consensual sex with his adult gay partner is 1) murder and 2) a hate crime according to Canadian Criminal Law. This implies that anyone who decides to live up to what that person considers God's command as found in Leviticus 20:13 «If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.» will be found guilty of murder.

There is thus a clear problem for those who consider this verse as God's word. If it is, they must apply it or else! If it is not, it follows that not every verse in Holy Scripture is the actual word of God. There is no other choice.

As a Christian and a Roman Catholic, I have no hesitation in choosing the latter proposition over the former. We have here a case where Canadian law is more in line with Jesus' message than the Torah, a case which is in fact quite frequent.

Again, either you believe in this verse or you do not. Do not claim to believe in this verse if you are not ready to apply it! Either it is the word of God and you have to kill those who practise such «abomination» (as well as all the others mentioned in the Bible as guilty of death) or it is not.

You cannot believe the first half of the sentence «If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination» without believing the second: «they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.» After all, we are talking about two parts of one sentence found in one verse. You cannot start picking and choosing like that! (And it would still be the case that half of the verse would not be of God!)

Again, applying this verse is a criminal offence according to the Canadian Criminal Code and preaching that this verse should be taken seriously is also a criminal offence as it is a hate crime according to the law of the land. Those who read this text have a real choice to make: for civilization (Canada) or barbarity (Leviticus 20:13 and many other verses of the Torah).

But what if we interpret Leviticus' laws as laws that any State should want to promulgate in its statutes? What if we consider that it is God's will that Canada should execute people who commit the crimes mentionned in Leviticus, and that Canada will certainly loose God's favour if it does not heed to the Law of God?

I cannot say that I have found many among Christians who go so far as suggesting that 1) the various acts prohibited by Leviticus should be criminalized and 2) the death penalty should be reintroduced as punishment for them. But this is as we have seen the necessary consequence of this text. If we believe that it is the rôle of the State to apply the laws of Leviticus, then we must see to it that they are fully applied, and that includes its penalties.

Solemnity of John the Baptist, June 24th, 2004

1 «If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.» (Lev 20:13) All the Bible quotes are from the King James Version.

2 «[11] And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them... [14] And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you... [17] And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity. And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity.» (Lev 20:11-12;14;17-19)

3 «And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.» (Lev 20:15-16)

4 «And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.» (Lev 20:11-21)

5 «He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her» (John 8:9)

6 «Trudeau [as] Minister of Justice... oversaw amendments to the Canadian Criminal Code on abortion and homosexuality, and divorce reform. His words "the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation" are still quoted frequently in Canada.» from Canada Online

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