A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Freedom of speech versus freedom of expression?

I'm fairly conservative, but not rampantly so. I believe in a certain amount of live and let live. That's why I say I have a slight libertarian streak. If a theatre producer wants to put on a play about a subject I find offensive, my view is to let him get on with it. However, I won't be paying good money to go and see the production. I'm not in favour of censorship just because something upsets my personal ideas.

However, I would suggest that there are limits such as stopping live bestiality on the stage. These actions require penalties in a decent society. But in the main it's live and let live. Freedom to express an opinion is also freedom to upset or distress. But it should never lead to personal violence or exclusion.

The Government is currently planning to put into the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill a clause making a criminal offence of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. Sounds fair enough, but would it be plainly so? Amongst all the jargon and New Labour-speak in this Justice Department leaflet (page 135) is an undertaking not to criminalise religiuos belief or expression. I have to believe that the Government is true to its word in that they are NOT preparing legislation to criminalise orthodox Christian belief that homosexual acts are sinful. I would wholeheartedly concur that those who purport to vilify homosexual orientation by inciting violence and violent acts should receive the penalties of the law.

A group called The Christian Congress for Traditional Values is campaigning against the bill. They say "The Government opposes a freedom of speech clause and says that religious liberty will not be affected. However, the offence is very widely drafted and without an exemption Christians would be prevented from expressing strong opinions." Steady on! Strong opinions? I doubt if Jack Straw would flinch over strong opinions. But he could well do so if agitation was happening that whipped up hatred. I don't see where these "Christians" feel hard done by on this.

The case against the Government over the adoption laws was quite another matter, because there they were trying to force people to go against conscience. Here they are merely trying to outlaw hatred.

I would have thought a traditional value of Christianity is "do unto others as you would like done unto you". But then I'm a poor wretch of Anglo-Catholic and not given to the strictures of a protestant mindset!


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