Witney Town Council bans LIFE’s pro-life celebration
LIFE have planned a day of fun and celebration, complete with bouncy castle, craft stalls, music, and a range of speakers. The charity has gone to very great lengths to clear any possible obstacles with the Witney Town Council prior to making the application last October. It was agreed that parking would be organised well away from the proposed site in the centre of the town – an area well used to mass public events of this nature – and every effort taken to avoid disruption to the townsfolk. Everyone appeared happy.
As these things do, the application had to descend to the Hades of council bureaucracy: first to the ‘Amenities Committee’, and thence on to full Council for ratification. Amidst general rejoicing, the organisers thought it was in the bag when, having gone before ‘Amenities’, they were advised by the Town Clerk to obtain the relevant licences. All that was needed then was final sanction from the Council, which was to meet at the end of November last year.
Imagine the dismay, then, when a letter arrived in mid-December saying that permission had been refused. Council members, it was said, had considered the effect of the rally on other users of the recreation ground, and that, combined with the narrow vehicular access, restricted parking facilities within the town, and fears of possible congestion within the centre resulting from the arrival of large numbers of visitors, had made them decide against. No reference was made to other similar events which are regularly held on this land, in particular the ‘Witney Feast’, and the large Fair, both held annually without any adverse ‘effects’ on other users of the recreation ground and no problems at all with ‘narrow vehicular access’. The Council made no offer of an alternative site, and all phone calls, emails and letters since – to discuss the decision and lodge an appeal – have been resolutely ignored.
How can this be? In the absence of fears of public disturbance, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights is binding on public authorities, and protects freedom of expression on political issues and matters of public interest:
Article 10 – Freedom of expressionAs far as His Grace is aware, LIFE present no risk to national security; they do not threaten the UK’s territorial integrity or compromise public safety. LIFE do not cause social disorder or crime, and are manifestly concerned with ameliorating the health and morals of others.
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
So why, in this case, given that Witney regularly hosts similar events, has permission been refused? Could it be that, yet again, the fury of the pro-abortion lobby has functioned to impose an illegal discrimination? If so, what price our much vaunted right to freedom of speech? Indeed, where saving the lives of the unborn is concerned, does it exist at all? LIFE are concerned, as their logo states, with loving life and offering hope. Witney Town Council appear to loathe life and offer nothing but despair – at least to this particular charity.
So, His Grace has a thought. If his readers and communicants believe LIFE ought to be given permission to hold their celebratory event and present their submission to David Cameron, why not write a letter of support to the Prime Minister:
10 Downing St
(email: Office of the Prime Minister)
and copy it to Witney Town Council:
And then, of course, once a date for the festivities is agreed, you could even participate and help to celebrate 40 glorious years of LIFE’s outstanding work for the rights of the unborn child, with which the European Convention and Witney Town Council appear not to be remotely concerned.