ASA Chairman is also Vice President of a ‘highly political’ campaign
It is a question of impartiality, which matters profoundly in political processes where force and influence compete with manipulation and facts: if an organisation with quasi-judicial authority professes to be objective in its investigations, then its senior staff and officers must not only be impartial, they must also be seen to be impartial. There cannot be even the merest hint of a political agenda subverting that professed neutrality or corrupting the overriding commitment to fairness and justice.
But former Labour MP Chris Smith, now Baron Smith of Finsbury PC, is not only Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority; he is also Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Mr Smith is widely credited with being Britain's first openly gay MP, and doubtless he has helped to inspire a generation of people to be open and honest about their sexuality. And doubtless also he has facilitated beneficial changes in the state’s laws and society’s views which mitigate or eradicate some of the worst discriminations suffered by homosexual people, who are made equally in the image of God and loved just as much by Him as any sinner, despite some appalling sermons to the contrary preached from the worst of church pulpits.
But Lord Smith’s courage is not merely historical: he continues to advance his cause. And he does so by exercising an authority which it doesn't actually possess. He became Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority in 2006, and Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality in 2009. He ought to have been wiser and more discerning, for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality is a ‘direct descendant’ of the ‘highly political’ Homosexual Law Reform Society. And they make no secret about it.
If one is a direct descendent, one inherits certain characteristics and retains a distinct pattern of DNA. That Lord Smith is Vice President of a ‘highly political’ campaign is in no doubt: the objective remains that of advocating for ‘gay rights’ and agitating aggressively for favourable legislation, regardless of the extent to which each incremental change impinges upon the rights and liberties of others. The more militaristic homosexuals – often termed ‘gayers’ or ‘homosexualists’ – are now responsible for spreading the very sorts of oppression, persecution and alienation historically suffered by their co-sexualists.
It is, of course, entirely possible that the decision of the ASA to investigate a perfectly innocuous advertisement promoting traditional marriage had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the Chairman of the ASA also happens to be Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. But consider, if you will, what might have come to pass if the Chairman of the ASA had been Lord Carey, who happens also to be involved in a highly political campaign to defend the historic definition of marriage as a union of complementary genders. What if just 10 Christians had complained to the ASA under his chairmanship that the website Pink News was carrying an advertisement showing happy gay couples contracting in civil partnerships, and that the complainants considered this to be ‘offensive' and 'Christianophobic’. Absurd? Quite possibly. But that is the very vein of the allegation made by 10 homosexuals against His Grace: no rationale, no reasoning; just the ‘feeling’ of offence caused.
And then consider what the response of the militant homosexuals would doubtless have been if Lord Carey had sent a demand to Pink News, requiring them to justify themselves within seven days, and doing so with threats of punitive action against them. What hordes of aggressive homosexualists would have descended upon the ASA offices? What vile hatred would have been spouted in the gay blogosphere and on Twitter about the nasty, bigoted, right-wing, intolerant, homophobic Lord Carey? What campaign of intimidation would have been waged against His Lordship and his ASA minions as they laboriously fended off the left-liberal media and coped with tens of thousands of hate-emails?
The ASA would, of course, have backed down immediately, and apologised profusely.
And now ask yourself what subtle influences Lord Smith of Finsbury might be bringing to the ASA which would cause his staff to be ever-so-slightly more sensitive to their chairman’s personal preferences and political proclivities. After all, employees tend to seek favourable acknowledgement and advancement and reward from their superiors. The decision to escalate vexatious and frivolous complaints of ‘homophobia’ to the level of ‘formal investigation’, and monitoring compliance with proactive checks to ensure that ‘homophobic’ publishers are harassed and ‘offensive’ advertisements swiftly eradicated, will do members of the ASA’s Investigations Executive no harm at all under a chairman whose primary political objective is to eradicate 'homophobia'.
The ASA is not a statutory body, but a self-selected élite originally convened to ensure that a product does what it says on the tin. Under Lord Smith, the organisation has gradually extended its remit, now seeking to threaten, bully, intimidate and censor even moderate expressions of moral opinion which are fully protected by Article 10 of the ECHR. The process of being investigated or of being ‘required’ to justify oneself is itself the punishment. The ASA cares increasingly less about what is in the tin, but seeks now to ensure that all logos, designs and small-print on the tin conform to the liberal-fascist neo-Marxist school of social theory.
Lord Smith is clearly conflicted, and the mere appearance of compromised impartiality and questionable objectivity is bringing the ASA into disrepute. The decision to investigate the Campaign for Marriage advertisement would not have been taken had Lord Carey been its chairman, and that decision would have been subject to unremitting scrutiny. A man cannot serve two masters. Either Lord Smith must resign his chairmanship of the ASA or his vice-presidency of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. For as long as the latter advances a ‘highly political’ cause which may affect the decisions and judgments of the former, the conflict of interests is manifest to all fair and right-minded people, whatever their religion or sexuality.