Courage to Speak Truth in Turbulent Times

I write to you from Bangkok, Thailand and the 21st International Asian Pacific Congress on Faith, Life and Family (ASPAC) co-sponsored by HLI and the Episcopal Commission for Social Ministries (Caritas Thailand) of the Bishops Conference of Thailand. Over 300 delegates representing twenty-two countries participated in the three-day congress. The truth about life, marriage and family are being ripped apart by violent forces – atheistic and secular ideologies and philosophies with little or no regard for the inherent dignity of the human person or for his eternal vocation. This years’ theme, “Put Out Into the Deep – Defending the Family, Hope of the Dying World,” challenged participants to stand in the breach and confront the deceptive tactics of the death peddlers while witnessing the beauty and wonder of God’s divine plan for the family and humanity.

Tomorrow Dr. Brian Clowes and I travel to Mumbai, India to participate in a three-day pro-life symposium for bishops, priests, religious, doctors, lawyers, laity and young people predominantly from the Syro-Malabar Church. Many of the priests, religious, professionals and lay leaders are engaged in Family Apostolates in their respective Eparchies in Kerala, Mumbai and other parts of India. This is the first symposium on pro-life and family issues for the Syro-Malabar Church. Please pray for the success of this symposium, as well as HLI’s global activities in the service of Life.

This Week’s Column

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:2-4

Last week, I shared two disturbing stories from Canada exposing how far the sexual revolutionaries are willing to go to undermine the rights of Christian parents. This week, I’m going to share another eye-opening story that exposes the frightening consequences when you run afoul of the radical sexual revolutionaries. However, in this case the story has a surprising – and surprisingly encouraging – twist ending.

Recently, a graduate student and teacher’s assistant (TA) at Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario, Lindsay Shepherd, decided to show her first-year communications class a three-minute video clip of a TV debate between two Canadian professors about so-called “gender-neutral pronouns.”

Speak the Truth

If you don’t know what a “gender-neutral” pronoun is, you’re not alone. These pronouns – i.e xe, xir, zim, zie, zher (I’m not joking) – were fabricated by far-left activists and academics as an alternative to the traditional pronouns like “him” and “her.” The vast majority of people have never used, and probably don’t know how to use them.

However, a recent Canadian law (C-16) banning so-called “discrimination” based upon “gender identity” may well make it illegal to fail to use these pronouns when a “gender non-binary” person demands that you use them.

In order to spur an in-class discussion about this highly relevant topic, Shepherd showed the clip from TVOntario, a popular Canadian show. One of the two professors featured in the debate is Dr. Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Over the past year he has shot to international prominence after he publicly stood up to demands from his university that he use the made-up pronouns, or face severe consequences.

By all accounts, Shepherd’s class went well. She presided over a fruitful class discussion, without herself taking sides. She certainly didn’t expect what happened next: a student complained, and she was hauled in before a panel of three university administrators, including her TA supervisor, and the university’s manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support.

An Orwellian Interrogation

Fortunately, Shepherd had some idea of what was coming. She took steps to protect herself by secretly recording that meeting. The recording, which she has since released to the media, is chilling. “Orwellian” is the only appropriate term.

Over the space of nearly 45 minutes, the three administrators raked Lindsay over the coals, accusing her of creating a “toxic climate” and an “unsafe learning environment.” She was told she had contravened the Canadian Human Rights Code, and broken the new Canadian law I mentioned above (C-16). She was also accused of violating the university’s Gendered and Sexual Violence policy by perpetuating “gender-based violence” and promoting “transphobia.”

Perhaps most sinister of all, her supervisor compared her decision to play the video clip to “neutrally playing a speech by Hitler.”

Let me remind you that Shepherd had merely shown a three-minute clip featuring a debate on a timely topic, in which both sides of the issue were fairly represented. Shepherd herself has even said that she doesn’t agree with Dr. Peterson’s take. But that doesn’t matter. Merely allowing Dr. Peterson’s opinion to be heard at all was deemed beyond the pale, and even illegal.

However, those university administrators made a serious miscalculation when they picked a fight with Shepherd.

To their surprise, she has fought back, valiantly. Her case has since dominated Canadian and international headlines. And once she released the audio of her interrogation, the university was sunk. Condemnations have poured in from across the political and ideological spectrum.

An unexpected silver lining

As a consequence, two positive outcomes have arisen from Lindsay’s case: In the first place, the dark underbelly of the so-called “equity” and “non-discrimination” movement in universities and politics, led by radical sexual revolutionaries, has been exposed.

Over the past year, Dr. Jordan Peterson has been labeled a fear-mongering, extremist, hateful crackpot by most of the Canadian media for warning that Bill C-16 and other transgender “non-discrimination” laws would be used to silence even the politest public debate about issues like transgenderism. This incident didn’t just vindicate Dr. Peterson, it showed that the worst of his predictions are already coming true, barely a year after the law passed.

In the second place, Wilfred Laurier University has since apologized (under severe duress) to Ms. Shepherd, providing others in similar situations some measure of hope that they too can fight back, and win.

Let’s be clear, however. The only reason the university apologized, is because they were exposed. As Dr. Peterson tweeted this week, “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Wilfred Laurier is somehow unique. They just got caught.”

This won’t always be the case. Rare indeed is the graduate student with the spunk and presence of mind to take on her university administration, and the courage to put her whole academic career on the line to fight back.

Nevertheless, Dr. Peterson and Ms. Shepherd have shown us all a way forward.

Speak the Truth. Be Willing to Face the Consequences.

Over the past few decades, people of conviction have too often allowed themselves to be bullied into silence. Catholic teaching, for instance, on life and family issues, isn’t merely true, it is also the only truly charitable position, and is ultimately the only one supported by the scientific evidence. Unfortunately, this position has rarely been heard or properly explained, often because those who are most responsible for explaining it have caved to external pressure and shut up.

Dr. Peterson, the sole University of Toronto professor who stood up publicly and said “enough,” half-expected his career to be over when he took that courageous step. But he was willing to face the consequences. “If they fine me, I won’t pay it,” he said on that TVOntario show. “If they put me in jail I’ll go on a hunger strike. I’m not doing this and that’s that. I’m not using the words that other people require me to use, especially if they’re made up by radical left-wing ideologues.”

But instead of going to jail, he became famous. His social media following has exploded, he is receiving tens of thousands of dollars in donations towards his research every month, and his video lectures have been viewed by countless millions of people.

Ms. Shepherd herself is following the same trajectory: She is receiving support from extremely prominent figures across the aisle such as “New Atheist” Sam Harris, and invitations for interviews from the likes of famed podcaster Dave Rubin.

The saddest thing about Dr. Peterson’s case has been the near-silence from his fellow academics. Undoubtedly there are others in universities in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere who agree with his position. Most are still too afraid to stand up. That needs to stop, now.

Like Ms. Shepherd, we all need to have the conviction to say “enough is enough.” What happened at Wilfred Laurier University is a microcosm of what is happening in businesses, schools, and government offices all across the world. People who believe in common-sense, traditional values on life and family are being shamed into silence, or into going along with things that violate their basic moral convictions.

Christians, and all people of good will, need to get serious about standing up for their beliefs. Like Dr. Peterson, who is not even a professing Christian, we must be willing to sacrifice everything for the truth. Not only is standing up for our beliefs the right thing to do, it is also the only way to stop our society’s rapid descent into an ideological totalitarianism that threatens everything we hold dear, including the minds and souls of our children.

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing


  1. Douglas Guidotti on November 27, 2017 at 11:37 AM

    Thank you for a great article and for your moral clarity and convictions. You are a blessing and a beacon of truth.

  2. BDM on November 27, 2017 at 3:07 PM

    Wow…An article that is willing to report truthfully on the language terrorism that has been propagated upon the centers of higher learning(?) Can we call our colleges centers for higher learning with this type of idiotic behavior being mandated?

  3. petronella cockin on November 29, 2017 at 4:53 AM

    Why do atheists have to be treated with kid gloves. Christians have to survive and fight for their beliefs even if just verbally. Atheists do not have beliefs in Christianity. So what are they afraid of?? Nothing, as God for them does not exist. We should remember what someone said over 200 years ago. “I will disagree with every word that you say but I will die for your right to say it”.

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