We must be free to insult our neighbour
Of course, one man’s truth is another man’s offence. But, hey, that’s life. Being able to offend is one of the foundations of liberty. Freedom of speech must be tolerated, and everyone living in the United Kingdom must accept that they may be insulted about their own beliefs, or indeed be offended, and that is something which they must simply endure, not least because some suffer fates far worse.
What’s the point of being a Member of the European Parliament if you can’t stand up and denounce the Pope as antichrist? Why would you want to open a hotel if you can’t call Mohammed a terrorist or paedophile or rail at the oppression of hijab-wearing women? Why would you want to stand in Hyde Park Corner if you can’t call Scientology a cult, or open a café if you can’t tell gays they’re going to hell for their abomination?
It may not be very Christian in the PC Christology of perpetual tolerance to say any of these things, but should it be illegal to do so? Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 outlaws ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ words or behaviour if they are likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’. This is increasingly being used by certain people to get the police to arrest and silence Christian street preachers, prosecute hotel owners for chatting about their faith with a Muslim hotel guest (no, they didn’t use the 't' or ‘p’ words), and to prosecute a teenager for calling a religious cult, err... a cult.
This is the New Inquisition: the demand for theological orthodoxy has given way to prohibition of ‘feeling insulted’. And you might be next. Indeed, His Grace’s blog may well be closed down because someone complains to the police that religio-political polemic makes them feel uncomfortable and causes them distress; that they feel ‘insulted’. This blog is, after all, a public space and His Grace is publishing alarming material. He probably not infrequently falls foul of equality and diversity demands, or transgresses the bounds of acceptability for those of other faiths or ‘exotic’ sexual proclivities. His Grace rarely means to insult, but the intention is irrelevant: if the beholder feels offended, His Grace may be reported to the police under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and they are obliged to investigate.
If you wish to continue to be free to insult and be insulted, please support the Christian Institute's campaign to have the word ‘insulting’ removed from this Act, as part of the forthcoming Protection of Freedoms Bill. THE CLOSING DATE IS TOMORROW (Friday 13th). The campaign has cross-party support, including Edward Leigh (Con), Tom Watson (Lab), and Alan Beith (LibDem), along with very many others. They believe that the freedom to disagree and to challenge received wisdom lies at the heart of a democracy. It is certainly intrinsic to the proclamation of the gospel.
The Government are asking for our views on Section 5 to help them decide on whether or not to introduce an amendment to the Freedom Bill. Of course, they may very well ignore us, but that shouldn’t deter a response. Please respond now, using the Christian Institute's online guide, and submit your response by Friday 13 January 2012. Please note – if you decide to complete the form, you may be put off by the unnecessary questions they ask. Please just complete questions 1-9 in part 1 (you can ignore the rest).
The link is HERE: there is a quickie version, and a longer one... While ye may...