Communication No. 736/1997
UN Human Rights Committee
The applicant, a school teacher, argued that sanctions taken by his school against him for allegedly anti-Semitic speech were a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee found the author’s statement to raise or strengthen anti-Semitic feelings and therefore found that the restriction to his speech served to protect Jews from such feelings. In this light, it found no violation of Article 19 ICCPR as the speech was, inter alia, discriminatory against Jews and denigrated Jewish faith.
Date: 18 October 2000
Description of applicant(s): Teacher
Brief description of facts: The author was a teacher. He published several books and pamphlets and made some public statements regarding conflicts between Judaism and Christianity and the defence of the Christian religion. Following expressed concern, the author’s in-class teaching was monitored from 1979 onwards. Controversy around the author grew and, as a result of publicly expressed concern, the School Board reprimanded the author and warned him that continued public discussion of his views could lead to further disciplinary action, including dismissal. He was, however, allowed to continue to teach, and this disciplinary action was removed from his file in September 1989. On 21 November 1989, the author made a television appearance and was again reprimanded by the School Board on 30 November 1989. On 21 April 1988, a Mr. David Attis, a Jewish parent, whose children attended another school within the same School District, filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of New Brunswick, alleging that the School Board, by failing to take action against the author, condoned his anti-Jewish views and breached section 5 of the Human Rights Act by discriminating against Jewish and other minority students. This complaint ultimately led to the sanctions against the author.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Jews
The Committee’s assessment of the impugned speech:
The Committee found the author’s statement to raise or strengthen anti-Semitic feelings and therefore found that the restriction to his speech served to protect Jews from such feelings. In this light, it found no violation of Article 19 ICCPR as the speech was, inter alia, discriminatory against Jews and denigrated Jewish faith.
Important paragraph(s) from the decision:
11.5 When assessing whether the restrictions placed on the author’s freedom of expression were applied for the purposes recognized by the Covenant, the Committee begins by noting8 that the rights or reputations of others for the protection of which restrictions may be permitted under article 19, may relate to other persons or to a community as a whole. For instance, and as held in Faurisson v France, restrictions may be permitted on statements which are of a nature as to raise or strengthen anti-Semitic feeling, in order to uphold the Jewish communities’ right to be protected from religious hatred. Such restrictions also derive support from the principles reflected in article 20(2) of the Covenant. The Committee notes that both the Board of Inquiry and the Supreme Court found that the author’s statements were discriminatory against persons of the Jewish faith and ancestry and that they denigrated the faith and beliefs of Jews and called upon true Christians to not merely question the validity of Jewish beliefs and teachings but to hold those of the Jewish faith and ancestry in contempt as undermining freedom, democracy and Christian beliefs and values. In view of the findings as to the nature and effect of the author’s public statements, the Committee concludes that the restrictions imposed on him were for the purpose of protecting the “rights or reputations” of persons of Jewish faith, including the right to have an education in the public school system free from bias, prejudice and intolerance.
ICCPR Article: Article 19
Decision: No violation