CALGARY - Lawyers are arguing an inflammatory anti-gay letter written by a former Alberta pastor was meant as a criticism of government policy and should be allowed under freedom of speech.

Alberta's human rights commission ruled two years ago that the letter, written by Stephen Boissoin and published in the Red Deer Advocate, broke provincial law and may even have played a role in the beating of a gay teenager.

Boissoin is appealing the ruling and the decision that he and the Concerned Christian Coalition must pay former Red Deer school teacher Darren Lund $5,000 in damages.

His lawyer, Gerald Chipeur, told a Calgary court the letter was arguing against a government policy involving sex education in schools and should be protected under freedom of religion and expression.

The letter carried the headline "Homosexual agenda wicked" and suggested gays were as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.

Arguments in the appeal are expected to last two days.

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